Query Tip: Mantra

One of the biggest parts of my job coaching writers on their publishing journey is prepping them for the QUERY TRENCHES.

After the book is written & revised, and we feel solid that the work is done, the manuscript is at its conceptual best, all polished up and shiny, we switch gears.

From creation mode to business time.

And this shift can feel really freakin’ strange.

This is the moment I notice most writers seeking traditional publication falter.

This is where fear creeps in like the Grim Reaper, scythe gleaming to slash hopes and dreams.

Writers look at the rules of Querying: Guidelines on agency websites, Google search results with daunting statistics and horror stories about fails and screw ups, and we get in our heads about how HARD this part is.

How easy it is to fail right here, at the threshold of all we’ve been working toward.

This is where many writers forget that without writers there would be no publishing industry. Writers are the fuel, the creative juice, the actual ones making the thing agents sell, editors buy, and readers read.

WRITERS ARE THE PRIZE.

So what does this mean for queriers?

Here’s a little mindset shift you can do right now, no matter which stage of the journey you’re in. Repeat after me:

When Querying:

  1. Be Professional
  2. Be Respectful
  3. Be the PRIZE

The rest — like whether you caps locked the names in your synopsis when you first introduced characters, or whether you put your name in the footer beside your page numbers — will never matter as much as your attitude toward the agent you query and your attitude toward YOURSELF.

Be a prize— which doesn’t mean: Be a brat.

It means send a query you are proud of, that looks and reads like YOU, for a book you worked hard to create.

The rest will follow. Maybe in a minute, or in five years, but timing doesn’t change the fact that YOU. ARE. THE. PRIZE. 💃🏼

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I offer a QUERY PACKAGE for writers who are ready to take the leap. For $350, It includes query & synopsis feedback, notes on your first ten pages and a list of 8 agents to start querying when ready. If you mention this blog post when you contact me I will take 10% off the cost. 💗

A Glance at the Midpoint

This week I will reach the midpoint of this manuscript. I just crossed 31,000 words and can see that moment coming closer with every sentence. 

The midpoint is one of my favorite moments to plot out because — if done well — it creates the hinge that opens up the rest of the book to run wild. 

The midpoint should do a few things:

  • Raise the stakes by introducing a new conflict, taking a win and making it a loss, upping the drama of an existing conflict. Or any manner of ways that takes the main character who just got comfy in the playground of the story and kicks them off the jungle gym.
  • Be at the middle. This sounds obvious but I have edited books where this moment was not in the right spot, though the instinct for this moment was there. 
  • Give the character an opportunity to change goals/question choices/generally reassess their unction in the story. 
  • Be a MOMENT akin to a climax but obviously one that cannot be resolved. The soggy middle exists when the midpoint is not a moment the reader recalls when retelling the story to our friends over Zoom cocktails. 
  • When in doubt, make the midpoint something that thwarts the main character’s goal in some crucial, but not utterly dire way. 

Pray for me as I edge in on my midpoint. It’s a doozy. 

Writing the Wrong Book

Okay, I know this can feel like a scary, touchy subject for writers to think about for long, but hear me out. I am *thisclose* to crossing the 25k word mark in this manuscript and I think it’s a fitting time to tell you that I wrote this book wrong at first. 

I wrote the whole thing. I revised it. I got feedback and it was nice, readers were enjoying it, they had thoughts, but ultimately nothing that was changing the way I was feeling about it which was…only okay. 

Here is the truth: We are never too good, smart or talented to write the wrong book first.

We might think we have to write it that way because on the surface it makes a whole lot of sense. Maybe we think it’s our brand, or we really WANT to write a certain kind of book because it’s something we like to read. Maybe we had an idea and we ran with it, but we were sprinting in the wrong direction for 70,000 words. 

And sometimes the book you wrote that was wrong, was good. Maybe even good enough. But not really truly YOU. 

The you component is what transforms a bunch of plot points into an unforgettable story. It’s what creates passion and unlocks imagination in a reader. It’s what actually makes the book “on brand” in the first place. 

