Monday, July 27, 2009

Thoughts on when is the best time to submit to agents
I am definitely no expert on this but willing to share what I have learned and heard on this. The month of August is the month many agents and publisher go on vacation. I have heard many say that it is not a good idea to submit during this month. To make the situation worst is that in September you have many teachers off during the summer months that decide to write a novel or finish one. Many of these are submitted in September.
That leaves October and November to be good months. The agencies know it will soon be the holiday season and the year will be gone. This is when I have heard it is best to find an agent.
Yes, I know what I am going to hear. If you have a great novel and perfectly written it does not matter. Well, if the agent never looks at it, yes, it does matter. So, if these are the best time to hit your favorite agent or editor, what different should you do to get noticed?
That can be the trick as most agent do not like off the wall, outlandish presentations. However, I suspect they welcome a good mood type query.
This is from my experience. I have found I get much better response if I spend the time to know as much as I can about the agent. What have they sold recently? What conferences have they attended? What have they posted on their blog? Anything to make it hard for them to ignore you. Yes, agents don't like being talked about as the agent that ignored you if they think they will run into you again at a conference or online.
Another point I discovered is that it is best to e-mail a query on Thursday. Many of the agent go through their stack of query letters on Friday. This will make your query be close to the top.

Of course, I'm no expert on this and would love to hear what other aspiring writers think as well as maybe an agent or two to add to this discussion.

Johnny Ray

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Finding a mentor
I have always been of the opinion that to become the best in any field you have to find the greatest person in that field and learn from them. This has been true in the past of almost all great people in any field. They all had someone to help them develop. Writing is no different. A great mentor will help you develop your voice, your style and not be concerned with the rules that hold down many emerging writers.

The great thing about writing is that there are so many writers wanting to help others along. All writers want to be better and know it helps to receive others opinions. They also know to take all advice for what it is--one person point of view. But, when that advice is repeated over and over it starts sinking in--which can be good or bad.

What is tragic is that sometimes a great writer forgets what makes him special--his own special voice. From reading much more than I want to admit I have noticed that new writers follow rules that are imposed on them in order to become published. As time passes and they can stand on their own, so to speak, they relax the rules and reestablish their style. This is when they become great writers. They write for the reader and not for the rules imposed by some writers and editors.

If I had a choice, I would prefer a writer allowed to express the feeling in a story in his own unique voice to one that is written perfectly according to grammarians and other word controlling elitist. And this is why I think finding the right mentor that has made it pass the control of such is so important.

However, this is my opinion, what is yours?

Johnny Ray

Monday, July 20, 2009

Mystery Writers of America meeting
I attended the MWA meeting and heard author Martha Powers talk about cranking up the suspense in our novels. She really is an interesting speaker and talked about how important it is to have the central theme so powerful that a level of fear arises that totally hooks the reader. The characters have to be memorable and add to the tension and suspense of the story. An element of time always builds suspense,especially if it is a very short window. The writer needs to keep the tension building, but there are times the writer needs to let the reader breath. A short pause makes the next thrill more dramatic. She said to let the reader expect events to happen and then do the unexpected.

She mentioned how the writer needs to reveal the information slowly and let the character have time to develop. Once the details are revealed, the suspense of not knowing is over. In fact, she added that the strongest scene should be at the end of the book. This is what sells the next book. This is what the reader remembers. When the final details are given, the story is over and the writer needs to quit writing. Well maybe time to start the next story.

It is easy to see why Martha Power is such a great writer. She understands what readers want and has become a master in delivering perfectly.

Johnny Ray

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Planning a novel is very involved. I found the article below which is very close to the way I approach writing so I had to share it. It would be interesting to hear how others go about the mechanical part of writing.

Johnny Ray

Planning a Heart-stopping Story

Author: Holly Lisle

Over the last six lessons, you've figured out your theme, and you've worked out at least one and possibly several subthemes. You've learned how to use blended scenes, intercuts, and cliffhangers to work both themes and subthemes into your work. You have great conflict waiting to happen. What do you do next?

All of our discussion of themes and subthemes comes down to this. It's time to figure out how your story is going to go.

After more than 17 years of writing novels as my full-time job, I've tried every method I could find for getting my stories into order without so overworking them during the outline process that I no longer wanted to write the book. This is the method I currently use, and am still refining. It's simple, it's quick, and it's flexible---all three advantages which make writing more fun, and keep your work fresher for you. This is going to seem like the strangest imaginable way to get a passionate, compelling, suspenseful story on the page...but it completely blows away waiting for your Muse to inspire you in terms of effectiveness.

