Tag Archives: advice

Dyslexia awareness, it should be a thing.

20 Oct

it’s been a little while since I’ve been able to post something, so while i was sitting here procrastinating instead of doing home work i though i may as well put my procrastination to good use. Time for a rant post!

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The Saturday just gone, I was lucky enough to be asked to be a panelist for an organisation called Square Pegs, an organisation that is trying to spread awareness about dyslexia across my home state of Tasmania. As anyone who had read my blog before knows, i have dyslexia. Sometimes it’s obvious, other times not so much. So it’s a subject I feel strongly about.

As a writer I cop a lot of criticism when I make a mistake, either in a post or in a draft or a report and while I work hard not to, it still happens. So to say I have a passion for speaking out about dyslexia is an understatement. I’ve had many an argument over the subject and frankly I’ll have many more. So when square pegs approached me and asked me to join their panel I was happy to. Because hey, that’s the kind of person I am. I love to talk, and I love to talk about things I know a lot about, so it was really a win-win for me.

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What I was surprised to find out, well actually not really all that surprised as I kinda already guessed this, but Tasmania has practically nothing to help support people, children in particular with dyslexia. Children with learning disabilities, not just dyslexia, but all of them fun things, in Tasmania, have no support, while every other state in Australia dose.

Growing up, i figured that out first hand, and I was one of the many kids that had to struggle through school, being called stupid, all because my brain decided it doesn’t want to work the way other peoples do. It’s estimated that 10-15% of the population suffer from Dyslexia. 10% you say, well that’s doesn’t sound like a lot, actually, it is. Think of it this way there is a estimated 513,400 that live in Tasmania, so if my maths is correct and i think it is, i’m amazing at math, potentially 51,340 in Tasmania alone have dyslexia. Fifty-one thousand people, who grew up thinking they were stupid, because they had trouble reading and writing. Fifty-one thousand people who stared at the pages of books and wondered why, why was it so easy for the kid next to me when I’m sitting here trying to decode this gibberish they call English. Fifty-one thousand people who had no support, no guidance, nothing to help them through it. That’s a lot, but to bring it down to a small scale 1-10 children suffer from dyslexia. In a class of thirty children, three of them will be dyslexic. The sad thing about that is those three children won’t get the help they need. They won’t love school like their friends, and maybe, just maybe they’ll start to believe all those people calling them stupid.

Dyslexia won’t kill someone, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t dangerous. Children with dyslexia often feel, alone, different, frustrated, and angry, because of it in school. As much as our bad spelling and grammar annoys you, it annoys us even more. We know how to talk, we just have trouble getting that on a page. Have you ever been called dumb, even when you know your not? Have you had it happen so many times that you start to believe it? I have, and so have so many other kids out there have as well. In the school, i was written off as stupid and lazy. The only reason I learnt anything at all was because I refused to believe that, well most days anyways. I knew I wasn’t stupid, and here I am, 23, science student at university and a published author. Was it easy? hell no!  had to work my butt off to get here. Will it ever be easy? definitely not, but having support, having the resources to learn, giving these kids a chance, will make it easier for them. having help, having people who understand how we learn, and how we work is going to make a huge difference.

So if any of you out there actually made it to this point please Check out Square Pegs (links below!). It doesn’t matter if you are a native tasweigan, Australian, or form anywhere else in the world, please share because awareness and support is the only way this amazing organisation is going to be able to do the good i know it can.

website: http://dyslexiatas.org/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/squarepegstas

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Another Query post

16 Apr

As promised I am brining you notes from the recent class I attended on query writing and what I learned was so different from what I had learned previously. I’m starting to think that query writing is a subjective thing and it will differ depending on who you talk to a lot of this stuff will be totally different than what was in my other post, but all this info came from a literacy agent, so it must be good.

 

First off let’s talk about word count.

I’d always read that the shorter the better and 250 words tends to be the maximum but according to the class, 250 should be the minim. You want your query to be no less than 250 but definitely no more than 700. Around 400-ish words is perfect according to Bree.