I’m glad my agent could feel the lack of ME in the book and gently nudged me with her insight & great feedback toward the truth I wasn’t telling. Because the key to good story is getting to the honest truth. It’s dipping into the dark well inside you and finding the deep water hidden there. 

It’s okay to write the wrong book. And it sure feels good to bleed out the right one. 

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Weekly reminder that I work with writers at all levels & stages! You can check out my creative services right here on my website. 🦄

Encourage Growth: Working with a Book Coach

Years ago I was a new writer, a young mom, & recently relocated to Texas after two years in Brooklyn. It was a lot of fresh change and a lot of feeling like treading water waiting to be tugged under. And then I saw this tweet by Nova Ren Suma that she was offering an online Young Adult writing workshop & I leapt at the opportunity to get feedback from her – a writer with an agent & a book deal, a book on shelves. Someone doing the thing I wanted to do.

I was still a raw talent in a lot of ways. Rough edged & not always actually good, but I had written a book & I wanted it to be the best it could be. In that workshop, I learned a lot about what was working in my pages, what wasn’t. I made friends with other writers, one in particular — a fellow screenwriter and YA lover, who was about to move out to LA. (She’s since, in the many many years that have passed, become one of my best friends & the co-author of my dreams.)

But I also got a teacher in Nova, someone I would work with many more times, who would encourage the seeds of my writing to grow. When I started working with writers a few years ago, the one thing I knew I wanted was to help cultivate the dreams & raw talent in my clients. This industry often does a lot of breaking those dreams down, tearing words to shreds, belittling burgeoning artists still learning. Rejection comes with the game, fear and failure are a constant.

But encouragement & good critique & guidance makes space for growth.

Today, one of my coaching clients told me she wanted to work with me forever. And, of course, I beamed, but I also dreamed for her in that moment. I hope one day she’ll have an agent in her corner & she won’t need to work with me anymore.

Because I know the pain of wanting something that still feels out of reach, & I know the work it takes to get there, & even though I can’t make anyone’s dream come true (not even my dreams, of which I have many) I can be a voice of hope, an encourager of story seeds, & a promoter of doing the work even when it’s hard and you fail. If you’re looking for a book coach, an editor, or eyes on your query, I’m taking on clients now and always. ✨

The Spark & the Flame

For the last two years, in late October and November I have found myself in project limbo. Having finished a revision on one manuscript, and waiting for feedback, and wondering what I should start working on next.

But this year, with the energy of our country in such a state of unrest, and my birthday falling on Election Day, I’ve been finding myself doing a lot more soul searching — about my work, my voice, what I really want to do next, now, in the distant future. 

Writing is a tool for me to explore more than commercial plot points & romantic happily ever afters. It has long been the place where I tell the honest truth — to myself & readers — through the voices of my characters. And it’s often a truth I don’t even recognize until I’ve learned it again alongside my own creations. 

Art is something that comes inherently from inside. It is often sparked by “out there” – a walk in the woods, a line of a poem, a news article, a mystery unsolved, a place, a time, a TV show, a song. But the end result of our own art is something unabashedly, utterly us. 

Impossible to manufacture or for anyone else recreate. 

On a Monday afternoon, with a whole new week ahead, I’m asking myself to look for the spark, and then listen to the story that I want to tell as it comes alive. 

What are some ways YOU seek the spark of a new idea?

Make Big Moves

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Make big moves for your dreams.✨

This mug is a constant reminder that sometimes the moves we have to make for our dreams to come true are big, scary, wild, and wooly. In fact, in my experience they almost always are.

I know many of you following me are writers with a dream to one day see your words in print— whether that’s online or on paper.

I am opening to more creative coaching clients in June, which is something I have not done since last year.

I also know that many of you creatives are struggling to write your words right now. If that’s you, working with a coach might be just the thing you need to finish your projects hanging in limbo.

Please feel free to shoot me an email with any questions and check out my Creative Consulting page on this website for all the details!

