Cover Letters and Query Letters (part 2)

Query letters are a lot more complex than cover letters, let’s just get that out of the way. There is a lot more information you need to put into it, and it does much more than a cover letter as well. Cover letters are your introduction to a literary magazine, short and simple, while Query letters are the gate way to a literary agent. When you’re writing a query letter, you are essentially asking and promoting your longer piece of work and looking for representation to get published.

There are always going to be sites saying this is the best way to write a query letter, and to be honest the best thing you can do is give the essentials and individual as much as you feel would work for your piece. Query letters, no matter what, require the following:

1. What are you writing for? (tell them you are seeking representation, that you did your research as to why you want them to represent you).

2a.  TELL THEM ABOUT YOUR BOOK! (write about your book in a paragraph or two, essentially telling the agent who the character is, what is the conflict they will face (focus on the overall conflict, not the subplots) and the ending. Don’t tell the ending, though–just suggest that something is going to happen. The point is to make them interested in the character and what will happen to them).

2b. After the summary, or blurb as some call it, include the book length. Some people encourage a comparison to another novel to help the agent get a feel for the tone or style of writing you have. This depends on how much you’ve read and honestly if you do it, make sure you research novels that are similar to some aspect of your novel which you want to focus on.

3. Tell them about yourself ( this is the part where you let them know if you’re a student or not, publishing credits you have under your belt–if any–and anything relevant to the book and your experience as a writer).

4. Include your contact information (and please, make sure you use an appropriate email address. is not cool. It’s just…not.)

Your letter shouldn’t be more than a page. Ideally, you want this length because agents are always reading query letters. I mean, a lot of them. So, take the time to condense your writing and get to the point. Generally, you’d do  one inch margins; however, some literary agents have specific formats which prefer. So look it up!

After that, it’s all about how you individualize.

Here are some examples of some query letters that were successful, courtesy of Writer’s Digest. These query letters took individualization to whole new level, and honestly it’s pretty cool. This won’t always work, but if you do it write the agent will be impressed.

Here’s another really good example because it includes a letter and takes notes on what not to do.

The things you most definitely should not do are pretty similar to cover letters, and obviously more extensive due to the length. Some people try a little too hard forgetting that simplicity is sometimes better. Check out Writer’s Relief’s Query Fail. I think they have it down pact.

These letters will take time. Do the best you can, and have someone look at it for you if you can. It’s always good to have someone look over your work, whether a fellow writer, classmate, or even a friend. If you tell them what the basic format is then maybe they can tell you what they see as unnecessary. And remember to do the research. You don’t want an agent to look at your letter and think you’re wasting their time. They’re in this career because they love to read and work with writers. If you don’t put in the effort, then  neither will they.


Cover Letters & Query Letters (part 1)

If you are new to these two, please take notes.This is something you’re going to be seeing a lot of, if you’re writing a novel, short story, a memoir–basically anything that has to do with publishing you will need how to write this and how to get it out there. Because you know you want to get published.

Cover letters are used to quickly introduce your work, yourself, and express your interest in the magazine to an editor. A cover letter is your first impression, so to speak. So it’s really important that you have absolutely no grammatical errors.

Here’s an example of one I wrote:

[Personal Address]

[Actual Name of Editor]
[Title/position they hold, usually ‘Editor’]
[“Name of” Literary Magazine]

Dear [Editor’s Name],

I have attached my previously unpublished story [Title here] to be considered as a submission for your new issue.

I found your magazine through New Pages and after seeing your latest issue, I thought it’d be a good fit. I also thought it very kind of you to offer commentary on our submissions, if not accepted. I would very much like to hear any commentary you have on my submission if it is not accepted.

I am a MFA student at [***]College and I have never published a work of fiction before.

Thank you so much for your time and considering my submission. I look forward to hearing from you.


D. Arlene

You want to tell them:

1. what you are submitting (if it is a simultaneous submission state that!)

2. who you are (publication credits are okay, if you’re a student, sure–though not necessary; if it’s your first time publishing, yes!)

3. thank them for taking the time to read it.