I am a heavy user of plot cards---3x5 index cards or the software equivalent--upon which I write one single sentence for each scene. That sentence outlines the characters and the conflict that will occur in that scene.

(Don't understand scenes? The Scene Creation Workshop will help you get the hang of them. )

To write your novel, you'll need to know:

• How many plot cards/ scenes you'll need for your book,

• Which theme or subtheme (or blend) you'll be dealing with for each scene,

• Which characters will be in each scene,

• Who the POV (Point Of View) character---the person through whose eyes the story is told---will be.

You'll start with basic arithmetic plus your themes and subthemes to do this to figure out how many scenes you'll need.

An average first novel in the current market is around 90,000 words long (if you're writing for the adult, not children's or YA markets).

• So we'll start with 90,000 words as our target length.

For this example, we're going to assume that you have one main theme and two subthemes that you've decided will each run the complete length of the book.

• Theme: HEROINE sets out to win a writing contest and prove to her dubious husband that her dream of being a writer is not a waste of time.

• Subtheme #1: HEROINE meets man at work who encourages her writing, and her pursuit of fulfillment, leading her to consider leaving her current relationship.

• Subtheme #2: HUSBAND watches his wife's life change as she pursues her dreams, and he starts wondering what happened to his own dreams.

Let's further say that you've decided your scenes will average a thousand words each, so you'll need about ninety of them to get a full-length novel. (In real life, the math is rarely this easy--mine scenes generally average 1500 to 1750 words each, but every book and every scene is different.)

• Target Length of Book ÷ Average Length of Scene = Number Of Scenes

• 90,000 ÷ 1000 = 90 scenes for the book (PLEASE NOTE: This is an APPROXIMATION. Books are not so cut and dried that you'll end up with exactly ninety scenes, nor will they each be a thousand words long.)

You want to give a lot of the story over to your main theme. We'll figure 50% because it's a nice, easy number, but it could just as easily be 60%. Or 73.8%, if you like to make things complicated. Let's not go there, though.

• 50% for the heroine's main story.

Then we'll divvy up the other half of the book between Subtheme #1 and Subtheme #2. Say you decide that you want the heroine to dump her husband for the man at work. You'll probably want to give #1 more time and space than #2. If you want her current relationship to grow stronger because her pursuit of her own dreams has inspired her husband to pursue his, then you'll want to put more work into #2. And if you want to keep the reader in suspense about which way she's going to jump, split them down the middle.

I think the suspense angle is interesting, so I'm going to give:

• Subtheme #1 25% of the book, and

• Subtheme #2 25% of the book.

Multiply 90 (Total Number Of Scenes) by .5 (50%--the percentage your main theme gets). You'll get 45.

• 90 x .5 = 45 Main Theme Scenes

Now multiply 90 (Total Number Of Scenes) by .25% (the subtheme percentage).

• 90 x .25 = 22.5

You'll get 22.5, which basically means you round up for one subtheme, and round down for the other one. Or write two short scenes. Or don't worry about the remainder, because this is just a rough technique to give you a quick picture of how you're going to break up your story. I'll give subtheme #1 22 scenes, and subtheme #2 23 scenes, just because I've decided the husband reawakening his own dreams is a better story than the dude at work hitting on someone else's wife, and at the end of the suspense, I'm going to have the heroine stay with her husband.

• 22 Subtheme #1 Scenes

• 23 Subtheme #2 Scenes

Anyway, I now know I'll need 90 3x5 index cards on which to write out plot cards, and I'll have 45 of them for the heroine's pursuit of her dreams, 22 for her entanglement with the man from work, and 23 for her relationship with her husband.

NOTICE that nowhere in here have I addressed POV (Point Of View)---that is, which scenes are shown through which character's eyes. The theme and subthemes do not select POV for you. As you write out plot cards, you'll have to select the best POV based on what is happening in each scene. Let's do a few now, and I'll show you what I mean.

• Jenna, cleaning the attic on a rainy Saturday afternoon, discovers one of her journals from her teenage years in which she promised herself that she'd be a famous novelist by the time she was 25, and something stirs in her at the sudden, sharp memory of that dream. [POV-Jenna] (Main Theme)

• Kevin Hobart hears Jenna talking to a co-worker about her crazy desire to write a novel, and does a good job of faking casual as he invites her to a meeting of a writers' group to which he belongs. [POV-Kevin] (Subtheme #1)

• Mac watches Jenna reading through piles of books about writing, taking notes and writing things down, and tells her she's going to get her feelings hurt when she does all that work and no one wants what she's done. [POV could be either Mac or Jenna] (Subtheme #2)

• Jenna meets Kevin at her first meeting, and even though she brought something she wrote to read, is intimidated by the process and refuses to read when her turn comes around. [POV could be either Jenna or Kevin] (Blend of Main Theme and Subtheme #1)

You may not get all 90 scenes when you first start outlining. That's okay. You may not, in fact, get much beyond the first third of the book. That's fine, too. You have a plan, and you can build and change things as you go. The greatest advantage of figuring out and using plot cards is that when you discover a better direction for your story, you can toss a 3x5 index card or two, and replace them with better, rather than tossing several thousand or more already-written words.

