Posted in Fiction, Publishing, Writing

Wow, My Short Story is Being Published in a Paperback Journal!

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It usually doesn’t work out this way.

Usually I write a new short story, and I brace myself for two years or longer before it sells.

I have two stories I wrote in 2016 that still haven’t sold. Two stories that have been rejected more than fifty times each.

I have a story called ‘Character Driven’ I first wrote as a screenplay way back in 2005 before I eventually turned it into a short story in 2017 and received dozens of rejections over the course of eighteen months before it finally sold to a paperback anthology.

I’ve even had stories that took four years to sell, like my piece of creative non-fiction ‘A Window to Dreams’ which I wrote in 2012 and then sold to a literary magazine in 2016.

And like my story ‘I’ll See You in the Morning,’ one of my favorites I’ve ever written, which I wrote the first draft of in May of 2015. I revised this story more than a dozen times and I collected probably seventy to eighty rejections on it before it finally sold to an online literary magazine earlier this year.

Let’s just say I’ve had my share of difficulty with trying to sell my short stories. I don’t write too many of them — one or two a year — and so each one means a great deal to me.

Earlier this year I wrote my newest short story, ‘Walter.’

This was my first story I’d written after receiving my MFA in Creative Writing at the University of Nevada, Reno, in 2018, and the process of it was kind of great.

For the first time in years, I was writing a story I knew wasn’t going to be workshopped. That I was writing more for me than anybody else.

I had an encounter with a homeless man last March in Portland, Oregon, where I was attending the AWP Writers Conference, and I couldn’t stop thinking about the encounter when I was traveling home to Reno. I thought those ten seconds or so held the nugget for a new story.

Wouldn’t you know it, in mid-April of this year I sent the latest draft of my middle grade horror novel off to my literary agent, and I suddenly found myself with two to three weeks with no creative project to work on.

These periods don’t happen to me too often, actually. Usually I’m writing the first draft of one novel and then revising the fifth draft of a second novel and then maybe tinkering away on the twelfth draft of a third novel. I usually jump from one project to the next all throughout the year, with little time to dedicate to a new short story.

But suddenly I saw myself with three weeks to work on something new, and the encounter with the homeless man was still lingering in my mind.

So I wrote the story. And I wrote it really fast.

I wrote the first draft in five days. I started it on a Monday morning. I finished it on a Friday morning. I wrote 800 words a day, and the first draft was 4,000 words exactly. The original title was ‘Spare Any Change?’

The following week I changed the title to ‘Walter’ and I cut about 300 words and added about 200 new words.

The third week I cut another 300 words, got the manuscript to a place I felt really good about it, and then I let the story rest for a month.

At the end of May, I read through the story one more time, tweaked a few final things, then sent the story off to ten literary magazines.

I hoped I might hear back from a few of them throughout the summer. I heard back from half of them. All rejections. But that was okay. I’m used to rejections.

In June I sent it to two more magazines, and at the end of July I came across a literary magazine called Bosque Journal that took literary stories under 5,000 words and ONLY accepted submissions between July 1 and July 31! So I sent it off quickly. The editors at Bosque rejected a story I wrote last year, so I didn’t have high hopes.

On Tuesday afternoon, I received an e-mail.

I’ve been hard at work on other projects. I haven’t even been thinking about ‘Walter’ much lately.

I heard the ding sound from my phone telling me I had a new e-mail. I clicked on my inbox. And saw the following word.

ACCEPTANCE.

That really is a great word, isn’t it? Especially when you’re a writer. Acceptance. Not rejection. For once in my lifetime, it’s not rejection.

I figured I’d was going to be sending ‘Walter’ to literary magazines well into 2020 and beyond. And I was okay with that, honestly. It’s my philosophy that you should send out a short story 100 times before you give up, after all.

I felt it’d be a miracle for this new story to be accepted in less than a year. I didn’t think I was going to hear any good news this summer, that’s for sure.