In my example, I was submitting to a magazine I had just recently researched and read a couple of their stories. I enjoyed them, and when they came out with a themed issue they said they’d give feedback if rejected. It’s rare for magazines to do that and I felt that even if I didn’t get accepted while I had confidence, it’d be a good opportunity to see what an editor thought of my work. They requested that we write whether or not we’d like to have that.

Essentially every letter will different based on what the editor/magazine wants from you. Anything else is really optional. If you want to mention that you like their magazine, do so– I think it shows an appreciation for what they do. It also shows that you did your research, and you’re not wasting their time. I’d highly recommend it. Also, make sure you use an actual name for the editor. No one appreciates a generic ‘Madam/Sir.’ These are people taking time out of their lives to read your work. Show some respect and research where you want to send your short stories.

Here’s one example, and another for more specific details.

Some people mix up query letters and cover letters, or try to combine the two. That’s not the job of a cover letter. A cover letter is quick, let’s them know a couple of things like whether or not you’re serious about this and then they get to reading. Query letters are different. They’re for a literary agent, not an editor of a magazine.

Keep that in mind when you’re writing.

Sharing is Caring (Part 3)

Hello and welcome back to another session of Sharing is Caring!

I haven’t done this in a while and it’s nice to just sit back, read a bunch of stuff and share it with you guys.

Below are eight links to the web pages that I found either motivational or helpful and interesting in some way while I was away. Obviously, if I tried to share any more than this you’d go nuts, but this little list is sure to be helpful or at the very least insightful. I thought so. Honestly, I find them very truthful or something I can relate to in terms of newly acquired knowledge, and as such I’m sure you will appreciate them, too.

I’ve divided the links into two sections, the first being Self-revision or You as a Writer, and the second as Interactions as a Writer. The first set of sites I think have a lot to do with those of you who are still looking for advice and the best way to edit, the get the words down to the page. The second set, only a few sites, are for those who are writing and trying to figure out the best way to get noticed.

Self-revision or You as a Writer

I think we need to start out with this one because I’ve seen some crazy things with authors these last few weeks. I’ve read pieces where the characters are just plain bonkers and I can’t even deal with this. READ THIS! Please! The point of writing characters is because you have a story to tell, but if the characters suck then you have a serious problem. You want characters are real as you or me. If you settle for mediocre or a static figure then you’ve wasted everyone’s time.

Now, this is a new site I found and I can’t say for sure how good it is, but I did like this post because I always have novel ideas. ALWAYS. It’s insane how many I am currently working on. I mean, I’ll get to chapter six and say “Okay, I’m bored now.” And move onto the next one. I’ve got five in progress right now. Anyway, a little help on what you can do to get those ideas down to paper and maybe actually finish them never hurts. The best advice I can see from here is to go where your heart tells you. If you love something keep going with it. My issue is a short attention span. Hehehe.

A site I found via Facebook via my wonderful writer friends. I usually wouldn’t posts something about editing, especially when too specific as this blog post, however, they do make a lot of sense. There are a lot of things that writers do that can improved on, even if it’s removing a few words. It’s especially important when you’re doing a flash fiction piece or just to seem more like a pro. Watch your words!

Writer’s Relief is constantly on these lists. I can’t help but find them to be a good source of advice and sometimes motivation. This one will be really helpful for those of us who have lost the edge or are on a search of finding their muse. In this post you get five signs of how bad you are messing yourself up when it comes to getting published or even writing something down. And that’s okay, it happens to everyone. Even me.
This is probably one of those motivational posts I was talking about. Really, it’s how you take it. I personally enjoyed reading this piece because the author was seemingly honest about his experience. And sometimes it’s better not to told how likely of a success you’ll be. The only thing we as writers want to hear are words of encouragement. And nowadays, in the current market, it’s extremely difficult.

Interactions as a Writer

Time and time again I find the lack of trust to be astounding. Then again, I can’t blame you. In my writing circle I’ve gotten some pretty bad critiques, if not any at all. The worst is when you get a critique that says “I like it,” points one or two things out and blabbers on without actually saying anything else. It’s a pain because you’re so desperate for real material to work with that you spend several hours peeling back the lines to find something that you can use to edit your work. Or maybe that’s just me.

