How you can figure out everything, have your best year ever, and master the miracle equation

I had a very nonfiction-heavy month overall; I am in the middle of another fiction book that I may finish by the end of the week but the two novels I’ve been reading are long — 477 and 502 pages, respectively — so I’ll cut myself a little slack. It’s not about seeing how many books I can cram into a month anyway.

Nonfiction:

Everything Is Figureoutable — Marie Forleo. I liked this book, although in the past I’ve found Marie’s style to be a little too rah-rah, you go girl! for my taste. The title is her mantra, and…


And set up a system so you keep it all organized

Now that you have your query and your various synopses ready to go, the next step is to actually send your stuff out to a real live agent, standing by.

Actually, no, agents are not standing by just waiting for queries to drop in like manna from heaven. That is a real misconception writers have. Yes, agents have to look at queries in order to find new clients to sign. But that is only a part of what they do. They have all the work for their actual clients as well: overseeing revisions, submitting to publishers, negotiating contracts… and the…


Stop writing the same old boring sentences

Prose writers can learn a lot from poetry, whether or not it’s National Poetry Month. Especially if you’re feeling like your writing is a little stale, you can start to play with words again by paying attention to some of the techniques poets use.

1. Imagery

Poetry rarely relies on narration to get its point across. Poets observe the world closely to come up with original phrases to describe things, like Mary Oliver’s grasshopper from “The Summer Day”: …the one who has flung herself out of the grass. Or Theodore Roethke’s Bridges of iron lace/A suddenness of trees/A lap of mountain mist…


3 ways to deal with post-pandemic fatigue

Woman with head in hand
Woman with head in hand

Between pandemic fatigue, the arrival of spring, and expanding access to vaccines, more and more of us are emerging from our homes and — gasp — actually spending time with other people. While many epidemiologists are saying this is a bad idea (a race between vaccinations and COVID-19 mutations) it hasn’t been enough to slow the tide of businesses opening up and people socializing more.

It hasn’t even been a crushingly cold winter here in New England, but like everyone else, I’m sick of living on Zoom and want to interact in person with fellow human beings if possible.

BUT.


Better late than never…

colorful bookshelf with ceramic bowl and lots of books
colorful bookshelf with ceramic bowl and lots of books

Highlights for me this month were Craft in the Real World (nonfiction) and The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue (fiction). I had a pretty eclectic mix of nonfiction, but a very fantasy-based fiction mix this month, for no particular reason. I choose based on what’s interesting, but also whatever pops up as ready in my library holds list. I have so many holds, in fact, that I constantly have to recycle them so I can finish the ones I already have!

Nonfiction:

The Complete Guide to Vision Boards — Christine Kane. This one is a bit of a “gimme” since…


And the 4 types of synopsis you need to master to sell your book

pink gift box with gold ribbon and glitter
pink gift box with gold ribbon and glitter

Why do I call it “the dreaded Synopsis?” Because for many writers, it’s more of a chore than writing the whole damn book. But it’s a necessary skill to master to sell your book, and can be helpful at various other stages of the process. You don’t need to wait until the end to write one!

What Is a Synopsis?

A novel synopsis tells your story in condensed form. It allows you to tie up all the messy points of your novel into a neat, pretty package.

You will need Synopses of various lengths: the Mini, the One-Paragraph, the One-Page


It’s all about selling your story

Photo credit: Emma Matthews Digital via Unsplash

Querying a book is both a lot simpler and a lot harder than it may appear. Simple, because there are very specific things you need to include, and there is a very simple outline you can follow to make sure those elements are present. Hard, because holy cow — creating a compelling short synopsis of your book in one or two paragraphs is a major challenge!

The first thing to understand is what a query does: Sell your book! That is its purpose. Think of it as your cover letter, and the 1–10…


Is it just me, or is it getting harder?

man pulling hair in fristrtion
man pulling hair in fristrtion

And you thought writing the book was hard. Now you actually have to query the darn thing. This is as much an art as a science, and everyone will have their own journey. I’m sharing mine, and a little about my process, in hopes it will be helpful to you.

The honest truth: My full querying journey so far

Book #1: Really wasn’t ready. It was MFA thesis novel, the one where I learned how to write a novel, and it got some really nice feedback from agents and editors, but ultimately never sold.

Book #2: Again, some nice feedback, but two glaring points that I kept seeing over…


You have to take action and have faith, without knowing the outcome

person jumping into mountain lake
person jumping into mountain lake

Some people just seem to have it all figured out. They choose a life goal and they take action to achieve it. They understand what needs to be done, and there are clear steps and milestones along the way. They persevere, and through luck and hard work, they make it.

I am not one of those people. My path has been meandering, more full of accident than plan. For a long time I straddled two worlds: An approved academic professional one, and a creative one (writing and book coaching) that was at best a “side hustle” long before the term…


For women who like their history a little more visceral than Bridgerton

seated man guzzling ale and holding a sword
seated man guzzling ale and holding a sword

I don’t know what it is about me and lockdown, but this whole year my TV-watching schedule has been dominated by large, muscular men beating the crap out of each other, preferably half-naked.

Spartacus (gladiators beating each other), Vikings (Vikings beating each other), Black Sails (pirates beating each other)… you get the idea. Last week I even watched a documentary with re-enactments called Age of the Samurai with, you guessed it, samurai beating each other. And themselves: I don’t think one episode passed without a seppuku, ritual suicide by self-disembowelment. Frankly, the blood doesn’t bother me in the least. Heads…

Jana Van der Veer

Writer and Book Coach at www.setyourmuseonfire.com. I’m all about firing up motivation, accountability, and strategies that keep writers writing.

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