13 Questions to Ask Before You Write a Novel

QuestionsA week or so ago, I posted some information I learned at a local seminar about Crafting a Pitch. I provided some information in that post specifically about the pitch process and thought I’d share a bit more of the information that was provided. While this was given in relation to crafting your pitch, I felt it was just general all-around good information and would be just as important when starting a novel as when crafting a pitch, so decided to share it in a separate post.

Everyone has their own process and perhaps formulating this much information about a novel might work against people who are more free-form and extemporaneous with their work. For myself, I’m more of a ‘Plotter’ with my writing, becoming a ‘Pantser’ when I’m in the heat of filling in the gaps. As such, I found these questions to be very much in line with how I crafted my current novel and very much how I’ll most likely continue to create.

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Making the New Old

I’d like to take a moment to share an online musical group that I’ve become quite fond of over the last several of months: Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox (or PMJ, for short)

While Postmodern Jukebox superficially has very little indeed to do with writing -except perhaps as a fantastic soundtrack for a dieselpunk novel- they could be considered a lesson in interpretation and revision. I’ll admit that I’m not a big fan of rap or hip hop. I find nothing wrong with those styles of music, they just don’t speak to me like other kinds do. However, PMJ can take a song from those styles and convert it into something quite enjoyable. And different.

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Query Letter Pet Peeves – Agents Speak

Although this is still quite far away, the query and submission stage is nonetheless terrifying. This information is -while not necessarily comforting- I’d informative. Take a peek.

Writers In The Storm Blog

By Chuck Sambuchino

Photo from WANA Commons Photo from WANA Commons

Ready to send your book out and contact agents? The last thing you want to do is to rush that submission out the door and hurt your book’s chances.

When submitting your all-important query to agents or editors, it’s not just a question of what to write in the letter—it’s also a question of what not to write.

I asked 11 literary agents about their personal query letter pet peeves and compiled them below. Check out the list to learn all about what details to avoid in a query that could sink your submission—such as vague wording, too much personal information, grammatical mistakes, and much more.


“I think the biggest querying no-no I’ve ever seen was when an author tracked down some sensitive personal information and included it in their cover letter. Eeep! As agents we absolutely love when authors do their…

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Pitch Perfect

perfect pitch1I mentioned a couple of days ago that I recently attended a writing seminar about crafting a pitch: creating a concise explanation of your book for use at writing conventions either during special events or just trying to entice an agent or editor to take a look at your work.  At the time I didn’t discuss the seminar, just the effect it had on me, but I did want to take the time to share what I learned, in case -like me- you had not been really exposed to the concept of a ‘pitch’ before.18

I’m quite familiar with the concept of a query letter as I’ve recently been researching it in anticipation of starting the query process early next year (or whenever I get my revised draft finished).  I’m still a long ways from that point, but I wanted to learn as much as I could beforehand in order to truly hit the ground running when that time comes.  However, this post is about the ‘pitch’ and how to make the most out of your three minutes of attention, not a query letter, so I’ll digress no longer.

So, first thing: I’d like to thank all of the panelists for their insight, encouragement and critiques.  It was a learning experience in the most amazing way.  Even if I may not be in a position to pitch my book, I still learned an amazing amount of information that will guide more more surely through my query process.  I was quite lucky in that I stood alone as an author of steampunk, so I received a somewhat more directed critique than perhaps others: romance and YA seemed to be very popular amongst the gathered writers.  Most importantly, I’d like to thank the seminar organizer and author, Kim Ventrella.  I was lucky as she is an acquaintance of my wife, so I was able to speak directly with her.

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Review: Maplecroft by Cherie Priest

maplecroftPart of becoming a good writer is feeding the good reader inside. In this, I’ve been horribly negligent, as my wife is wont to (frequently) remind me. A writer must read and I have not done that much lately. That’s not to say I don’t want to read, but I’m trying to hold off on delving into other works of Steampunk as much as possible, so I know I’m not contaminating my own creative process with other people’s worlds or -even worse- duplicating what they’ve already done. Once I’m done with the first book, I feel my process will have already fleshed out the universe my characters inhabit enough to be suitable unique so that I can start reading more diligently again. That being said, I felt is safe enough to read Cherie Priest’s Maplecroft recently. It is not necessarily a steampunk story but it is appropriate to the timeline of my novels and Cherie Priest is well-known for her own steampunk-genre work, so I felt safe reading it.

Maplecroft is best described as a horror novel, giving a fictional reason for the historical case of Lizbeth Borden’s murderous spree upon her father and step-mother. The real cause? Dark and sinister forces from the beginning of time intent on reclaiming an impudent mankind. The story is told through a series of journal entries and mail correspondence and represents what feels like the first volume or a larger series, which I find exciting.

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