The Ridiculousness and Frustration of Writing Queries


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The query letter.


I know. That word can send every writer running for their blanket fort. Well, not every writer…some like to write them.

Well, not this writer.

But here I am. Time to write a query. Or at least something that looks and acts like one that I can revise a million times before finally giving up and sending it.

A query. There are formats to follow. Guidelines. Things to include. Things not to include. Ways to write it. Ways not to write it. The more you read about them, the more hair-pulling there is. So many opinions.

In the end, it’s a get it the way you like it and pray.

Because there is no right way to write a query, though some people will tell you there is. Like our precious manuscripts, a query is as individual as we are.

Begin with a paragraph having the title and word count…or end with it.

Write a one line hook at the beginning or…just go into the meat of the story.

Write in the style and voice of the manuscript in present tense.

Give enough detail to grow interest, to make your letter stand out, but not too much that the query is too long.

There are formulas…there are guidelines. Use those! Get something on the screen, then make it your own. Want to try something really out of the box? Do it.

Ending with a question is frowned upon, but…people still like them.

Write a bio…or not…or kinda…

Individualize your query for each person you send it to. It can help…or it might not matter.

Spelling and grammar! Though we are all human…therefore we make mistakes. People understand this.

Book comps. I struggled with this, until I figured out that comp titles aren’t just which books my book is like, but which books they can share a shelf with. If a reader likes this book, they’ll like mine because of the tone or content.


Here’s what I focus on.

Set up the main character. Who they are and what they want.

Set up conflict…what stands in the way of them getting what they want?

What do they do to fight for what they want?

Then the big choice, the moment they face a decision and what they risk if they choose one path over another.

The biggest thing…focus on the MAIN story line. It’s so easy to want to write in the other plot lines weaving through the story, but words are sacred here. You only have so many.

I like to put the title, word count, and bio stuff at the end.

At some point you are pretty happy with it! Then you let people read it. Then writing a query goes haywire.

Everyone has their own way of doing it and all the comments on what to change will overwhelm your tired query-logged mind. I can guarantee that what one person loves, someone else won’t. The problem is…when you send out your lovely queries, you never know who will like what. One person will toss it in the no-way pile and another person will request pages.

A good query is essential. And so hard! And ridiculous. And frustrating.

So I’ll write a query. I’ll have people comment on it. Then I’ll do what I want.

One constant about the query…it has to come from you. It’s about your manuscript. Do what feels right to you.

Then pray. Wish upon a star. Brew a good-luck potion.

And wait.



SO Much More to a Writreat than Writing


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For the last few days I’ve been away. If you read my last post, you know where.

This was the first, but not the last meeting of the Shenanigals. A group of four writers who met on Twitter, then came face to face at a writers’ conference, and since then have become a source of support and love to each other.

Logo designed and drawn by Marjorie Brimer

I am lucky to be a part of this group. Seriously lucky.

Photo by a nice woman who was sitting by the pond…

So we spent a few days together, ready to write and chat and revel in general silliness.

I went with a manuscript that needs to be revised before I send it to a few critique partners. Others were thinking about notes from agents and editors. And one, dear Jamie, went through her entire book…again. A true rock star.

I didn’t know what exactly would happen. I didn’t really know what to expect, considering we had hung out at a writers’ conference, but never in this type of setting.

Writing did happen…

As did silliness…

Adoring a beautiful kitty…

Aw…Pepper! Photo by Jamie.

Watching a show called Botched…so much cringing…

Good food…

Deep discussions about, well, everything…

Much brainstorming about what we are all working on. The creativity was flowing freely…

Possibly a tattoo…

Okay, yes, a tattoo. Isn’t it wonderful? Go, Jamie! You handled that like a champ! You be the light in the world!

Yet, something happened that I wasn’t expecting. I went in with fear. Fear of these revisions. Fear of messing up this manuscript. Fear of failing.