Whatever you do today, and no matter what darkness looms around you, remember you are a light. You CAN & yes. You. Will.🦄

xo,

Rebekah

P.S. For the month of June I am offering 30% off all services, which is something I never do, and am so happy to offer right now.

Don’t just ride.

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There are days when I feel a bit invincible in my own home. Cocooned in my little bungalow where it’s just my husband, my son and two scruffy dogs. When I know it’s okay and I’m okay, and despite the news, the world is okay, too.

There are days when I feel low. Dropped to the bottom of a steep incline and slammed into the seat, jolted, breathless, and ready to get off now, please.

This is a roller coaster we can’t just leave. There’s no escape hatch. There’s no emergency off switch, and that makes us feel aimless. Like we’re just here for the ride, but we’re not actually required for the journey.

Schools are closed through the rest of the school year. The stay at home order is in place for many until May 1st – for now. I walk through my neighborhood and prickle when I see someone on the same side of the street, walking the same sidewalk. I take a wide berth, reroute, and feel lonelier when the dogs tug back, wanting to greet, and me just wanting more space.

It’s easy to feel a little defeated. To want to sit down, right here, and just stop. Not cry because that would mean you were still fighting. No – just sit, just let it all pass you by, because this coaster is going fast on the loops and the dips and you aren’t the one manning the controls.

Without vision we perish. Right now a lot of us are getting vision confused with existence. Existence is what we do to survive. Vision is what we need to prosper and thrive. And even in a season of collective cocooning, we must have vision or we’ll just ride.

The real question for many not on the frontlines of this fight isn’t what should we do to survive – it’s who will we be if we do?

Time isn’t going to stop.

We’re not just gonna pick up in a few months where we left off. Too much will have happened, and even though this pause touches everyone, we as individuals must still carry on. In our homes, in our work, dreaming our dreams, doing our deeds by whatever means possible — by innovation and with determination.

We must keep our eyes like flint on the vision, however we can, because even though it will surely tarry, it will still arrive.

The roller coaster of this pandemic will one day come to an end, but who we will be when we get out of the car, stretch our legs, and take the first steps into the new normal, is still up for debate.

Faith is not a passive thing. Faith is an action word. It is alive and it requires our participation.

Whatever you have to do – whether it’s make a mask, clean your house, rock your baby, call you mother, write your words – keep doing it and don’t let this pause convince you that you aren’t still here for a reason, for such a time as this. ❤︎

I can.

Yesterday I was in a funk. A mood. Something inside me felt like it was cracking open and that actually scared me.

And I do not scare easily.

All around me were giants. Hulking masses with clubs.

All around me were possibilities. Ethereal and tangible and opaque and translucent.

All around me were things outside my control. And I love to maintain control. Relinquishing it? That’s just a fancy word for lose.

I wanted to get some work done, and I couldn’t. I couldn’t get above the fog long enough to focus. Because I couldn’t stop looking everything around me that I needed or wanted to hold together.

I kept seeing myself at Barnes and Noble. A three-story beauty with windows that look out over the whimsically lovely courtyard at the Americana Mall in Glendale.

I kept seeing it, and so finally I took myself there. I rode escalators to the top floor where all the romance and thrillers, the YAs and middle grades live. I wandered the floor and looked at the books, considered buying some but mostly just touched them.

Absorbed the power of imagination inside them.

I stepped outside to the patio lined with tables and chairs, found a spot, and got set up.

I didn’t start working right away.

I watched the fountain dance to the beat of the music. Watched tree leaves rustle in the breeze. I watched the ground below me, felt like a bird perched on a ledge, surveying and unencumbered by the need to walk.

Then I had ideas and I did crack open.

I kept on cracking open for the rest of the day, into the night, where I cried while watching my son sleep curled around a dragon-dog stuffed toy, snoring lightly. Because I remembered when my biggest fear in the world was that I wouldn’t ever get pregnant. That I’d never have him at all. That even if I did, I’d somehow screw it up.