So color me surprised when I learned that the story was accepted by the editors of Bosque Journal, a well-regarded paperback literary magazine, and will be published in its ninth issue this November! How cool, is that?

This brings me number of story acceptances on Submittable.com to 5.

5 acceptances, and 428 rejections. Yep, you read that right.

This great news about my latest story is further proof that if you want to be successful as a fiction writer, you can never give up. You have to keep going no matter what. You might go a whole year receiving rejection after rejection. You might think your fiction is worth absolutely nothing.

And then one day, you discover your fiction is worth something. That it’s actually worth more than you thought. You discover you have talent, that you have something to say. Someone out there loved your story… and you’re about to be a published author!

Amazing moments like this one is exactly why the writing journey is worth taking.

Because when you’re rejected most of the time, an acceptance is truly an out-of-body experience.

My little story I wrote mostly for me is now going to be released into the world later this year… and I couldn’t be more excited.

It’s like what I’ve said before. You won’t get rich writing short stories, but if you love writing fiction, if you want to have a long career, it’s worth doing anyway.

So do what I did. Write the next story, revise it a few times, send it out widely.

And then see what happens.

Posted in Books, Publishing, Writing

This is the One Thing a Reader Wants

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In her 2012 craft book Writing Irresistible Kidlit, author Mary Kole says,

Today’s publishing marketplace is tough. Not all writers who set out to publish will see their dreams come true. And even if they do publish, readers will not automatically flock to your writing without good reason. The only thing a reader wants, at the end of the day, is to care about a character and a story. That’s it, that’s all. If you let them down here, they will not return to your pages.


The one thing a reader wants is simple.

A reader wants a character and a story to care about. That’s it.

A character. And a story. To care about.

Sure, there are other factors that will keep a reader flipping through the pages all the way until the end.

Big surprises. High stakes. Constant tension. A good mix of dialogue and description.

But a compelling novel especially comes to down to that one thing: a character and story to care about, deeply and completely.

I don’t know about you, but if I don’t care about both of those elements, I struggle continuing on with a novel I’m reading.

Especially when it comes to character. I don’t even need an extraordinary story if the characters mean something to me.

I just adored every minute of the third season of Stranger Things, and something that hit me by the end of the first episode was that I love the characters on the show so much that I’d still enjoy the show if nothing extraordinary happened.

If there were no monsters. If there were no big stakes.

If all the show did was explore those characters’ lives, I would still want to be there for every minute of it.


Such is the case with the best fiction.

You want your characters to be so compelling that very little could happen in the story, and you would still go along for the ride.

So when you do have a lot happen throughout the narrative, when you throw endless surprises and twists at the reader, when there’s a major death nobody sees coming, when an ending reveals something about a character that changes your entire perspective on the book…. your reader will absolutely love you for it.

Mary Kole is right: the publishing marketplace is tough. There are lots of reasons for an editor to say no to your novel.

What you want to do is write a story and characters that nobody will want to say no to.

That no readers will ever be able to put down… even if they try!

All a reader wants at the end of the day is to care about a story and a character.

If you can master that part of novel writing, there’s no telling how much success you’ll be able to achieve.

Posted in Publishing, Writing

Learn to Think Big with Your Stories if You Want to be Published

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In her 2012 craft book Writing Irresistible Kidlit, Mary Kole says,

Many beginning writers fall into the trap of thinking too small with their stories. The resulting projects lack multidimensional characters, tension, and stakes. The whole novel goes from point A to point B with only a few bumps in an otherwise straight line. None of the characters experience deep, seismic shifts in their lives, beliefs, or identities. And I fail to care even a little bit about the story because there’s not much of one.


If your reader doesn’t care about your story, it’s over.

There’s no way around it. There’s nothing you can do about it. And it doesn’t matter that you think every sentence of your story is lovely, that your use of setting is stellar, that your POV work is ambitious.

