Monthly Archives: May 2013

The Difference between Memoir and Autobiography

Here’s a question I get all the time: How do I know if I’ve written an autobiography or a memoir?

The answer is simple: An autobiography covers pretty much your entire life. A memoir covers a specific aspect of your life (like a lifelong battle with lukemia) or a specific time period (a marriage that fell apart and the triumph built out of the life post-divorce).

Most people nowadays are writing memoirs. A few who have led spectacular lives (yes, ordinary people can live spectacular lives) are writing autobiographies.

Be sure to categorize your work correctly when you approach agents and publishers. You’ll also want readers to know exactly what they’re getting if you self-publish. The answer is simple yet applying the knowledge is important for your pitch and your marketing efforts.


How to Enhance Suspense

Often I am asked how authors can generate more suspense in a novel. The answer is simple…although it seems counterintuitive.

The best way is to slow down. That is, slow the pace of events in the section where suspense is needed. Focus on the details of what the protagonist sees, hears, smells and touches. Describe the setting in ways that enhance the tension or ominous tone. Bring in details one by one, and give each detail room to breathe on the page.

Why does this work? Imagine a film. You don’t get to see the monster right off the bat. The protagonist walks down a dark alley and hears a bottle clanging across the sidewalk but can’t see through the darkness to what threat might wait ahead. Utilize the same darkness by drawing out details leading into the big confrontation, and you’ll enhance suspense in your writing.

World Book Night Stats

Here are a few figures from the success of World Book Night, which was April 23.

  • 32% sales increase on WBN titles excluding new releases.

130 million people reached through their marketing efforts, up from 35 million for the first year.

607,000 visitors to WBN’s Facebook page during the week of April 22.

Celebrate reading! It is alive and well!

Agent Info

Agent Christa Heschke of McIntosh & Otis seeks picture books, middle grade, YA and adult projects. Loves a romantic angle and quirky protagonists. Especially interested in contemporary, horror, thrillers/mysteries, steampunk, urban fantasy, high fantasy,


Agent Info

Agent Kathleen Zakhar of Harold Ober Associates loves all things YA. She’s also actively seeking adult science fiction, fantasy of all kinds, historical fiction, and horror.  She enjoys quirky middle grade tales and also accepts picture books. Kathleen especially loves sweeping love stories, magical realism, inventive world-building, repurposed folklore, dark comedy, and genre-bending novels.

When to Introduce Backstory

Backstory is a collection of details readers need to know about a character or a plotline in order to make sense of what’s happening. But backstory is also embedded behind the current timeline…it is part of a character’s history before the book opens or is a collection of events that occured that get the plot rolling. If you start by filling in readers with all this information, the opening section (roughly the first 80 to 100 pages) won’t capture interest.

When you’re writing the first draft, it’s fine to write all the backstory first. This is the way most people write because it puts things into a chronological order. It can make the writing process much easier. So don’t shy away from writing things in the order they happen.

The rewriting process for the second (and possibly other drafts) corrects this issue. Take all that backstory and pull it into a different file. Then find places in the plotline where chunks of this information can be dropped in. By interweaving the backstory with the current timeline, your novel will become more compelling. You’ll also find that the backstory takes on  a deeper meaning when it is placed right beside the point at which readers need to know some historic fact.

How to Start Your Novel

The first five pages are the most important. Your first five pages should show readers the main character…and hopefully focus only on that individual, or focus on that individual and his or her relationship with one other primary character.

Your first five pages should hint at the conflict that will play out over the course of the manuscript.

There should be some compelling reason for readers to continue…and for agents and acquisitions editors at publishing houses to keep reading, too. This could be interest in the protagonist, a compelling conflict, or suspense.

Every category is different and your work will be unique from all others. By ensuring your first five pages have at least these three elements, you’re much more likely to capture attention…and keep people reading.

Agent Info

Agent MacKenzie Fraser-Bub of Trident Media likes women’s fiction, romance, upmarket commercial fiction, historical fiction, literary fiction, and YA with crossover appeal. In every genre she seeks a good story, well told.

Latest Buzzword: New Adult

We’re hearing a lot lately about New Adult novels as a category that is getting hot.

New Adult works target late teen and early twenties readers. They therefore have characters in that age group. Often these are coming-of-age stories about people who are no longer kids but who aren’t quite adults.

The settings are often in college or right after college. These works used to be published under the young adult (YA) category but are becoming a niche of their own.

Currently bookstores are struggling to find a way to shelve and market these novels but New Adult titles are coming on strong. Readers want them. Do you have something that really is New Adult rather than adult or YA? Be sure to note that in your query and your book proposal to capture attention from agents and publishers.