But there he was, 10 years old now, and so much lovelier than I ever imagined, so worth all the faith and the struggle, fighting my giants of fear, relinquishing my control to just trust.

If I did it for him, for the dream of him and the reality of him, couldn’t I do it again for all the other dreams – the uncountable number I hold in my heart?

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Client Wins

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Client gifts are some of my favorite gifts because that means good news is on the way.🍾

Last week, one of my writers (yes, I am assembling a team of sparkling unbridled unicorns, and you can join them) had a big win on her road to publication.

My client, Rachel, landed her dream agent with her beautiful, heart-thumping adult fantasy, and I got the chance to be a part of her journey.

I gained a friend and colleague through my work with Rachel, but I also gained a gift I could never have expected. (No, not the bubbly featured here, although that is a gift I ADORE.)

This month two of my writers have landed agents within 11 days of each other, and as I celebrated with them, for them, about them, I realized something amazing:

I helped them make a dream come true.

They did the work, they wrote the book, but they chose to work with me and it paid off.

The win is THEIRS, but some of the joy is mine.

Because –

I HAVE BEEN IN THE TRENCHES.

I know the sting of rejection and the fear of failure all too well.

I’ve been agented and unagented.

I’ve written a book on Wattpad (that blew up, and keeps on going, going, going Energizer Bunny style) and I’ve written books that no one but my CPs will ever read.

I’ve found my Agent Person and started to make my own dreams come true in major ways.

And if I can help boost other writers from the trenches to reach their goals faster with less isolation and despair, then I want to do that for as many of them as I can. I will keep on doing it as long as I can.

There are two ways to work with me.

One-on-one, all-in, where I help you shape your story from the foundation up.

OR

The online course I created with the Six & Up CEO Academy (founded by my co-author extraordinaire Alexandra Grizinski & All-Around Biz Genius Jenny Beres) called Unlocking Creativity for Writers and Artists.

My writers are killing it. 🍾

My writers are the best humans around.💖

My writers are UNBRIDLED UNICORNS shooting for the stars.🦄

Here are the handy links:

Unlocking Creativity for Writers & Artists

The Six & Up CEO Academy

Unbridled Unicorn Creative Consulting

And, as always, feel free to send me a Voxer or shoot me an email if you have any questions!

Power’s Out

Yesterday the power went out, & dealing with the, okay, pretty tiny crisis in the grand scheme of crises, reminded me that my power is unlimited.

I had a plan for my day. I had made a list & was dutifully checking items off. Then, about fifteen minutes past 11 am, I heard a hollow, metallic crash. It sounded like an anvil had dropped. Was Wylie Coyote running along the telephone wire after the Roadrunner?

Our fans slowly spun to a stop. My son’s online video game froze & then kicked him out. With the outage went all cell signal, the internet, & the only method we had to stay cool on a day when the temperature would soon rise to over 100 degrees.

We left the house, searching for signal, & blasting the air conditioner in the car. We ended up at an outdoor café where we got frozen yogurt and a Styrofoam cup of water for our dogs. We dropped our son at an IHOP so he could go to his friend’s powered and air conditioned house.

We went to another outdoor café, covered by awnings and surrounded by foliage. I ordered Rose and chopped salad, the dogs got a to-go container of water. We worked using the nearby Barnes and Noble wi-fi.

The power was out all day.

We finally went home, gave up trying to get work done, gave up having cell signal, & jumped in the pool. My husband & I were like kids, joyously swimming, laughing, playing – we never get to do that, just us. We had a picnic in the shade of our yard & talked without interruption. The power never came back on.

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We went to get our son and ended up staying for dinner. We booked a hotel because we were over the struggle with the power. The hotel was beautiful – the power finally returned. But while it had been out, my own power had slowly restored.

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Often we focus on the struggle. The drama and the toil, the annoyance that things aren’t the way we want them to be. We get impatient to check off our life-list.

Sometimes throwing out the list, and going along for the ride, is all you need to remember that you have power no one can take, unlimited potential, and a choice to enjoy the journey. Then the struggle becomes an adventure you’ll never forget.