Monday, November 11, 2019

How to Evaluate Your WIP and Figure Out Your Next Steps

Welcome, Mary Kole

As a literary agent and now a freelance editor, I’m heavily involved in a writer’s “What’s next?” question. This is a question I get over and over from writers. Whether they’ve just typed “The End” on a manuscript for the first time, or they worry that they’ve reached the end of querying a project. Whether they’re deciding how to submit, or wondering if it’s time to put it in the desk drawer.

The two most important crossroads that writers face are, “Is my project ready to submit?” And, “This project hasn’t succeeded as hoped. Is it time to give up?” Let’s attempt to unpack both of them here.

To me, there are three considerations that determine your next steps in either scenario. The first is your own opinion of the project. Try to step back and consider it with clear eyes. Is it solid work? Are you proud of it? Do you have any deep-down-secret worries about it? Are you scared, basically, or are you stoked? Your own opinion of the project can never be objective, of course, but your gut as a writer is still something to consider. Very often, writers discount their own assessments because they feel insecure. (Shout out to all of you Insecure Writers!) 

But too often, I work with clients who have been steered away from their own instincts by well-meaning critique partners or professionals. Outside feedback is very important—see the next point—but your own understanding of your project is crucial, too. Ask yourself point blank: Do you like it? Do you see any potential flaws?

If you have not submitted yet and are wary because you see opportunity for growth, the project is not yet ready to submit. You want to put your best foot forward. Address any glaring or niggling issues before you move forward. The same thing if you’ve already submitted, but without success. If you know what the issue is, then deal with it sooner rather than later. Make sure you satisfy yourself first. Many mistakes can be prevented with this simple advice.

The second consideration is outside feedback. Before you decide to submit, or decide to give up on a project, make sure you get at least one outside perspective on your manuscript, whether it’s a critique partner or freelance editor. Many writers shy away from this because they don’t know where to find a good critique partner, or they don’t want to pay for an editor. The former concern is exactly why I’m launching Crit Collective this month, it’s a free forum dedicated to critique partner matchmaking. Check it out! 

Because writers can never be truly objective about their own work, having outside perspective is crucial. Make sure you check this box before you decide to submit, or decide to give up. Even if your project has already been through several rewrites, new eyes on it will potentially inspire one last revision—one that might make all the difference. Make sure that you get someone you can trust, and who has experience either editing or reading widely in your category. They will provide you with data that you can’t possibly give yourself, so don’t skimp on this step.

The third consideration when you’re deciding what to do with your WIP is completely external: the market. I often tell writers not to fixate on trends or the market when they’re writing. Trends come and go. But when it’s time to either submit or quit (at least on a particular manuscript, for the moment), the market becomes important. What’s going on in the industry? Are people sick of your particular category? Are there larger forces at work that make your project either more or less marketable right now?

This is the time to pay attention. If you’re considering submitting for the first time, some market research will help you position your pitch intelligently. (You can take a ten-hour self-guided course from me on the topic of the research and submission process, the Manuscript Submission Blueprint.) If you’re deciding whether or not to give up on a project, check the market again. Something may have shifted. For example, a few years ago, the female scientists market was a bit of a bit of a backwater. Now it’s a red hot segment! 

Maybe some new opportunities have opened up since you last researched your place in the current publishing world. If you’ve been on submission with a project a few times, you have probably spent at least months waiting. Maybe the market is now worse for your idea. But it could also be better.

Putting it all together, I recommend three gut checks. First, how do you feel about the project? Whether you’ve just finished it and have some qualms, or whether you’ve been submitting for five years but you still feel some hope. Next, how do qualified others feel about it? Have you gone back for one more round of feedback? If there are still things you want to do with the project in terms of revision, I’d say you should make the final attempt. You never know. Finally, how’s the market temperature for your ideas? Things change over time, so it doesn’t hurt to check in with the industry.

Sometimes, an idea is past or ahead of its time. This can potentially be fixed by waiting for the market to change. Sometimes, the current execution of your idea isn’t working. This can be fixed by listening to yourself and others. Sometimes, it really is time to let go of a project, at least for now. This can only be fixed one way: Starting the exciting creative process on your next idea!


Former literary agent Mary Kole provides consulting and developmental editing services to writers of all categories and genres, working on children’s book projects from picture book to young adult, and all kinds of trade market literature, including fantasy, sci-fi, romance and memoir. 

She holds an MFA in Creative Writing and has worked at Chronicle Books, the Andrea Brown Literary Agency, and Movable Type Management. She has been blogging at since 2009. Her book, Writing Irresistible Kidlit, a writing reference guide for middle grade and young adult writers, is available from Writer's Digest Books.

Editorial Services Website:
Children’s Writing Blog:

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

#IWSG - Novermber's Insecure Writer's Support Group Posting Day!!!

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds! 
Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting!

Twitter hashtag is #IWSG.

Goodreads Book Club:

IWSG Newsletter:

IWSG Twitter:


November 6 optional question - What's the strangest thing you've ever Googled in researching a story?

The awesome co-hosts for the November 6 posting of the IWSG are Sadira Stone, Patricia Josephine, Lisa Buie-Collard, Erika Beebe, and C. Lee McKenzie! 


I'm convinced that I'm on an FBI watchlist. Okay, maybe I just really hope that if the FBI has been following my crazy Google searches they're fully aware that I'm a writer and not a serial killer.


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So, what are you Googling?

I thought we could use a few funnies!

Make sure you visit a bunch of blogs to make someone's day!
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Image result for writer meme search history

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#IWSG SWAG makes a great gift for the writers in your life!


Check out all the awesome merchandise we have for sale HERE and get some stocking stuffers for yourself and your friends today!!!