There needs to be a story that readers care about. And you need to write characters they connect with. I’ve struggled a lot in my writing life throughout the years, but one thing I’ve tried hard to do well when it comes to my short stories and novels is writing compelling stories with three-dimensional characters. Stories that make you keep flipping through the pages. Characters you can relate to.

I would much rather read a novel that’s just so-so written but has an amazing story and unique characters than read a novel that’s beautifully written but has no story or characters I care about. Something needs to pull you through the narrative. Something needs to keep you coming back. I’m a slow reader and often need a week or longer to finish a novel.

I can’t tell you how many novels I’ve started reading that I enjoyed for a few chapters… but then lost interest. I’m sure the same thing has happened to you, too. Sometimes I’ll make it halfway through a novel and then still give up. And with more and more years that go by, and less and time it seems, that book really needs to keep me hooked from beginning to end.

Such is why it’s important for you not to think too small with your stories, and instead think big.


But what exactly does it mean to think big with your stories?

You might think this means you need to write a giant epic fantasy novel that takes place in a whole new world with robots and cyborgs and magical lands and apocalyptic winters and death-defying action scenes.

No. Thinking big with your story doesn’t mean the story itself needs to be big and epic. You can still tell a realistic contemporary novel about a romance. You can write a suspense thriller that takes place in one day. You can tell a simple story about friendship and growing up, you can really do whatever you want when it comes to the actual idea.

What Mary Kole is discussing in that quote is that you need to go beyond your basic story idea in order to write a truly compelling novel. It’s not enough to just come up with an idea you love and tell the story in a way that offers little in the way of obstacles and tension and surprises. It’s not enough to come up with a cast of stereotypical characters we’ve read in a hundred other books.

Sure, just getting a first draft of a novel completed is a major first step and worthy of celebration. A lot of people can’t even get that far.

But if you want to be published, you need to start thinking bigger. Imagine you’re the reader of your book. Would you want to read every page? Is there any place in the narrative you might find yourself drifting?

Kole talks about stakes in that quote. I believe having high stakes in a novel is immensely important. High stakes can be a lot of things, of course. It can be life and death for your protagonist externally or internally. It can be winning the state championship game, or getting the girl, or just surviving middle school. But the stakes need to be there somewhere, in every chapter hopefully. You can’t write a story that grips the reader without any stakes.


Stand out from the pack by thinking big, not small, with your latest story.

When it comes to your latest narrative, don’t just do the obvious. Don’t take your story from point A to point B in a way that twenty other writers would, too. Do something original. Throw obstacles at your characters. Tell your story from a POV that might not be expected. Include a twist in chapter five, not necessarily chapter twenty-five.

There’s a lot you need to do in order to be a published novelist. So many struggles you’ll face along the way, like I have. You can follow all the rules, do everything you think you need to, and still get rejected. You can write the best story you can, revise it to death over the course of two or three years, and still get rejected. You can sign with an awesome agent, have your work pitched to equally awesome editors, and still get rejected.

It’s why one of the first things you should do when you start a new project is think big, not small. Think about ways you can stand out from the pack. The idea itself doesn’t have to necessarily be super original, but the way you tell the story should be. You should tell the story in a way that no other author would.

You might not deliver on your first novel, or your latest novel, whichever number that may be. It might take you a few more. I just finished the first draft of my twentieth novel… and I’m still trying. I’m still going for it, thinking big every time.

If your dream is to become a published novelist like mine is, just keep writing, keep growing, and keep thinking big.

As long as you don’t give up, you’ll get there eventually!

Posted in Books, Publishing, Writing

Here are the Essentials of Young Adult Fiction

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In her 2012 craft book Writing Irresistible Kidlit, Mary Kole says,

Bookstores have an MG area and a YA area. They’re not sharpening their saws to build a special hybrid shelf just for your project. These guidelines will help you make an educated decision [of which market you’re writing for].


It’s important as a writer to learn the difference between middle grade and young adult.

