Month: May 2016




The Most-Googled Question in Each State. We were going to single out a specific state to shame over this, but honestly, it’s too hard to pick.

(by Estately)

How many people in Michigan heard that Mr. T was dead…

Poe’s Law: when you can’t actually tell if a thing is satire or if this is what people are googling in different states


Yo I don’t even care if this is legit or not it is *hilarious*. 

Writing the Perfect Query Letter


The point of a query letter is to sell your story. 

Writing your query letter, your goal is to make the reader want to pick up the book. That is the entire purpose. We’ve all recommended books to friends before. It’s exactly that, except now that book is yours and the stakes are high. A query letter is, above all, persuasive. While writing your query letter, make sure you draw your reader into your story with every word. 

A query letter is not a creative letter; it’s a business proposition. 

Writing a query letter, don’t think of yourself as a writer, especially not of this particular story. You are now Don Draper. He’s creative, but not a creator. His job is to make the product appeal to the consumer. He’s not rolling the cigarettes. He’s selling them. You were the writer of your manuscript. Now you’re its ad man. An industry professional. Your task it to sell an idea to someone you want to sell your idea (the agent) to someone you want to sell your idea (the editor) to someone you want to buy your product (the reader). By querying your manuscript, you’re requesting a place in an industry. This means that you should follow some industry standards:

  • Use business letter formatting. 12 point font. Single spaced. Left alignment. No indentations. A space between paragraphs.
  • Don’t be familiar. This is a business letter. A formal letter. Unless you already have some sort of a relationship with the person you’re querying, if you’ve met at an event or corresponded in some other regard, write like you’re writing to a potential business associate. 
  • Write the letter as yourself. Don’t write as your character. Don’t write as your narrator. Don’t write as the historian who discovered your story 1,000 years into the future. It’s a risk that rarely pays off. On that point…
  • Don’t be creative with the form of your query. Save the creativity for your manuscript. Don’t think out of the box. Don’t quote a section in your opening lines. Don’t include a box of chocolates with it when you mail it off. Don’t be gimmicky. If you feel the need to resort to a gimmick, the agent is going to assume it’s because you don’t know how this works or your story isn’t strong enough to stand on it’s own. Play by the rules. Trust in your story. 
  • Keep it short. 250-400 words. Remember your goal: to get them to pick up the book, to spark their interest. Agents can read hundreds of queries a day. They don’t have time for wasted words. They’re looking for an excuse to go on to the next query. To get through their inbox. Get to your point as quickly as possible. 

Writing Your Query:

You don’t have long to tell your story. Just a page. This means you can’t include much more than the information that is absolutely vital to your story and the querying process. I’ve outlined the information, and separated it into paragraphs. You don’t have to divide it the way I’ve set out here, but these are the general lumps of Query Stuff. 

Each point I’ve bulleted should only be a sentence or two long in your query. If your reader wants to know more, they’ll read the first chapters and request the manuscript.  

The Opening Lines: The Formalities

  • Address the agent. As this is a business letter, start with a “Dear Mr./Ms. [First Name, Last Name] or [Last Name]:” For example: Dear Mr. Tolkien: 
  • State your intent. In my research I’ve found this unecessary, but if you choose to do so you can say something along the lines of: “I’m submitting for your consideration my completed novel, [TITLE]…” 

The First Paragraph: The Introduction

The meat of the letter. You should introduce your story as cleanly as possible. It should be minimal, yet evocative. Specific to your story, but skimming the surface of it. The more set-up you give, the more complicated you’ll make things for yourself. 

  • The set up. What was life like for the character when the story began? Where does the story take place? 
  • The inciting incident. The “but when…” What set the ball rolling? This can be in the same sentence as the setup. 
    • The combination of the set up and inciting incident should work as a sort of tagline. 
  • Character motivation. What does your character want? 

The Second Paragraph: The Story 

I’ve made this a separate paragraph because shorter paragraphs make a page more inviting for a reader. In this paragraph, you don’t want to summarise the entire book; you want to show your ability to weave a compelling story. It should have energy. It should tell the reader just enough to get them excited.