The first Wednesday of January 2020 falls on New Year’s Day, so we will post for the #IWSG on Wednesday, January 8, 2020.


The next #IWSGPit  will be in January 15, 2020
8:00 am - 8:00 pm Eastern Standard Time

Create a Twitter-length pitch for your completed and polished manuscript and leave room for genre, age, and the hashtag. On January 15, Tweet your pitch. If your pitch receives a favorite/heart from a publisher/agent check their submission guidelines and send your requested query.

Many writers have seen their books published from a Twitter pitch - it’s a quick and easy way to put your manuscript in front of publishers and agents. 

Click HERE for all the details!

Monday, October 21, 2019

How To Create A Vivid Experience With Setting Descriptions

by Rayne Hall

(British English Spelling)
Are your place descriptions exciting parts of your story, or do they feel like clunky disruptions to the plot? Here's a powerful writing technique for making them flow and pulling the reader in.

Many writers make the mistake of describing places the way they see them, or the way most people do. The trick is to show the location in the way the story's point-of-view character sees it.

First, identify the point-of-view character of the scene. Through whose eyes, ears and thoughts do you want the reader to experience this part of the story? Show the setting from this character's perspective.

If ten people walk down the same road, all ten will notice something different. When you visualise the place, pick not the details you would see, but the ones the character would. This way, setting descriptions become part of the characterisation.

Let's look at some practical examples. Imagine several characters strolling down the same road in a British town.

Consider these factors:

1. The Character's Job

A person who spends day after day, year after year looking at everything in a certain way will automatically assess everything in this manner, even in his leisure time.

Strolling down a road, the architect sees a row of Victorian terraced houses with bay windows, some with modern double glazing, some with rotting window frames. The health and safety inspector walking down the same road notices the overflowing rubbish bins and the dog turds steaming on the pavement. The burglar observes that half the houses have intruder alarms and motion-sensor floodlights.

2. The character's hobbies

Most people immediately notice anything related to their hobbies. Spend a moment contemplating what interest's the PoV character.

If she's an animal lover, she sees people walking their bull terriers, and a grey squirrel sitting on a fence. The hobby gardener sees neglected front gardens, overgrown with borage and brambles, and front steps here potted geraniums have died from neglect. The car enthusiast sees battered Citroens parked on the roadside.

3. The Character's Relationships

A mother sees the unsupervised children playing on the pavement, and broken toys. A young man who's fallen in love with a blonde girl, who drives a red Vauxhall, will see red Vauxhall cars and blondes everywhere.

4. The Character's Obsessions

What does your PoV character obsess about? You can convey his state of mind through setting descriptions.

A local politician desperate to get re-elected observes how many voters probably live in this road, and that potholes and defective street lighting are likely concerns. A recovering drug addict struggling against his cravings notices a smell of marijuana. A woman who is desperate to get pregnant sees mothers pushing prams.

5. The character's Dominant Sense

Is one sense especially acute in this character, either by nature or by training?

Walking down a rainy road, a vision-oriented painter will see the spreading circles on the surfaces of puddles, while a drummer will hear the rhythm of the drops hammering on the car roofs.

Deepening the PoV

Leave out filter words which create a barrier between the PoV and the reader: I/he/she/ saw/heard/smelled/noticed/could see/could hear/could smell etc. Although these words are not wrong, they're not needed once you've established who the PoV character of the scene is. It's best to use them sparingly.

Here are some examples.

Shallow PoV: She heard a motor whine in the distance.
Deep PoV: A motor whined in the distance.

Shallow PoV: He realised that the hum came from a combine harvester.
Deep PoV: The hum came from a combine harvester.

Shallow PoV: He could see waves crashing against the shore.
Deep PoV: Waves crashed against the shore.

The deeper the PoV, the more powerful the reader's experience.

Writing the Actual Descriptions

Less is more. Keep your setting descriptions short, because readers tend to skip lengthy descriptive paragraphs.

Don't dump all the setting descriptions at the beginning of the scene, but sprinkle them, two sentences here, three there.

Don't rely exclusively on visual impressions. A sentence describing smells evokes the place more strongly than a whole paragraph about visuals. Sounds add excitement and don't slow the pace like visual do.

A Practical Assignment

Who is the PoV of the scene you're writing or revising? What are his or her job, hobbies, obsessions and dominant sense? Therefore, in the scene you're working on, what will he or she notice about the setting?

If you like, post your answer in the comments section, and I'll try to reply.

As the author of the bestselling Writer's Craft guides, she answers writing-related questions on Twitter,  posts articles online, coaches authors, edits books, speaks at conferences and teaches online classes.

She has been working in the publishing industry for three decades, as a trainee publishing manager, editorial assistant, magazine editor, investigative journalist, production editor, literary agent, and publishing consultant. In between, and often at the same time, she has been a museum guide, adult education teacher, development aid worker, apple picker, trade fair hostess, translator, belly dancer, and tarot reader.  

Now she is a professional writer, with more than sixty books published under several pen names (mostly Rayne Hall), in several genres (mostly fantasy, horror, historical and non-fiction), by several publishers (and indie-published), in several languages.

After living in Germany, China, Mongolia, Nepal, and Britain, she is now based in Bulgaria where she enjoys visiting ancient Roman ruins and hot springs, going for walks in the countryside, permaculture gardening and training her cats.  If you find this article helpful and want to study the subject in greater depth, Rayne's books Writing Deep Point of View (  and Writing Vivid Settings  ( will teach you professional-level techniques.  

Sulu the lucky black cat (adopted from a cat rescue shelter) recommends them.
Rayne on Goodreads  Twitter  Rayne's Website   Rayne Hall Independent Author Network