I realize it's unnerving to look at the mechanical processes behind creating edge-of-the-seat fiction. It's more romantic to imagine typing like a wild thing, writing without a plan, tossing balled-up pages in the wastebasket from across the room...and dressing all in black, and drinking espresso in a coffee house while lamenting being blocked, too. Passion is in what you put on the page, though, not in how artsy you look while you're doing it.

In the final installment of BRING YOUR NOVEL TO LIFE, "Life, Passion...Deadline," you'll learn how to hold on to your story and its heart while working to a deadline.

About the Author:

Holly Lisle is a full-time novelist who also writes extensively about writing. You can find her website here: and sign up here to receive her free newsletter.

Article Source: - Planning a Heart-stopping Story

Monday, July 13, 2009

The importance of writing everyday

One of the most important pieces of advice I ever received is that writer write. Some days it is only a little, but some days it is a lot. I think it is the only way to get better. And to write better you have to push yourself, to write each piece of work with more emotion, more description, more clarity than you wrote earlier. For there are also saying such as,"if you keep doing what you're doing you keep getting what you have."

With this in mind, I thought I would take some time to reflect on my writing. Is it getting better or is it the same old thing? And more importantly, would I really know?

They say a writer needs to have very tough skin. After having sending my work to various contest, critique groups and agents I think I am seeing the errors of my ways. As I rework some of the works I completed several years ago I think I am very glad it did not get published. Yes, it was terrible.

One of the best pieces of advice I was given earlier is to keep a notebook of errors I made in writing. I now constantly refer to it in polishing my work. While I think my education at several universities helped, I think the University of hard knocks has moved me along much more.

I also think the harder it is to obtain a goal the more valuable the prize is when it is obtained. It also makes me appreciate the great writers out there by knowing what they also went through to be where they are. While I'm sure some writers are borne with natural ability, I think most have to work at it like everyone else.

With small victories, a contest win or a request from a top agent, the journey to becoming published is an interesting life full of doing what I really want to do--write.

Johnny Ray

Monday, July 06, 2009

Free Kindle giveaway contest

I am still running my contest for a free kindle giveaway. The rules for the kindle giveaway are very simple. On my site select the novel you think will be published first and e-mail your vote. My e-mail is I will pick a winner from those that select the correct novel that is published first. I have partials,fulls and query letters out on all of them.

I am working on my seventh novel now and when it is finished I will post info on it, If you want to switch your vote on the kindle giveaway contest at that time, just e-mail me. On my site I also have a place for you to sign up for my newsletter.

I also have a large number of blogs I post to. a complete list of them can be found here For those that want to learn how to make money on their blogs please join us at

I wish everyone the best on the free kindle giveaway contest and want to thank you for your support of me as a writer.

Johnny Ray

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Thoughts on self publishing by Johnny Ray

I'm sure I'm not the only writer to think more about this recently. While my goal remains to have my work distributed by a major house, the lure and freedom of self publishing tend to be growing. The time table is definitely faster, the rewards now maybe high enough to make it worth while, and it at least gets your work out there where people can see it and buy it. I feel like I have a large enough platform to sell many of my own books. However, a large house would definitely help with all of their resources.

I've heard that it could hurt your brand, your name later. To some extent this is like in the real estate business where real estate agents look down on for sale by owners. I've also heard this is how many authors got their start. I know many people have their own opinions on this. However, thinking about it, a pen name might work out great.

What would be great is to find a site where one could simply post their work and have people buy it that the author sends to the site. It would help to have an administrator to handle all taxes and accounting of sales, but that is it, allowing for a larger royalty payment.

I've also been exploring the kindle site which appears to be interesting. They have traffic coming to the site, which is good. They can download to people that must go to the site to buy and they are now able to download to the iphone. That can be some very positive incentives.

Of course, the downside is no editor or creative person to guide you. You have to arrange for your own copy writing and book cover designs, etc. And no publicity department to work for you.

My research is just beginning and would love to have others give me their thoughts and available information for a follow up post.

Johnny Ray
Award Winning Novelist