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Writing tips

Okay, so you're ready to take the plunge yourself. Plots are exploding in your head. Characters won't let you sleep. The keyboard sings a siren's song...

How do you get started writing your own book? What's the best way to get published? Can you contact my agent? Answers to these burning questions and more, below...

Q: How can I get Bantam to buy my manuscript? Can I send an email to your editor there?

A: Bantam requires agented material only--that means you need an agent to submit your manuscript to them. (Emailing my editor will not endear you to her, given that requirement, so don't try it.) The agent-only requirement isn't true of ALL NY publishing houses but it's true of most. Every NY publishing house lists their Writer's Guidelines somewhere on their site--whether an agent is required, which editor buys what, etc.. That info is also in Writer's Digest and Writer's Market but as I'm sure you realize, printed info can be out of date. So check Writer's Market online and/or a publishing house's website for the most current information, such as:

Bantam/Random House's Guidelines
Baen's Guidelines
Simon & Schuster Guidelines

Dorchester Guidelines
Berkley Jove Guidelines

A word to the wise about publishing houses: no legit publishing house will CHARGE YOU MONEY to publish your book. Publishing houses pay you money for your book. See more on vanity and self-publishing below:

Writer Beware on PublishAmerica
A lawyer's take on PA
More on PA
Writer Beware on POD Publishing

Suite 101 on Vanity-Presses

Q: Yikes, I don't have an agent! Can I send my manuscript to your agent or can you recommend me to an agent?

A: Just like publishing houses, agents list their dos and don'ts on their websites. They list what kinds of books they represent (fiction or non-fiction, romance, westerns, thrillers or whatever), what their submission procedure is and whether or not they're currently accepting new clients. Many agents also blog (BIG HINT: read their blogs before subbing your manuscript). You can find my agent's blog here.

As to my asking my agent to read your manuscript, sorry, no can do. It wouldn't matter, anyway. My agent likes what she likes, and buys what she likes. If she likes your manuscript, she'll offer you a contract. If she doesn't, no amount of emails from Linnea Sinclair (or anyone else) will change her mind.

Same for recommending you to an agent--mine or any other. An agent-author relationship is not unlike a marriage. The two of you will be spending lots of time together. The "chemistry" has to be right and that's not something I can provide or foretell.

I can advise, however, that legit agents do not charge a reading fee. So don't get suckered in by scam artists. Check out an agent's reputation before you sub your precious baby there.

Some good sources of information:
Writer Beware

Preditors & Editors
20 Worst Agents

Q: Yikes, I don't have an agent! And since you're not a nice enough person to give me a personal introduction to your agent, how do I get one?

A: Ahh, flattery will get you everywhere. Getting an agent: one way is to attend legit writing conferences where agents and editors offer appointments to unpublished writers, and you get ten minutes to pitch your work. If you go to my NEWS page here on my website, you'll see the various writer conferences I attend. Those are often the kinds of conferences where you can book a pitch appointment. Click on the links to those conference and get an idea as to what they're about.

The other way, and I do suggest this as well, is to join a legit writer's organization in your area--or on-line--where you can network with published writers and learn from them, as well as hear of market news first hand.

If you don't know any local writers's groups check with your local library or bookstores. Someone will know.

The writers's groups I belong to--locally and on-line--include RWA (and the RWA Internet chapters: FF&P and RWAOnline) and SFWA. I also belong to Novelists, Inc (NINC), Broad Universe and SF Femme.

You should also subscribe to freebies like PUBLISHER'S LUNCH/WEEKLY to get the latest scoop on who's selling what, who's buying what and what trends are hot in fiction publishing. Knowledge IS power.

Q: I have this really great idea for a novel. All I have to do is basically write it out and my agent and my editor will clean it up for me, right?

A: Wrong. In today's highly competitive market, you need to have your manuscript dang near pristine if you want it to be considered for publication. Think of it this way: you wouldn't show up for a job interview in your pajamas, unwashed, your hair a mess. Submitting a manuscript is no different. If you don't care enough about your book and your characters to make sure they're in top form, then agents and editors aren't going to care about reading your work.

Check an agent's or a publishing houses stated guidelines (some are linked in the first question above) for submissions for format required, but most will require your manuscript to be on white paper, double-spaced, and either Times New Roman 12 or Courier 12 font. It should be grammatically correct, as free of errors as possible. If punctuation and grammar are not your strong points, then get thee to a library and learn. A cover letter and synopsis may be required. What are they?



Techniques of the Selling Writer by Dwight V Swain

Self-Editing for Fiction Writers by Renni Browne and Dave King

The 38 Most Common Fiction Writing Mistakes by Jack M Bickham

Creating Characters by Dwight V Swain

Goal, Motivation & Conflict by Debra Dixon

The Dreaded Synopsis by Elizabeth Sinclair

Scene & Structure by Jack M Bickham

Save The Cat! The Last Book on Screenwriting You'll Ever Need by Blake Snyder

Writing the Breakout Novel by Donald Maass


The Science of Star Wars by Jeanne Cavelos

The Physcis of Star Trek by Lawrence M Krauss

Conceiving the Heavens by Melissa Scott

Space Travel by Ben Bova

World-Building by Stephen L. Gillett

The Writer's Complete Fantasy Reference by Brooks, Clark, Kenyon et al

Beyond Star Trek by Lawrence M Krauss

Hiding in the Mirror by Lawrence M Krauss

True Blue: An insider's guide to street cops for writers by Lynda Sue Cooper

When You're the Only Cop in Town... by Jack Berry and Debra Dixon

She's Just Another Navy Pilot by Loree Draude & Dave Hirschman

Air Force Officer's Guide, 33rd Ed. by Col. Jeffery C Benton, USAF (Ret.)


Sime-Gen Worldcrafter's Guild

Holly Lisle's Forward Motion

Uncle Orson's Writing Class



(in no particular order)

Head-hopping/Point Of View

Space Coast Romance Writers Writing Tips

Show and Tell

Linnea's Articles/Blogs on Writing:

Whose World Is This Anyway?

Speaking in Alien Tongues

Swearing in Alien Tongues

Nobody Knows the Trouble (thoughts on writing conflict)

First Chapter Foibles

Oh, the Pain...Characters and Conflict

Plots That Work

Vividness Outranks Brevity

Judged by your Peers: Contests & Writers

We Was Happy!!!!

Jurassic Passions: Characters & Motivation

Smiling, We Wrote This


(take 'em--I still do)

Writers Online Workshops

Kiss Of Death Craft of Writing Classes

Low Country Romance Writers Workshops

OCCRWA Online Classes

More craft and business of writing Q&As here.