Everyone seems to complain about how much a literary journal costs. Professors constantly say that you should read them and if you don’t then you’re only screwing yourself over. And they’re right. I’ve probably said this before in other posts, but the best way to get out there is to submit to journals no matter how small they are. The point is that you get published and Literary Journals help do that. The majority of these journals are not for profit, and that means they run the magazine as volunteers and without pay. Every cent goes to the publication and sometimes payment for the author’s work, too. Choose your magazines wisely. Follow the ones you truly enjoy. READ THEM or you will look like a fool when submission period comes around.

This goes along with the above post. Besides reading a literary magazine, you need to know your audience. Be open-minded about where you submit, and even if you don’t get paid, it’s still one more notch in your “publishing to be a pro” belt. The point is to be seen. I recently met with a literary agent who said she read a small time literary magazine and actually went to meet the author to publish a book with him. She also said she’s never done that before. So, you never know what could happen. Getting paid isn’t everything, and be smart about how you go about your selection folks. If you do it the wrong way the magazine editors will probably feel insulted.

Alright, so here’s your list. Check out the posts, read them, tell me what you think. I’d love to hear some suggestions from you all about more sites that you believe are helpful or topics you’d like to hear about. Send me a line through Facebook or twitter! I’m always happy to hear from followers and readers. You guys are so awesome!

For The Year To Come

I was going to write another post about my thoughts on another writerly subject, but that just didn’t feel quite right. In fact, it’s the first year I’ve actually gotten a chance to blog about New Year’s. And quite frankly, I don’t think you want to hear/read another one of my rants tonight. Because tonight is a good night.

Tonight is New Years Eve. And I have to say it’s been an amazing year. And it’s really thanks to all of you.

I started out with a blog just for a class, a thing to pass the time and it turned into something I genuinely enjoy and take time to think about and do. I changed sites at one point, made a new name and put on something fancy to show you. I’ve had the pleasure of sharing some thoughts and receiving some wonderful responses from you. I’ve interacted with wonderful writers and bloggers for the first time and it’s been fantastic.

I’m glad I had this time to share with all of you, and I will continue to post and come up with new ideas and hopefully stories to share in the coming years. Because you make me want to go on with writing and reading and everything that has to do with literature!

So, I want to thank you for your time, for reading my blog and the kindness you’ve shown. I was very nervous at first, but thanks to all of you who write your amazing blogs, your stories and rants and criticisms and just flat out being you. Because of you out there I have a greater sense of confidence as a writer and blogger. I feel welcomed.

Next year will surely be more awesome.

So, in the spirit of the New Year and with my sincerest gratitude, I say: enjoy your family, enjoy your friends. Enjoy that lovely cup of wine and a good book or your Christmas specials tonight. Snuggle close with one you love, and if you can’t Skype/Oovoo, whatever! When the clock strikes twelve celebrate the old days that have passed, for new ones are on the way. Let’s make this next year one we’ll never forget.

Because we are all a part of a wonderful community of writers, bloggers, readers, critics. And in every which way you are amazing, beautiful, handsome, funny and just incredibly talented individuals.

Happy New Years to all my friends: new, old, and those to come.

Thank you for the best year ever.


D. Arlene

Outlining Stories (part 1)

Does anyone actually use this stuff? Seriously, how many of you actually use an outline or map out their story visually? This isn’t sarcasm or anything, I’m totally asking right now.

I’ve been writing seriously since I was about sixteen and I’ve never used this method until recently, unless you count academic papers. Which, I don’t. So when I first started using outlines, I started out with trying to write a novel, and I wrote a couple of sentences about each chapter I wanted to write or plans for scenes in my head. Of course, that didn’t help me since I was trying to do something extremely specific with time-lines. So, I then proceeded to draw out how my story was going to progress. It became a map, but then that wasn’t enough.
This is the outcome of my story outline/map.
I think I might have taken it too far.
Insane, right?
In my personal copy, I included one sentence descriptions of what would occur in each chapter. I used a combination of mapping out the story lines and  regular outlining (by words alone).

