New York Times & USA Today Bestselling Author

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Should I get an agent?

A: That depends on so many variables, it’s impossible to answer this question. For example, what are your writing goals? What do you write? Are you easy-going or a control freak? See? Lots and lots of questions. My only advice is to research, read books and articles on finding and having a relationship with an agent, study what an agent is, what she does and doesn’t do for her writers, etc. Don’t go into this decision blind. Writing is a business. Know it. Become familiar with the industry. Then make your decision.

I have to admit, I am a huge advocate for getting an agent before submitting. Think about this. If you submit a project to every publishing house that accepts un-agented submissions and they reject it, in almost all cases, you have closed the door to that publishing house for that project forever. So, later, when you get an agent, that agent cannot submit that work to any of the houses that previously rejected it. You have tied your agent’s hands and limited his/her available options. Just something to think about.

Q: How do I get an agent?

A: First, see above. Next, ponder the fact that many people believe it is harder to get an agent than it is to get published. I am one of those people. Thanks to technology, there are more avenues to get published out there today than ever before. This is where your goals come into play. Do you just want to see your name on the cover of a book? Do you want to be published in e-book form only? Or do you want to get a contract with a big New York house?

I’m not saying you can’t get published with a big house unless you have an agent. I’m just saying it’s a lot harder without one. And try negotiating a contract or getting a nice advance without an agent. Can it be done? Of course! The odds are just against it.

So, what do you do?

Again, research. Read. Study.

Good places to start are:

There are many more and some wonderful publications out there to help you on your journey. Take advantage of these!

Q: Can you help me get published?

A: Nope. Wish I could. But this is similar to asking me if I can get you a spot on a professional football team or a role in an upcoming blockbuster. I simply don’t have those kinds of connections. What I do have is an amazing agent and a fantastic editor. They are both listed in the acknowledgements in my books and on this very website. Feel free to submit to them as long as you research what they are looking for and follow their submission guidelines.

Q: Can you read my story/manuscript?

A: While I would love to say yes to this, unfortunately, there are several reason why I can’t, not the least of which is liability. I suggest finding a critique partner whom you are comfortable with. One who pushes you and gives constructive advice, but does not change your work so much, you have to strain to hear your own voice. Balance is everything.

Q: Are you a plotter or a pantser (someone who writes by the seat of her pants)?

A: I plot like there’s no tomorrow, baby. I barely start a book without three distinct outlines.

  1. The Skeleton Key: This answers four basic questions: Where are we? What time of day is it? What major event happens in this scene or series of scenes? And in what order does the story unfold?
  2. The Outline: This is a brief synopsis of the entire book. It is usually about 5-9 pages long and is what I send my editor for approval before actually starting the book.
  3. The Detailed Outline: This is where I take the skeleton key, plug the outline into the appropriate areas, then add any details I’ve come up with including specific scenes, little extras I want to reveal here and there, funny lines or situations I want to use, and even internal and external motivation. These outlines usually run between 40 and 60 pages, but remember that part about adding scenes? Yeah, by this point I’ve already written a nice chunk of the book.

Next, I take the final detailed outline, copy and paste it into my manuscript, and delete as I go. This way I never stray far from the conceived story. I don’t wander around aimlessly, wondering where I’m going. I know exactly what is coming next, and very often, if it’s a “hard” scene (meaning I’m too lazy to write it at that moment), I’ll jump to another scene. I don’t get bored and/or stuck very often and I rarely pull my hair out by its roots. I’ve tried pantsing it. It wasn’t pretty. I had writer’s block by the time I got to page three.

NOTE: Let me just say that I write ALL over the place. I do not write linearly in any way, shape or form. By having such a detailed map of where I’m going, I can write on chapter two one day and chapter nineteen the next. Another (possibly more important) advantage to this technique is that there’s never a dull moment. Each scene has a purpose. Each scene moves the story forward. This makes the book tight, the pacing strong, and the story smooth. Just sayin’.