As I sat around with these great people, my fear lessened. I started revising. And then I met chapter nine, learned that nothing happened in that chapter, faced that I had to rearrange things and fix it…panicked slightly…

But everyone gathered around and reminded me that I am pretty cool…and pretty talented…and to not be afraid.

So I did it. I faced chapter 9 and redid it. Let me tell you, it is so much better now. The words felt right as I wrote them.

Even though I still have to pick up the mess of restructuring the story, I am not afraid. I am ready. I am going to power through the rest of this story and get it sent to those fabulous readers, who are waiting.

All the memories. All the fun. All the learning about each other and building stronger bonds.

I carried fear in with me and left it there, dropped it and let it die. So no matter how much writing I did or didn’t get done, that is the best thing that could have happened for my words.

This is what’s best when writers unite. The bonds. The support. The willingness to chat about everything. The acceptance.

Shenanigals forever

And I might have a signed ARC of Rena’s new book WITH YOU ALWAYS…OUT IN A LITTLE OVER A MONTH! Okay…I DO HAVE ONE! You can be jealous.




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Book three of the Mine Series is here! It’s been a long wait, but we made it. I love the world of Saicean! Wonderful and fantastical! The mystery of Estelle unfolds, the only female in a race of men. Orontes returns! YES! His kind of evil intrigues me. The romance might not be my thing, but the world and the characters keep me going back.

Let me introduce you to the newest book in the series!

Sachael Discovery

War has come to Saicean. With Orontes as King of the Oceanids, the threat to Saicean and its inhabitants has never been greater. The Oceanid army has laid siege to the underwater paradise, and Estelle Bailey once again finds herself trapped by Orontes’s hand. This time, within the walls of what should have been a safe place.

Tensions mount as supplies run short, and being the only female Sachael in a world dominated by desperate men leaves Estelle feeling vulnerable. Tired of having to live like a prisoner, even a well-treated one, Estelle decides to act. They need a weapon. And she can think of only one person who still has the means to kill Orontes and end the war—Michael.

With Azariah and Chanon in tow, Estelle flees their world, heading to the remote islands of the Faroes. But their mission to find Michael yields so much more than they expected. Faced with information that could change not only the war, but the course of all Sachael existence, the trio must make a choice: return to Saicean with Michael, or follow a lead that could change everything and pray they make it back in time to save their home.



Book Three of the Mine Series, Sachael Discovery layers new intrigues and betrayals into Estelle’s journey, escalating the stakes to levels as sweeping as the backdrop of beautiful locales.







Growing up, Melody Winter showed a natural ability in art, a head for maths, and a tendency to write far too long English essays. Difficult to place in the world when she graduated, she pursued a career in teaching, but eventually ended up working in finance. Melody is convinced that the methodical time she spends working with numbers fuels her desire to drift into dream worlds and write about the illusory characters in her head.

Melody lives in North Yorkshire, England, with her husband and two teenage sons. When not dealing with football, rugby, and a whole plethora of ‘boy’ activities, she will be found scribbling notes for her stories, or listening to 80’s music on her IPod.

Melody has a tendency to fall head-over-heels in love with her main characters, even when they frustrate her and refuse to act the way she wants them to. She is a romance writer at heart and loves reading and writing about anything mythological or magical, as well as exploring the gritty side of love affairs and the complexities of being in love.


SACHAEL DREAMS was her debut novel, (REUTS Publications, USA) and the first in the New Adult Romantic Fantasy series—the ‘Mine Series’. The second book in the series, SACHAEL DESIRES’, was released in November 2015, and the third book, SACHAEL DISCOVERY, is due to be released on the 19thJune 2018. SACHAEL DESTINY is due to be released in 2019.

Melody has also self-published three books, INIQUITY, the first book in a Dark New Adult Romantic Fantasy series— ‘The Ascent’. (The second book in the series, ADVERSITY, is due for release 2018.) STARSHINE, and PROMISE, both contemporary romance, were released last year.