Agents don’t like opening and email, or letter, to see a huge 1000 word query. They must open hundreds of letters a day and seeing that, would be a real turn off. Also on the other hand, having one that is too short will only harm you because it’s near impossible to do you MS justice in so little space. Not impossible and I have seen it done, but extremely hard to do. If you can do it, and do it well, props, seriously I mean it major props, but don’t shoot yourself in the foot by being to minimalist.

Set yourself a word count starting at 250- and maxing out and 450 then go from there. If you keep it between that range, it’s perfect.

 

I probably should have mentioned this point first but appearance is very important.

How your query looks is a huge part to whether an agent reads it or not. They receive something in tiny, weird font and they aren’t even going to bother to try to read it. Remember a query is a business letter, it is the first impression that an agent is going to get of you, as a person and as a writer, so keep it professional.

Fonts should always be kept to something standard, and easy to read. Arial, Times, Calibri all make excellent choices. Usually the agent will mention in there submission criteria what they like so if they do, do exactly as they ask. They want Times at 12pt, do it. Who cares if you like it, they do and that’s the point. If nothing is stated always choose a sensible, easy to read font.

That being said font size is just as important, you don’t want it to small. The agent needs to be able to read it without straining their eyes. Making the font smaller, might allow you to fit it all on to one page, but other than that it will never help you cause. I suggest 10pt – 12pt you may be able to get away with 11pt in some fonts or bigger in other but as a rule of thumb stick to 12. You don’t won’t a comically huge font either, because though easy to read, it looks very unprofessional.

Spacing can also be important, though this might be out of your control if you send it in the body of an email. If possible space the query so it is easy to read (do you see a pattern here?)  Use paragraphs, 1.5 – double spacing and keep it neat. I personally like 1.5 though many agents prefer double. If it’s not specified in the submission criteria use personal preference though anything lower than 1.5 is much too low.

This point is only for post-in submissions, NEVER and I mean EVER hand write a submission. I don’t care if you are a master of penmanship, don’t do it. Always type it and print it. Hell even break out the old type writer and do it the old fashioned way but never hand write it. This falls under the readability point, as awesome as you are with a pen, it will always be easier to read typed, end of story.

Finally keep it professional, no pictures, no colours, no silly fonts. I mean it, professional people! Okay?

 

 

Next big point is Personalization.

General rule of thumb queries should be 3% personalized to the agent, 97% exactly the same as the last one you sent out. This is where the research I talked about in my last post comes in handy.

Always address it to the agent. Dear Mrs Doe, Dear Jane ect. Never address it generically. No To whom it may concerns, Dear Agency’s name, or the classic Dear Sir/Ma’am. No, just no okay? It is always better to address the person you are talking to so they know it’s not just a burst email/letter. At times an agency will say in there submissions that if unsure address it to the agency and an all agents will receive it. I would suggest against doing that. Yes, we all want an agent, but not every agent out there will be right for your book, be picky, even if it’s just a little bit because you will be trusting your work to this person, so you want to know they are right for it. Whenever possible query an agent, never an agency.

The reason I say query an agent is because you are going to want to start with one or two sentences as to why you want them as your agent. What made you query them? Writing, I queried you because I want an agent is not a good reason. They realise that since you are querying them, but why do you want to them as your agent. A good point here is not to brown nose, or try and be a kiss arse. It gives you as a writer, a negative image and people hate arse kissers.

Say things like:

I noticed you represented such and such’s (description of book), because of this I think you’ll also like my (description of MS), TITLE

Or

I read an article you wrote on something and it inspired me in some way to query you about TITLE.

This is where the research really pays off, so do it and you will  have no trouble with this little detail. Of course, don’t overdo this part, yes you have spent time e-stalking them but don’t come off that way. One or two sentences are all you need. Don’t spend paragraphs telling them why they are the perfect agents for you, because A) they don’t want to hear that and B) you have a word count to stick to remember.

Do not fake the personalization because they will know. Saying I saw you represented such and such, there for I think you will like my MS and having no cluse who such and such even is or what they write about, will only make you look bad. Because if it turns out you’re wrong and your MS is nothing like there’s, the agent will know and it will only serve to annoy them. Agents talk remember and you do not want to look like a liar.

 

Now down to Writing the query itself.

Here are some pointers on actually writing it.