Don’t ever think you can lump them together, as Mary Kole says.

Sure, there’s the rare instance like the Harry Potter series, where the first three books are middle grade and then the rest of the books veer more into YA territory, with Harry aging and the themes growing darker.

But in pretty much all cases, MG and YA are separate things. Yes, they’re both kidlit. Yes, many literary agents will represent authors who write both MG and YA, and many editors will be on the lookout to buy both MG and YA. And many authors write both successfully!

But when it comes to your novel, it should never be a little of both. It should be either MG or YA. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way, and I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way. It honestly wasn’t until I picked up Mary Kole’s book in 2014 that I finally began to understand the major and minor differences between MG and YA.

Let’s take a look at the essentials of young adult fiction!

Young Adult Essentials

Here are some rules you should try at all times to stick to when writing YA books…

  • Your main character or characters should be fifteen to seventeen years old. Sixteen is typically ideal.

Of the twenty books I’ve written, fourteen of them are young adult. This is the market I love to write for the most. I’ve written all kinds of YA. Realistic YA, fantasy YA, horror YA, thriller YA, LGBTQ YA. I’ve tried so many different kinds of stories for the young adult market.

And one thing I have found over the years that has brought me the most success is writing main characters that are sixteen years old. This age seems to be the sweet spot. Seventeen works, too. And fifteen as well, although I’ve never actually written a YA to date about a fifteen year old.

Keep in mind that most YA readers are younger than the age of your protagonist. Like eleven, twelve, thirteen. These readers want to read up, so sixteen or seventeen is typically ideal for your character’s age.

One thing I’d recommend? Try not to write about an eighteen year old. A literary agent once told me to my face, “I can’t sell YA with an eighteen-year-old protagonist.” I was told this five years ago. Maybe things have changed.

But if you can, try to make your protagonist sixteen unless there’s a really strong and specific reason why the character needs to be older or younger.

  • The length of your young adult novel can go as short as 50,000 words, but unless you’re writing fantasy, try not to go over 90,000 words.

I’ve tried all sorts of lengths in my YA books. The longest one I ever queried was 82,000 words. The shortest one was 58,000 words. I didn’t have success with either one.

You want to know the lengths of the YA novels I did have success querying? Between 65,000 and 70,000 words. That seems to be the sweet spot for YA word counts because it’s long enough to tell a complete story but not too long to overwhelm any of the agents who might request your book. 75,000 is fine, too, of course. 80,000 probably won’t raise any eyebrows.

But I’d think long and hard about querying a novel that was longer than 90,000 words unless you have a really good reason for it. If you’re writing hard science fiction or fantasy, then maybe. But as soon as you hit 100,000 words and up, you’re going to have lots of agents click over to the next query letter in a heartbeat, remember that.

  • You can go edgier in your subject matter in YA than you can in MG.

Honestly this is a big reason why I often choose to write books for the YA market than the MG market. I don’t like to feel restricted about what I can and cannot do in my storytelling, and what’s so exciting about YA is that you can basically write any story you want, without restrictions, without too many rules or guidelines.

The truth is that librarians and parents are much stricter toward what MG books kids might read, but there’s not as harsh a strictness for YA books kids might read. In YA, for the most part, almost anything goes.

A few more rules to keep in mind…

  • Teens have a sensitive, built-in BS-o-meter, so for the YA market especially, authenticity is super important.
  • Realistic, contemporary stories do really well in YA.
  • There are fewer opportunities to target boy audiences in YA than there are in MG. You’re taking a gamble if you target your YA to a solely male audience.
  • Conflicts in YA tend to be bigger and all-consuming and are resolved in a more bittersweet note than MG.

Pay close attention to that first one. It’s critical that you bring authenticity and reality to your YA novels. Even if you’re no longer a teenager and aren’t around a lot of teenagers, you need to find that authenticity through any means necessary!