Amazon page:


YEA! Congrats, Melody! Now we wait for book four…


I’m Going on a Writreat Adventure!


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A what adventure? You may ask, your face squashed in confusion…

A WRITREAT! Writing retreat!

I have heard of writers going off to write in far away places…or just a hotel down the street…by themselves or in groups, having time to write without the distractions of home. No kids who need rides or food. No laundry. No schedule.

I have heard of this magical experience, but never thought it would be me. BUT IT IS.

This week…well in two days…I will be leaving my hubs and kids to fend for themselves and driving to another state where I will be meeting up with three other writers! Rena, Jamie, Margie, and I, aka the Shenanigals, will have a weekend of writing, chatting, eating, laughing, and general silliness. Instead of getting on Twitter looking for support, I will have writers to smack me into working in the same room! I THINK THIS WILL BE MAGIC!

I need a little (or big) kick in the rear, because I have told CPs that this manuscript will be ready for them by the end of the month. AND THAT IS SOONER THAN I THINK.


And the four of us can celebrate (a little early) Rena’s next book…WITH YOU ALWAYS…RELEASE DATE IS AUGUST 7th!!!

I’m excited!

About the book…AND GETTING TO SPEND TIME WITH MY WACKY, BRILLIANT WRITER FRIENDS. They are so nice to let me tag along, because let’s be honest, they are soooooo much cooler than me.

So…I leave in two days and have things to do.


How Kathy Writes a Book: Part 7…The End


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Thanks for following my story of how I write a book! It’s a complex process for everyone…and as unique as each person. Art is fantastic! Every path taken, every decision made different for everyone, and, yet, we all finish with a whole bunch of words strung together to make a story.

I have taken through my process from idea up to a first draft and into revisions.

After the first round of revisions, the writing becomes lather, rinse, and repeat. Revise. Revise. Revise. Until the words meld into a muddy mess, until I can’t see what I’m trying to do. Until all I do is push words around, meaningless pushing.

Then I send it to CPs (aka critique partners). I need others to see what I can’t. I need others to give me their reactions so I have an idea if the story is having the impact I want it to have. I need outside thoughts and comments that will spark my creative brain to solve any lingering problems, to fill any plot holes, to round out any characters, and make the manuscript shine.

So more revisions.

Then more CPs.

Then more revisions.

It’s a necessary cycle, one I can easily get lost in. Revise. Revise. Revise. Always something to change. Always a way to make it better.

Sometimes calling it done is the hardest part. Sometimes letting it go feels like the end of the world. At some point, I set it down. I accept that the words are as good as I can get them. What I have done is enough.

I wrote a book. THE END.

What a feeling!

How Kathy Writes a Book: Part 6…Revisions


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From idea to the finished product, writing a book is a different process and experience for everyone. And that’s how the world works, kids. ISN’T IT WONDERFUL?!?!?!?!?!?!!

I have been sharing how I tackle this beast of creating a manuscript to inform, to entertain…because I want to and it’s my blog.

Which brings us to the next step on the journey.


This is where the magic happens.


And by magic I mean selling your soul to the devil. I will admit that I like revisions better than drafting. All the blank space makes me panic, but having a chaotic mass of words, having something to dig my brain into makes me feel safe. But! It is a hair-pulling, tear-shedding process.

What to keep.

What to add.

What to move.

What to delete forever into the void…well, or just cut and paste it onto a different document because you might need it later.

Revising becomes a tangled web of questions. Some of which YOU JUST DON’T KNOW THE BEST ANSWER.

Does this scene move the story forward? I mean, it’s a cute scene, or a creepy scene, or a hilarious scene, but is it necessary. And if your word count climbed to levels of out-of-control, the question of what to delete becomes a nagging monster.

Did my characters grow and change?

Did the story balance dialogue, action, and exposition to get the pacing right?

Is there enough, but not too much, description?

Are the scenes in the best order?