I think we’re so used to using this thing so much plot graph
that we forget that not all stories don’t actually look like that——->

Even short stories have different progressions, especially when the author wants to shake up the marbles in that head of yours.
Now, I know a few things about outlining so I wanted to discuss them because lately it’s been on my mind.

Outlining: You know this is a bunch of words that summarize/plan out what you are going to write. The thing is, there’s more than one way to do it. You definitely don’t need to do this:

                Beginning           Middle             End
We’re not in middle school folks. We all know full well that stories don’t always work this way. If you want to use an outline then you have two options: Brief or Extended.

Brief outlines consist of one to two sentences of what each scene/chapter is going to look like.Now a brief outline could be like this: “He falls into the demons nest.”
You’re basically writing the bare minimum. And this is perfect for someone who doesn’t want to feel restricted or stifled by past plans. On the other hand,

Extended outlines, you’re basically filling in the blanks, adding far more detail then in a brief outline. “[Character] is shoved as a sacrifice into a demons nest. The ground is wet soaked with blood and as [character] stands he sees lights lining the walls. [character] walks forth, trembling from the cold, and crawls to the end of a tunnel, etc, etc.”
Now, I understand how some writers a re reluctant to use an outline. There’s this idea that you’re not a writer if you have to plan it or that you should be inspired as you write. That’s not necessarily true. Some writers actually like knowing where they’re going. Personally, I like to write when I’m inspired. But if I have to use an outline now, I will.

Here’s why you should use an outline:
1.You know where you plan on going. There are so many scenes in your head that sometimes you’re afraid you’ll lose them. Write them down and you can look back at them to remind yourself, or see where you diverted from if you decide to change something.
2.It’ll help you look back and see where you screwed up (if you did) or just where you started. The nostalgia will consume you!

The only downside I could ever see is if you write an outline, but lose interest because it’s all down on the page already.

I’ve certainly had that experience of suddenly losing interest because I felt like I’d just told the story. I suppose that’s why I myself am reluctant to use an outline, unless I really am stuck. It’s when I’m stuck that I find it so useful, so don’t disregard an outline if you feel you may be stifled by the form and your past plans. You can always take it and look back to see what you originally planned and how you started out. It can act as a reminder of where you headed, even if you went in a different direction there can be things in the outline that you’d still like to do, and are still possible.

And there are plenty of other versions of outlines, like :

Note cards: which you can have virtually (if you download/buy programs like scrivener) or buy a stack of actual note cards and write this down. Note cards essennotecard exampletially are used to summarize a quick scene or major facts about it like plot, characters, setting, etc… It’s absolutely a good way to keep track of your characters, especially when you’ve got more than two or three. (I do it to keep track of what my characters are wearing). There’s also the choice of using it for scenes, mix and match for link stories or hey! If you’re doing a collection of stories and you’re looking for the right tone or mood, use it. You can virtually use this method for anything, honestly.

Truthfully, the list could go on, but these I know the most/best. I’ve used them before, as I own a copy of scrivener, and I’ve messed around with the others in classes and on my own (as seen in my image above). Some are fun, some annoying, but it’s really all about preference. Like most things what works for some won’t work for others.  Now I don’t know all of the million, bazillion methods of outlining, but I do have a link or two below that go into a little more detail than I do. So check them out. And If you’re interested in learning a little more outline tricks check out part 2 for outlining with maps.

Outlining Stories (part 2)

So, we talked about outlines in the last post and a couple of different ways to do that. Well, here we’ll talk briefly about maps.

Mapping: Basically, when all else fails and you’re not sure where your plot/story is going then map it out. Most maps can can take the usual form:
plot graphAnd I really do have to refer back to this constantly because this is what we were always taught when we were younger, right? But stories don’t always work that way. Mine certainly didn’t. Sometimes, the conflict is the very first thing we see. If you’re skilled enough the climax could be first and we just see the aftermath.