At the end of the day, feel free to do what you want in your YA writing.

Follow that story you love, that compels you. It’s important to take chances in YA and offer something new and exciting we’ve never seen before.

At the same time, be sure to keep at least most of these rules in the back of your mind, especially as you begin the process of writing your latest novel.

Once you’ve master the essentials of young adult fiction, there’s no telling the kind of incredible stories you’ll be able to create!

Posted in Books, Publishing, Writing

Here are the Essentials of Middle Grade Fiction

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In her 2012 craft book Writing Irresistible Kidlit, Mary Kole says,

Bookstores have an MG area and a YA area. They’re not sharpening their saws to build a special hybrid shelf just for your project. These guidelines will help you make an educated decision [of which market you’re writing for].

It’s important as a writer to learn the difference between middle grade and young adult.

Don’t ever think you can lump them together, as Mary Kole says.

Sure, there’s the rare instance like the Harry Potter series, where the first three books are middle grade and then the rest of the books veer more into YA territory, with Harry aging and the themes growing darker.

But in pretty much all cases, MG and YA are separate things. Yes, they’re both kidlit. Yes, many literary agents will represent authors who write both MG and YA, and many editors will be on the lookout to buy both MG and YA. And many authors write both successfully!

But when it comes to your novel, it should never be a little of both. It should be either MG or YA. Trust me, I’ve learned this the hard way, and I’ve made plenty of mistakes along the way. It honestly wasn’t until I picked up Mary Kole’s book in 2014 that I finally began to understand the major and minor differences between MG and YA.

There are subtle differences between MG and YA which I plan to go into later. For now, let’s look at the way to tell at first glance what exactly is middle grade fiction…

Middle Grade Essentials

Here are some rules you should try at all times to stick to when writing MG books…

  • Your main character or characters should be eleven to thirteen years old. Twelve is typically ideal.

I’ve written three middle grade books to date, and all three feature twelve-year-old protagonists. I just feel like that’s the perfect age for MG. The characters are just entering middle school, always an awkward and scary time in adolescence. Things are changing. Friendships are being tested. It’s a great age to write about.

Thirteen is OK, too. So is eleven. But I wouldn’t go younger than eleven. Similarly, as soon as your main character hits age fourteen, you might find yourself being pushed into YA territory.

  • The length of your middle grade can go as short as 35,000 words, but unless you’re writing fantasy, try not to go over 60,000 words.

My first middle grade novel came in at 90,000 words, and then I queried it a few months later at 80,000 words. I was so clueless I actually thought MG novels were supposed to be just as long as YA, but such is not the case. Most MG novels are much shorter than YA novels, and some have even sold at 35,000 words.

My MG novel currently on submission to editors is 45,000 words. My newest MG I’m currently revising is at 43,000 words, and I’m trying in this latest draft to build it up a bit to 45,000 or 46,000 words. My agent once said that you’re pretty safe as long as you don’t go over 60,000 words. That seems to be the max number of words for most MG novels.

  • The most popular MG genres are magic and high fantasy, adventure, paranormal, mystery, and humor.

At the same time, it’s important you remember to write the kind of MG novel that speaks to you. Don’t just write a high fantasy because you think it’s popular and therefore will sell. If you want to write a quieter literary MG novel, go for it. I’m writing spooky horror MG books, which seem to be getting more popular for kids with each passing year.

But it’s at least important to keep in the back of your mind the kind of genres that usually fare well with agents, editors, and readers.

A few more rules to keep in mind…

  • There are more boy readers of MG than YA, so give your MG books greater room for boy appeal.
  • Think about the cultural and racial diversity of your cast of characters.
  • MG readers are welcoming of animal protagonists.
  • Historical novels have a place in MG, but the historical setting needs to be essential to the story.
  • Don’t set a story in the same decade that you were a child just because that’s what you remember. If you’re going to write an MG book set in a previous decade, you’ll need a better reason.
  • For the most part, modern or future settings work best in MG.