Is the voice clear and intriguing?


The process can leave you in a sobbing ball, wondering if you can even grammar at all.

From the big picture to the tiniest word. From character arcs to weeding out those pesky filler and filter words. From pacing to DO I USE A COMMA HERE OR NOT? From finding plot holes to destroying passive sentences.

Revisions is where you take that first draft and make it into SOMETHING.

I’ve seen people have multiple drafts saved as they revise (Final draft…the real final draft…no this one is the final draft, kinda thing). I do not. When I revise, I keep the newest version as the version, though I do have a file to save what I delete (more to keep me from panicking that I have cut the best part of the book, and less to actually use again, because I don’t usually).

I’ve seen scenes written on post-its and put on a wall, a visual reference to help with pacing and story-telling. I have never done this. I do write down the scenes (or at least what happens) in each chapter in a notebook so I can keep track.

Revisions, for me, is a gut reaction kinda thing. I go with what feels right. The scene doesn’t make sense? Get rid of it. Need a transition? Add one. This character needs more space to express feelings. Put that in. Add the special details that set the tone. Make sure I didn’t lose any characters along the way. Make sure to address the notes I left myself during drafting. You know the ones…the “dude, really? I think you can do better than that” notes. Or the “please and thank you check on who said this earlier” notes.

I pull the story together the best I can. Reading. Rereading. Checking. Adding. Deleting.

I am about to enter the land of revising. Today. The time-out is over. Nowhere, I’m coming for you.



How Kathy Writes a Book: Part 5…A Time Out


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Parts one through four have magically (okay not magically who am I kidding there was sweat, there was blood, there were tears…) produced a first draft.


Now, what comes next?


I put that manuscript in time out. Was it bad? Well, no. But if my brain thinks about it any more, it will explode.

I have the luxury of this option. Some people on deadlines don’t, and maybe someday that will be me, but if I can manage it, I will always take a break after I finish the first draft. Always.

The longer the better, one month…two…six! Longer! I want to forget what I wrote. No thinking about it. No glancing at notes. No making notes. Nothing.

Going back to words that have been forgotten means: spotting things that make no sense, seeing the holes, sensing where scenes need to be added or deleted.

I critique for others. I work notes for all the ideas swirling in my brain. I write a short story. I read. I watch movies. I ENJOY EVERY MOMENT.

I am at this point right now.

Because I have goals of querying this manuscript later this year, I put Nowhere on a month long time out. THAT’S ALL? Yup. It will work.

While I forget all the words, I read one full manuscript and a partial of another for a couple wonderful people. Notes for the second book in this series have been started. A call for short horror stories caught my eye, so I am working on that.

What happens after this month is over? Come back and find out.



How Kathy Writes a Book: Part 4… The Writing of All the Words


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Welcome back to my series where I share how I write a book.

A little informative. A lot entertaining, hopefully. A bit of insight into how my creative brain works.

This process is different for everyone. And hearing how each writer approaches their work is fascinating.

So parts 1-3…I’ve had an idea, which grew and threw a tantrum until it got all my attention. I wrote all the notes I could, from characters, to the theme, to scenes, to the story, to the world until a voice in the back of my head called for me to JUST WRITE THE THING.

I pushed through my fear of messing it all up and wrote that dreaded first chapter.

Once that first chapter is down and I acknowledge that I’ll have to rewrite it a million times (and who cares, been there done that, right?), I can move forward.


Now that doesn’t mean it all flows out in an easy wave. Some scenes come pretty fast and others like to torment me. Some days I write 0 words and others 3000…that’s right, I don’t write every day. Don’t want to. I have a family who I kinda like. I have places to go. You ever see those tweets where someone wrote 10,000 words that day, yeah, that’s never me. Never. If I write 1000 words, I am a very happy camper.