First don’t sell yourself short; a query is a way for you as a writer to show an agent who you are. You write witty satire, show it! (Within reason, it is a professional letter after all) use your way with words to make a query that is unique to you and your story.

Spell check and edit! (My biggest nightmare!) Super important, make sure there is no mistakes, none, not even a little one. Read it, leave it a while and come back and read it again. Get someone else to check it, a couple of people even, make sure that baby is mistake free.

Focus on the project that you are pitching. One query per project.

The whole point of a query is to leave the agent wanting to more. Be specific but don’t give away the ending! Give all the necessary detail, but don’t give every character, every romance, and every disaster. Don’t try and fit everything that happens into the query. Pick out the main conflict, the main character and roll with it. The MC may have lots of drama going on but don’t tell them about it all. Give enough to hook them, that’s all you need.

Always include the first five pages, after your closing sign off, unless other amount is specified. The right agents will not reject you if you attach five pages and they said not to. If they liked it they will read on anyway. It will give them an idea of your style and voice which can be a good thing.

When sending out your query don’t email blast, do a hand full at a time and wait. That way if you found out that something needs to be changed you haven’t burned every bridge.

 

Some things Queries must have:

Personalized salutation

Personalized tidbit about agent

Title

Genre

Word count

Protagonist name

Description of protagonist

Setting

Inciting incident

Villain

Protagonist’s quest/purpose

Protagonist’s goal

Bio

Author’s credits (optional)

Your name

 

Query Recipe: (as written by Bree, I didn’t think I could sum it up any better than this)

* Keep in mind… Queries and synopses are two different things. Unless an agent specifically asks for a synopsis (which is not the norm) do not send one. Agents want an overview of Who, What, When, Why, and just a PART of the How.

Introduction:

Include word count, genre, and title. Show the agent you’ve researched them, that this isn’t an email blast.

Your book:

Things you’ll need to include in your description: Who is the main character and why are they special? Why are we reading about them? Why do we want to read about them? You don’t need to explicitly tell us this information, but you’ll want to introduce them in a way that gets us excited.

What is the plot? What happens in the novel and how is your main character involved? How does this affect what your main character wants and needs? How does it affect their emotions?

Make clear the central relationship in the novel.

Your bio:

There is absolutely NOTHING wrong with being a debut author…especially in fiction. If you don’t have writing credits, do not worry. We expect that the majority of querying writers are going to be debut. Just tell us a bit about yourself. Where you live, what you do for a living, and whether or not this is your first novel.

If you do have writing credits, list a few of your highest profile publications. Avoid listing out everything you have ever published ever! In fact don’t just “avoid it”…don’t do it!

Other important facts to include in your bio section:

1.    If you’ve had previous representation

2.    If the manuscript you’re querying has an offer on the table, and how much time we have before you need an answer

3.    If the manuscript you are querying has been submitted to editors at any point

Who YOU are is secondary to what your manuscript is about. We will eventually want to get to know you before signing you, but it’s important to hook us on your concept and not on yourself (unless you are writing nonfiction). You have a very finite amount of space to make us want to read your manuscript, so don’t blow it on personal information. ~ Bree Ogden

Another important thing is to know you genre.

Know the market, know who you want to market it to and be specific. Is it syfi, fantasy, romance, paranormal, adult, action, suspense, horror, the list goes on. There are hundreds, so if you not sure google is always your best friend. After you have classified the type state the age group. These are the standard age groups.

Picture book (ages 0-4)

Easy reader (ages 4-6)

Chapter book (ages 6-8)

Middle grade (ages 9-12)

Upper middle grade (ages 12-15)

Young adult (ages 14-18)

New adult (ages 19-29)

Adult (ages 30-up)

When classifying age group, you want to look at the age of your main character. They should always be within a few years of your target audience age. But keep in mind it’s not just about “age” but about the tone and the experience that the character is going.

 

Finally the best way to learn is by reading, look up successful queries online. Once you have finished writing it there are tons of sites where other writers will critique your query and give you advice on how to improve it, if it needs it.

There we go everything I could think of about writing a query all in one post. Keep in mind this is not an easy process, it’s a lot of work and very time consuming, but if you do it properly it will be worth it to see the finished results and start to get some requests rolling in!

 

Happy writing!