Maps are made to keep track of what you’ve done, much like an outline, but you’re looking at a visual instead of a bunch of words. It can actually be easier on the eyes because we see, well, a map. The point of this is to see progression, you want to see how far you’ve gone before you reached the end. And sometimes you can even make a map that shows connections like mine or this. (I included this picture from here because it’s visually smart, and it reminds of the MTA).Mapping Out Your Story

I think maps are fun. I know mine was. (I really need more highlighters). But anyway, there are tons of ways you can go about this. It doesn’t have to follow the train station style or even my weird double helix. You can make a map up all on your own. The shape is supposed to fit your work. The great thing about maps is you can design it, until you think it works for you.

Besides doing it like this, you could also do word association maps and mind mapping. In this case you build a web much like this. They can hold story ideas, character back story, physical/mental traits of characters you’d like to create, setting and connections between events. There is so much you can do with this. Word association can actually be the same. In fact, my fiction professor said once that using word association with maps like this can be really helpful. You keep going with associations until you can’t think of anything. The one you stop at is the one you should write about, because you stopped at it for a reason (whether hesitation or whatever, keep it in mind anyway!)mind map

Anyway, there are so many other reasons why you should do maps or pick outlines, but I won’t be writing them all, because we both don’t want to be here forever. The point is everyone needs help. It’s fine if you don’t want to use it–that’s cool. I think we all have had that point where we deny using tricks like this because “We’re a writer dammit!”
But lets face it, writers are human, and sometimes we need help. Each method we use is based on preference, nothing is perfect. I will occasionally use both, you’ll use none.
Who knows? It’s just always good to learn new things that can help your writing. Even if you don’t use it, keep it in mind as an option. I always do.

Even when I really don’t want to.

You are not a bad writer for using this stuff. Don’t feel guilty or feel like your cheating or silly as I’m sure many who start out do. You’re doing everything you can to get that awesome story out. Use everything you’ve got!

In case you want to see some more examples other than my own, then here are two sites that I found with some good notes/information on mapping out stories.

Sharing is Caring (part 2)…I think

It’s actually been some time since I’ve gone up and shared some links to sites that I thought had some really interesting information or fun things to see. In the last couple of days alone, I’ve seen some really good material that I thought would be relevant to writers–whether you are starting out, looking for a good book or just finishing up with some in progress work. I know a lot of the things up online can be total drivel. I’ve seen enough of that every where.

This session of sharing is caring is all about some of the sites I’ve come across as I’ve been looking at literary magazines, Facebook, twitter, etc. I really enjoy reading advice, reading short stories and genuinely just staring at my computer for an stupendous amount of hours.

Today, I am going to share let’s…two…six websites that I thought would be interesting to share with you fellow readers/writers. I’m sure some of you may know these sites, and some of you may not have a single clue where I got this stuff. And that’s okay. Finding new things to read and check out is always fun. I never get tired of finding new things about writing to look at.

So, here’s the first set of sites that I visited and thought would be cool to share. I’ve divided them into sections so you look at them clearly and based on what would be interesting.

Section 1: Advice on Writing

The first site I wanted to show you isn’t altogether the whole site, but an article that I thought was interesting. I don’t know if I would follow all of the rules given, but I definitely have heard them around from my professor’s. Aerogramme Writer’s Studio invited Teju Cole to write some of his rules on writing. (I actually read some of his work in my Landscape course this semester and it’s interesting, to say the least). I think a lot of what his rules pertain to are no so much the act of writing itself, but the writer themselves. This isn’t so much a list on structure, but a list on how to persevere and do things the way any writer nowadays would want, in order to be clear, multifaceted and produce a strong narrative.

In terms of advice, I really do like reading the occasional article from here. Not all of their stuff interests me, but sometimes I will find something good. And I really enjoyed reading this one, especially since I’ve had time where I couldn’t write a single word–sometimes writer’s block and sometimes not so much. This site is called Writer’s Relief, and they offer services to help writer’s publish or edit. However, if you go to the “Leads & Tips” tab you’ll find their blog which is extremely helpful for writers who are starting out. Please read it and enjoy it.

The truth is, sometimes we have a problem writing and we get so many rejection letters or we haven’t even tried at all because we lack confidence. This is a career, one you love and sometimes will hate. Nothing is ever perfect. The point is that we try or best and keep trying to move forward, get our words out there because as long as one person can see it, we’ve done our job. There’s always going to be a part of you that wants to stop; hope has suddenly abandoned you and you think you’re no good. Admit it and shove that thought clear out the window. This is the choice you made, now push that sucker out and grab hold of your muse and get him/her/it to work!