Though I never know how many words have been added until the end of the day, until just before I close the word doc. If you remember, I keep my word count covered while I write, otherwise I focus on that tiny number in the corner of the screen and not on what I’m doing. At the end of the day, I peel back the paper and write that number on my calendar. Whether it’s 1 or 1500, I watch the word count grow.

All words are good words.

Seriously, in the first drafting stage…ALL WORDS ARE GOOD WORDS.

I write them. One after the other. As I write a scene, the next one comes into focus. Characters show up, they talk, they cause things to happen, they reveal who they are. I’m pretty sure aliens beam the story into my brain or faeries magic it into being.

As each chapter is crafted, I write down what happened in a notebook. Helps me keep track of where my brain wandered.

I write linearly (is that a word?). Every scene is in order. I even write the transitions, though I find those the most difficult. I leave myself notes to check world building, to check what someone said previously, to write something better later, to add more detail.

What great notes I leave myself. Future me loves it.

That mess of chaotic notes from part 2? You’ll find my flipping through pages like a maniac, searching for one bit of information I scribbled in the margins somewhere. I rip out pages to shove them in-between other pages to keep like information together. I look through my list of scenes all the time, checking to make sure I’ve included the things I want. The computer glares at me as I dive into the chaos. But it’s all part of the process.

A process of typing…

of staring…

of thinking…

of procrastinating…

of giving up…

of searching through the chaos of scribbles…

of letting my brain work on the story even when I’m at the store or working out or falling asleep…

And I write. Chapters whisper when I have reached their end. New scenes emerge. The story develops. The story changes, grows into what it is meant to be. I make a list of what to check and what to add when I revise.

And this goes on and on…for months. Until I reach the end.

And have a first draft. The longest, hardest part for me. Filling the blank pages. It feels darn good to have a first draft. I’ve piled all the sand in the sandbox and have what I need to work with.

What’s next? Stay tuned…


How Kathy Writes a Book…Part 3: Chapter One


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We all write in different ways. I have been sharing my manuscript-writing journey.

It begins with the idea.

It continues as I scribble-scrabble all the notes, solidifying the idea into a full fledged story…well, as full-fledged as I get. I know the world. I have a list of scenes (though no idea of the order in which they occur). I have characters and character arcs. I have a theme.

A restlessness flitters through my brain. I keep working on notes. I keep thinking.

There is a point where I know it’s time to move on. I know all I can know and to learn the rest of the tale, I have to discover it…I HAVE TO WRITE IT.

The time to open a new word doc arrives.

This is the scariest part for me. The part dripping with doubt. Can I really write ANOTHER book? All I can think of are the thousands of unwritten words, the blankness that spread out before me.

I would be happy to keep writing notes, keep brainstorming, but…I can’t. I can feel the need to take the next step.

I open the word doc…

I type the title…

I cover the word count at the bottom of the screen…BECAUSE WHO NEEDS THAT PRESSURE?!?!?!!?!??!

I type…


Then I stare. There it is. The beginning. The opening. So many possibilities. Not a mess. I can still make it perfect. Like a pool waiting for you to dip a toe in…or jump in…


But I question. Do I know where this starts? Do I have a story that can fill page after page? THERE IS SO MUCH WORK TO DO HOW CAN I DO THIS HOW DID I DO THIS BEFORE IF I TYPE SOMETHING I WILL MESS IT UP

Every time. No matter how many of these piles of words I write, I will always question.

After hours of panic and doubt and staring. I write…

then delete…

then write…

then delete…

And the panic grows. I can’t do this. So much blankness. So many words waiting. So many scenes that I will just mess up. This won’t be what I want. This won’t live up to my expectations…all the thoughts crowd in. Eventually I deal with them.


Once I embrace the mess I am about to create, once I free myself of the doubt, once I set my mind to fun mode, I write.

As much work as writing is, it should always be fun. If I focus so much on making it perfect, it will never happen.

As I write the beginning, I know we will meet again. I never get those pesky openings right on the first try.