  • Highlights of the first two acts. Give your reader the flavor of your story with the juiciest bits of the rising action. This part can be a few sentences longer than the rest. Make these specific. Don’t say Jane gets injured. Say Jane was caught in a swarm of flying tea cups. 
  • The central conflict. What is the main obstacle your character will face to achieve their goal? What’s at stake? 
  • The hook. The line or question that will make your reader want to read more. If you’d like, you make it it’s own paragraph. 

The Third Paragraph: The Details

Some people make this their first paragraph, but I’ve decided to put this after the introduction to the story. These are the formal details of your story, where it gets very Industry.

  • The title. You might have said it earlier, but it won’t hurt to say it again here. 
  • The word countgenre, & age range. All necessary industry information. Round your word count to the nearest 1,000. 
  • Comp titles. What books might this person have read that are similar to your own, either in tone/setting/story? This can give your reader a sense of the potential audience for your story. You only want to include one or two. 
  • If you really want, you can choose to personalize the submission here and say why you’ve queried this particular agent. If you only want to show that you’ve done your research, you should have already gotten this point across clearly with the summary, age range, and genre. But, if you really love this agent, if you follow their blog or twitter or love some of their authors, it won’t hurt to say so. 

The Fourth Paragraph: The Author

The last paragraph is usually set aside for a line or two about yourself. This should only include information relevant to writing this manuscript: awards, university degrees, writing conferences/workshops attended, expertise related to the content of the book. You should be able to summarise this paragraph with: here is why you should trust me to tell this story. 

If you don’t have any qualifications, say what else you’re currently writing/enjoy writing/have written. Let the agent get to know you as a writer outside of this one story. If you have qualifications, you can still save a line for this.

The Closing Line

Thank the agent for taking the time to read your query. A small but important consideration. 


  • Highlight your story’s strengths. If your story is funny, include the funniest moments in the short summary. If the writing is lyrical, your query should have a hint of that, too. You don’t want to drown the agent in your writing style, but you should splash them a bit. 
  • DON’T INCLUDE THEMES. Don’t say this is a story about “friendship and the power or love,” or “children will relate to this story of bullying.” A query letter isn’t a literature class. Don’t analyse your manuscript for your reader. Let the story speak for itself. 
  • Don’t sing your own praises. Don’t say that your mom loves your book, or that your little cousins devoured it. Don’t compare it to Harry Potter or any other best-seller. Don’t say you think the book will sell well. The agent won’t believe you. 
  • It’s okay if it takes you days and days to write your query. It should take days to write. Whether or not the agent even looks at your first chapter will depend entirely on this single page. You can write the novel of the century, but no one will look at it unless your query sells it. 
  • Have someone else look over your query before you send it out. Share it with the smartest person you know. Share it with your old English teacher. Share it on a writing website, like r/writers. Have them judge it on clarity and quality. Ask them where it can be trimmed. Ask them what they think the strongest sentence is. Ask what the weakest sentence is. Have them check for typos. 
  • Triple-check you’ve spelt the agent’s name correctly. They’re looking for a reason to toss this query in the trash. Don’t give it to them in the first line. 
  • Triple-check the agent’s submission requirements. Getting these wrong is another way to get your query tossed directly into the trash. 
  • Let them know if there’s a potential for sequels. If you’re writing a trilogy, don’t try to sell all three books at once. Use this query letter to sell the first book of the series only. Then, casually let the agent know that “[Your Title] has the potential for two sequels continuing [Your Protagonist]’s story.” An agent wants you to have more than one book in your arsenal, but this is a short letter. There’s only room for the one book in it. 

I know this is a long post, and it may seem like too much information to handle. If it all seems impossible to accomplish in a single letter, remember: you’re recommending a book. That’s all. It just happens to be your book. 


/surreptitiously saves this for hopefully-early-2017


1884-1910 Alvan S. Harper Collection – Woman holding parasol

Whenever I see photographs – not drawings, but actual photographs – of women in roughly-Victorian dress, I can’t help look at the clear lines of their corsetry and wonder what it must have felt like to wear something that stiff, and like, not just for a costume or special occasion, but every freaking day.