I would pay particularly close attention to those first two. Lots of boys read MG, so don’t think your audience is going to be strictly female. And make sure you think critically about cultural and racial diversity in your fiction writing as well.

At the end of the day, feel free to do what you want in your MG writing… within reason.

Follow that story you love, that compels you. If that story is set in the 1940s in France with dog protagonists, go ahead and write it! It’s important to take chances in MG and offer something new and exciting we’ve never seen before.

At the same time, be sure to keep at least most of these rules in the back of your mind, especially as you begin the process of writing your latest novel.

Once you’ve master the essentials of middle grade fiction, there’s no telling the kind of incredible stories you’ll be able to create!

Posted in Publishing, Writing

Don’t Feel Pressured to Write the Next Blockbuster Novel

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In her 2012 craft book Writing Irresistible Kidlit, author Mary Kole says,

The blockbuster mentality that is rampant in Hollywood and in adult and nonfiction publishing has finally come to the kidlit market. We now know that children’s books can make money, so we expect them to. That is a change that writers must pay attention to.

“So, are you writing the next Harry Potter?”

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I get asked this question often enough to make me want to strangle someone. It’s maddening to tell a person you’ve just met that you’re a young adult novel writer and then get that common response. I truly do hear it all the time.

No, I’m not writing the next Harry Potter. And more importantly, I wouldn’t even know how to write the next Harry Potter.

That first book was a case of lightning in a bottle. Something incredible that came around at just the right time and became a phenomenon unlike any other. It simply can’t be replicated. Even if I go on to write another fifty novels, I’ll never write anything as popular as that series.

You might of course be compelled to write something that reaches even five percent of the popularity of Harry Potter. Something that can reach what’s known as blockbuster mentality.

And don’t be naive to think that people in the publishing industry aren’t looking for the next blockbuster, too.

Until Harry Potter, children’s books were never looked at as blockbusters. Some books sold better than others, but before Harry Potter, children’s books weren’t necessarily the go-to place for film and TV adaptations, it wasn’t the place for massive hits that both kids and adults wanted to read with equal amounts of enthusiasm.

But in the last twenty years or so, kidlit has been looked at as a place for huge blockbusters. Nearly every year there’s at least one break-out success, and people in the publishing industry are always looking for the next one.

Mary Kole is right: for those of us who write books for children and teenagers, we should at least be aware of the blockbuster mentality. And we should be aware that books in children’s literature are expected to make money.

That second part of course goes to books in most markets. That book you spend months or years on and revised with an agent and then sold to an editor is expected to earn everybody some income. You should be writing the book you want to write, but you should also be thinking about your market and your genre expectations.

At the same time though, don’t ever feel pressured to write the next blockbuster novel.

That’s a place no author I believe ever wants to be in. If you write your next book expecting it to be a blockbuster, odds are you’ll be disappointed in the end, and worse, your book will probably lack any heart because what was at the forefront of your mind while writing it was money.

Yes, you should want to earn income from your writing, and you should hope to sell your next novel. But to write a novel strictly for money, in the hopes that it might turn into some kind of blockbuster, is an illogical exercise. There are so many other ways to earn a living, after all. There are so many other things you can do.

Hope for the best with your writing career, always, but when it comes to the actual writing of your next novel, write the story that compels you. Tell a story you want to tell. If it turns into a blockbuster, then great. If it doesn’t? Then that’s fine, too.

Whatever you do, don’t feel that pressure. Just keep loving the process, tell the best stories you can, and eventually amazing things will happen!

Posted in Publishing, Writing

Why You Should Never Query Your Novel as a Series

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In her 2012 craft book Writing Irresistible Kidlit, author Mary Kole says,

I urge all beginning writers to think of stories that stand alone and not to require a series contract right off the bat. Depending on your sales performance, that one satisfying tale might be all you ever get with that house.