I have to jump in. Write words. FUN WORDS. Do they make sense? Who cares. Do I have everything in there I need? Who cares. Do I doubt every thing? YUP. BUT WE AREN’T GOING TO THINK ABOUT THAT RIGHT NOW

Word after word. Page after page.

World set-up. Character intros. Paint the scene. Set the tone. Set up the theme…the story.

Before I know it, I come to a line, a sentence…a feeling…I have finished chapter one.

And type…



And you can probably guess what happens next…but stay tuned anyway.


How Kathy Writes a Book…Part 2: The Notes


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Writing is a solitary process. Everyone does it differently and ISN’T IT WONDERFUL!??!!?! How all writers sit and end up with so many words on the pages and no one approaches it or executes it the same. No one. Well, one thing is the same. The blood, sweat, and tears. So many tears.

So here’s my tale of how the stories magically (okay not really magic, like I said, there’s a whole lot of blood, sweat, and tears) become stories. It’s fun to know how others do the wording. It can be helpful. It can be entertaining.

So last time on How Kathy Writes a Story, I shared the beginning of the process…the idea. How one tiny spark…an image, a sentence, a question…grows until it starts to scream in my head.

Then I move onto the next phase.

*cue dramatic orchestral music with lots of brass*

The notes.

The scribble-scrabble days or weeks or months of taking pen in hand and putting thoughts on paper. Yup. Paper.

Gimme all the notebooks. All the glorious blank pages full of possibilities.

I set out to neatly arrange my notes. A place for characters. A place for world building. A place for everything and everything in its…

Yeah, well, that lasts for about two seconds, then I let the mess happen. That’s how I work, in chaos.

I write whatever my mind tells me to write. My thoughts flicker from characters, to emotions, to the world, to bits of dialogue, to scenes…it’s a great ball of tangled string that I get the pleasure (really, me, pleasure?) of unwinding as I write.


Characters. What do they look like? What is their background? What do they like? What do they hate? What do they want? And for my main character…the character arc.  How do they grow and change during the story?

World. This can get complicated. I have created so many worlds…most for a series of three books. From fantasy to reality-based, the world is important and, for me, can be a character in itself. For fantasy, I design worlds based in a purely visual sense. I paint it in my head, making sure the colors and textures all play with each other. I add the people, the creatures, the flora. If it’s a fantasy world, I bring it to life with a history, religion (if any), government (if any). In both reality-based or fantasy, I need to know what the characters believe. I draw maps, of the worlds and towns and neighborhoods. I draw houses and jot down what color the rooms are, where the furniture is. I need the visual reference. Class schedules. Work schedules. There is so much to know.

The action. Any scenes that pop into my head, I write them down. Any snippets of dialogue are recorded. Pages of scenes, all needing to be put in place.

Any thoughts that come into my head are scratched onto a page.

All the thoughts.

All the things.

If I think it…I write it down.

That organization thing I pondered at the beginning gets completely lost. I rip out pages and shove them here and there to try and keep the illusion of organization. I keep important pages separate.

Though I do spend a lot of time going through those notes searching for that one thing I KNOW I WROTE DOWN SOMEWHERE WHERE IS IT…

But, hey, when you live in chaos, embrace it.

So where’s the outline? Yeah, nope. Outlines don’t live in chaos. I have a different method. The calendar. For reality based, this is easier with a calendar already in existence. Months, days…I know what happens when. I pencil in events that I know happen, leaving all sorts of blank days for all the things surprises to happen. For fantasy-based, this is harder. I have made up calendar years for worlds, but I have run into the problem that structured time just doesn’t work. In my Doors books, going from world to world makes it impossible to have a calendar.

Note writing is the most fun. Listening to the characters, asking them questions, dreaming up the whole thing is a happy place for me. Though most of it never makes it on the page, it makes the world better…deeper, stronger.

But, eventually, the note writing moment ends. I have to start writing. Do I know everything? Nope. But I know enough. Let the games begin.

To be continued…