This woman pulls it off beautifully though. Favourite bits: the bow at the side of her neck, her hairstyle, trying to imagine what colour her skirt was (and her top! What if it was a rad shade of AUBERGINE). And of course, wondering: who was she? What made her go into the photographer’s studio that day? Did she want a portrait to give her family? Was she hired as a model, as someone who inspired the photographer as an artist? Was she a singer or a stage performer, being immortalized for her fans?

And then, of course, I’m pretty sure that’s not a real outdoor shot, which means that someone painstakingly painted the background. So now I’m thinking about that painter, whether the photographer gave them creative freedom or micromanaged, or maybe the photographer themselves painted it, as another facet of their art…..

This is why I love history. Numbers on paper are boring as hell. But trying to feel out and understand the lives of people who went through the same people problems and people joys as we do but in different circumstances, that’s exhilarating. ❤ 

Why Does A Tony-Nominated Musical Need To Raise $200K To Perform At The Tony Awards?


I’m not even that familiar with this show or production but short story:

They revamped the show to star deaf/HoH actors, who perform with sign language. They then also have additional performers who are the Voice, singing but being part of the band/musical


It’s super cool, innovative, and inclusive.

Also the show is about self-discovery, sexuality, shame, suicide, miseducation, and the ways adults can fail children trying to make sense of the world. So it was pretty cool to begin with.

Signal boost like whoa! 

This is a beautiful idea, and it sounds like the show was amazing, too. I would love to see a performance of it, but failing that, I would love to see it at the Tonys! Let’s make this happen!

Why Does A Tony-Nominated Musical Need To Raise $200K To Perform At The Tony Awards?

I’m trying to develop a character who’s arrogant, has a big ego, and needs to be reminded to think about how his actions affect others – all without turning him into someone hateful. Right now my writing keeps wavering between “100% jerk” and “woobie who can’t think mean thoughts.” Does anyone have any tips to keep him true to what he’s supposed to be, without being too unlikeable?


So, we’ve talked about character likability before, but this is a question I’m seeing crop up in the ask box a lot recently.

To start, here’s just a friendly reminder that we have a navigation page.

Likeability’ is located under the ‘Character Help’ section, and there we have this response I wrote a while back which breaks down how to present an unlikeable character as likeable.

As a summary, in the case of a character like this, it is more important how you present the information, over what the information itself is. The ‘information’ here, being that your character ‘has a big ego’, ‘needs to be reminded to think about how his actions affect others’, but ‘isn’t hateful’.

Since you’re the writer, you need to feed the information to your reader(s) in a way that makes them feel positive towards the character (as this is what you want). A really good example of this type of character for you to look at is Moses, in Dreamworks’ The Prince of Egypt. I’ll refer to him throughout, but in general, here is how to write a potential jerk character as likeable:

1. Juxtapose the Good and the Bad

You already have your character’s flaws worked out, so what about the good stuff? We have one to start with: he’s not hateful, which means he doesn’t do cruel things with the intention of being cruel, even if his arrogance leads to him doing cruel things in the first place.

This is exactly how Moses is in The Prince of Egypt.

It helps that the first we see of Moses, is through the eyes of his family as they desperately try to save his life from the slaughter befalling baby Hebrew boys. We see their pain, fear, and worry as they smuggle him to the river’s edge, and release him into the water. So our first glimpse of Moses is that he is helpless and vulnerable, but also incredibly, incredibly lucky to survive the perils ahead of him, and be welcomed into the house of the Pharaoh himself.

The next we see of Moses, however, is him riding through the streets with his brother, Rameses, causing a huge amount of chaos and upset for the ordinary people there. They ruin a temple that the enslaved Hebrews have worked under the crack of a whip to build. What this tells us is that, in his sheltered, privileged life, Moses has become complacent, selfish, and arrogant. He does what he wants, because he can.