I think we as writer’s are the type of people who crave affection. We want people to love us for our creativity, or words, who we are deep down and what powers we have to create. I’m not saying we want worshipers, I certainly don’t. But i do like to share what I know. If someone can hear and understand early on what I know now, that would mean they wouldn’t make the same mistakes.
Anyway, read the article. Maybe, it’ll help you find that bit of focus to start up again.

The third site here is called Neon Literary Magazine and they seem pretty cool. I think it’s helpful that they have this section in order to help future writers with submission formats. No matter what, of course, some literary magazines have their own formats, some will change margins, others fonts, etc. But for the most part these guys are giving you the standard format for the industry as well as helping you figure out what places are best for you to submit your work to, if you are at the stage. There’s also links to international literary magazines which I think speaks volumes to the type of people who run it. They aren’t at all self-centered, I think they genuinely want to help writers get their stuff in order and get it out there.

I am currently checking out their blog and submissions pages, too. Also, if you have some time check out their archives, maybe you’ll like some of their stories. Who knows? The one piece of advice I always take when looking at online literary magazines is to see what they offer for free so you can check out their work. You want to look at the things they produce to make sure your work is compatible. Always. If you don’t, then you’re just insulting them and making yourself look dumb.

The final site of this lovely section is from a blog I recently discovered. I am still looking at it for any more interesting tid-bits to take to heart, but for now check this out. The article produced is called “Why Your Character’s Goal Needs to Be 1 of These 5 Things.” The main focus of this article, I think, is characters motivation. You want to know what your character wants and needs to do. There’s a distinct difference, and identifying that difference can mean the world to how you write your character, develop him/her, even kill him/her/it off.
I thought this article was insightful and really helpful in regards to creating multifaceted characters. You really don’t a static characters, who you have little description for and who doesn’t seem to have any motivation to do anything in the world you placed them in. What would be the point? Even if they are searching for their motivation, that’s okay to. But a reader who can’t feel what the characters feels, get an idea of what they want–it’s a wasted piece of writing with little life. And you’ve just made your reader hate your guts.

More than anything, a writer’s job is to rip out a reader from their present reality and slam them into the pages of the book. You want them to feel pity, pain, joy, sadness, empathize with your characters, sometimes villains and protagonists equally. If you don;t do that, then you have a serious problem: you don;t care about your readers.

Section 2: Book, Literary Magazines

This first article/post I found is a list of literary magazines for those of you who are currently unpublished and looking. I personally am scanning this sucker like crazy and checking this sites out as much as possible. Some of them I’ve heard of in school and some not so much, but they look professional and some will even offer critique even if you’re not accepted which is a major plus for you. So check it out and see what might fit you. Who knows? Maybe you’ll find your next favorite author here. It always happens.

The second site of this brief second section is Penguin Random house which I follow on Facebook. And quite frankly I love their little memes about writing and the picture-quotes they post are so cute. But this I thought was an intense list of books from their blog, containing short stories and just plain good reading lists. Some of you may be against the whole amazon thing, I know that much, but you don’t have to necessarily buy the books om the site if you don’t want to. Amazon is still pretty popular in terms of sales on books, so take a look. It won’t kill you, I promise. And besides, GooodReads is also on this list, along with Hudson Booksellers, The Huffingon Post, and The New York Times.

There are a number of subjects, ranging anywhere from Fiction to non-fiction, fantasy to memoir. If you’re looking for a good book to buy this year, look here.


I hope that you guys do check these articles, lists, etc, out as I thought they were really useful. If not, then that’s okay, too. Thank you for reading this post, anyway.

Don’t hesitate to send me something via Facebook or Tumblr or even Twitter if you have something that might be cool. It can totally be your own blog or something you read. I’m always looking for interesting things to share, read and discuss. I’m sure there are plenty who want to see it. I sure know I would.

We are a community of writers, everyone wants to be heard.

Thanks for listening/reading everyone.