I know, I know, you might be compelled to pitch your novel to literary agents as a series.

Why shouldn’t you, after all, since series is truly where the money is when it comes to book publishing.

Unless you’re one of the really, really lucky ones who hit it big, stand alone novels can often struggle in terms of sales. And series, which readers clearly love, are often where authors make the big bucks.

Think back on the biggest publishing phenomenons of the past twenty years. Harry Potter. Twilight. The Hunger Games. Jack Reacher. Alex Cross. Outlander.

All series. All written by authors who have made millions and millions.

People working in the publishing industry are always looking for the next big series, and so it should be in the back of your mind to attempt a series of books sooner or later. I definitely have. I’ve written and self-published two trilogies earlier this decade. And I’ve written at least three books since that I definitely set up for sequels at the end.

My book currently agented and on submission to editors is being pitched as a stand alone, although the ending is written in a way where there definitely could be one, possibly two sequels. I’ve actually outlined two sequels to this middle grade book already and have clear ideas of where the story could go.

If you’re written the first installment of a series, you might be compelled in your query letters to say it’s the start of a trilogy, or the start of a five-book series, of whatever you think it may be.

Ultimately you’ll have more success, however, if you pitch your novel as a stand alone.

And going a step further, I would suggest you write the novel in a way that makes it so that it could continue into a second book but that it could also end in book one. Find a solid middle ground.

Because here’s the deal: pitching a series right off the bat can scare potential agents and/or editors away, and so what you should do instead is write the best book you can and let it stand on its own merits.

Agents might not take a chance on you if they feel that you’re only interested in writing a series and not a stand alone. Furthermore, that agent might take you on, but then an editor might only be interested in purchasing the first installment from you, and not any sequels. You might spend all this time setting things up for part two when your editors wants you to wrap things up at the end of part one!

Mary Kole is right in that you’ll be better off in the long run by capturing the magic of your story as best you can in the first installment, instead of putting yourself in a position where a series contract is required.

At the same time, you want to be ambitious in your novel writing career.

You want to sometimes think about writing a series. Be ambitious, and think big! But you also need to be smart about how you go about this process. You might imagine a seven-book series, but it’s probably best you keep that to yourself, at least for now.

If you put in your query letter that this is the first of seven books, you will struggle finding an agent, I guarantee you that. You might get lucky with one person who believes in you, especially if the writing is strong, but you don’t want to shoot yourself in the foot like this ever.

Now you could write a sentence near the bottom of your query letter like this: [Title] would appeal to readers of [such and such] and could be the first of a series. I don’t think it hurts to vaguely point to the book potentially being the beginning of a series. Any agent might even like that there’s series potential.

It’s when you write a sentence like, [Title] is the first of a seven-book series, all six sequels of which I’ve heavily outlined, and I can send you those outlines if you’d like as well.

Do not do this! You might think you’re standing out from the crowd in a good way, but usually sentences like those stink of amateur writers.

When in doubt, don’t even mention a series, and let the agent fall in love with your book so much that he or she asks you later on, Could this be a series? Only then should you discuss your ideas for future books!

One other thing: do not, under any circumstances, write the sequels before you sell the first book!

If you’re self-publishing, go all out. Write twenty books of your series. Series are huge in the self-publishing world.

But if you’re querying your novel to literary agents, don’t waste your time in the following few weeks or months writing part two and part three.

You might think you’re saving time by writing book two now because you just know your first book’s going to sell later in a two-book deal where a sequel is going to be requested… but the editor or even the agent might not like the direction your second installment goes in, and all that work might have been for nothing.

If you’re aiming for traditional publishing and want your latest project to be a series, the best thing you can do is write a first book that could be a stand-alone but also has enough of an open ending that it could continue as well. And then take the time maybe to outline what books two and three could be. I’ve done that with my book on submission, and you can do that, too.

Just stay ambitious, think big, and be smart when it comes to the world of book publishing. You’ll be glad you did!