Yet… he is also honourable. He readily takes the blame for what they did afterwards, and encourages their father to show mercy on Rameses. This is important because in comparison to the reckless Moses we saw charging through the streets, we now see a fair-minded, humble Moses. He isn’t power hungry. He doesn’t wallow in self-pity over the fact that it will be his brother, Rameses, who will inherit the mantle of Pharaoh. He seems genuinely interested in helping Rameses to gain a better relationship with their father…

Only for him to go straight back to his cunning, childlike foolishness in the very next scene. He wants to help Rameses, sure, but for him it’s funny to see Rameses get in trouble, and to torment Hotep and Huy. This scene reiterates that Moses is carefree of what he does to others. In harsher terms, he’s ignorant and cruel to people in the name of having fun.

But then we have to…

2. Consider the Consequences

The way to remedy the negative effects this type of behaviour would usually have, is to show the reader that either,

  1. Your character can express remorse, or make an effort to right the wrong he has committed; or
  2. The wrong is inconsequential, or played down as mere tomfoolery.

Alongside the opening number in The Prince of Egypt, we see the toil and slavery that builds the setting of the story around us. Any sympathy we have after Moses and Rameses damage the temple should only be directed at the slaves who worked to build it.

Yet we don’t see, at this stage, any direct consequence on anybody but Moses and Rameses. Nobody gets whipped or beaten. There are no guards yelling at the workers for what has been done. What we see is the Pharaoh scolding his eldest son, Rameses, whilst Moses is mostly left out of it. Plus, all we have really seen of Rameses at this stage is him as a much younger child, desperately reaching for his mother’s attention after she fishes Moses out of the water. Now his own father is treating him harshly, whilst apparently favouring Moses. It is Rameses we feel sorry for here, because he is the one facing the consequences.

The reason we don’t hate Moses for this, is because he then tries to make things better by asking the Pharaoh to go easy on his brother, which shows he can be sorry for what he has done, and that his aim isn’t to be cruel, even if his actions look that way at first.

We can see this notion of consequences appear again in the scenes afterwards, as Hotep and Huy are one matter, Tzipporah (the captive Midian woman Moses allows to fall back into the water) is another. Hotep and Huy are comic relief characters when Moses drops the sack of water on them. There’s no real consequence to what has been done, at least not to Moses, because 1) it is Rameses again who is stood in the spotlight, and 2) the worst Hotep and Huy can do is run to the Pharaoh, and all the Pharaoh will do is scold Rameses. There’s no real consequence, as Hotep and Huy aren’t injured, and are relatively privileged themselves.

Tzipporah, however, is there in the palace against her will. We see her fighting to be free, and refusing to bend to the will of the elite. Moses’ natural instinct is to protect what he knows, which is the Pharaoh and the people around them. He wants to embarrass her, because to him, her indignance is disrespectful. Of course, what he does do is in poor humour; Tzipporah is degraded and embarrassed in front of a whole crowd of people, and Moses is immediately invited to feel shame about it when his mother shows disapproval. There was none of that in the earlier scenario with Hotep and Huy. It was a much more lighthearted affair in comparison.

So we get to see that Moses can feel ashamed of his actions, and does, as he later helps Tzipporah to escape as a way of making up for what he did.

To summarize, if you can’t have your character make up for the wrong he does, then downplay the wrong to be inconsequential, so that the reader doesn’t have anybody else to feel sorry for, or compare the main character to in a negative way.

Then comes the most important part…

3. Redemption

Even if your character has these flaws, you need to show that the more positive traits are able to quell them. Moses doesn’t lose his playful, lighthearted nature, it just grows into a more harmless version of what it was. Instead of belittling and hurting other people in the name of fun, he instead chooses to save the Midian High Priest’s three young daughters from bandits. With age, he calms down, and becomes a hard-working, trusted member of Jethro’s desert village. The rest, you probably know… and if not, I’d highly recommend you watch it…!

All characters should grow throughout the story. It helps the reader to understand who the character is, and where their morals lie. So long as your character isn’t always stuck in the mischievous, arrogance stage, the reader will be able to appreciate his more positive traits as and when you reveal them.

I hope this helps, Anon. As always, keep an eye on follower responses via replies/reblogs, as more helpful information could be added there…!

Best of luck.

– enlee

This is super interesting. I’ve never thought about this systematically!