Wednesday, May 13, 2015

11 Advice to Get You Through the Query Trenches and Beyond by Chris Ledbetter

Chris Ledbetter is a man who's paid his writing dues. A friend of many of us here on the blog, Chris is well known in Twitter writing circles for always providing a helpful link to great topics of interest for writers of all stripes, and supportive RTs to new and old authors alike. Having spent his fair share of time in the query trenches and now the joys (and struggles) of a newly published author, he's learned a lot about what makes a book shine and a writer tough, and he's here to share with us some of the nuggets he's panned along the way. Take it away, Chris.

Advice to Get You Through the Query Trenches and Beyond: A WOW-Wednesday Post by Chris Ledbetter

My writing ego has been bruised and battered on this crazy journey. But calluses have now formed where I’ve punched my way through the wall the way even dripping water on a stone can bore a hole. Persistence is key, yes. But smart persistence is even better. I hope what I offer is a way to work smarter. I raise a glass to all those who came before me and showed me the value of intelligent effort.

1) Read to Succeed:

Read in the genre in which you wish to write. Read to discover the accepted norms and the rule breakers. Read to find out what you like and what you don’t. Read to discover what you can offer that will be distinct from the current voices. The worst thing is thinking you have this uber original story only to find out it’s been run through and no editors will ever buy it again.

But then, also read craft books and articles. I hate to say it, but you could get an MFA’s worth of craft information on Pinterest. You really can’t read enough craft posts.

2) Don't Go it Alone:

Join supportive organizations like SCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) or an appropriate group to your genre. And go to conferences. I’m constantly learning about worldbuilding, dialogue, structure, etc. ((And put yourself out there. My very first conference, I signed up to read my first five pages aloud... to complete strangers. And while you're at it, enter contests and workshops like the First Five Pages workshop run by this blog. I'm a proud graduate of this workshop. I also am a proud graduate of the Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program. These have been invaluable to me.))

Find a good group of critique partners who don’t hold punches. It may hurt to get your work torn apart by your critiquers, but as long as it’s leveled constructively, you’ll learn and grow… and be closer to the brass ring.

3) Flex Some Bility with Your Writing Schedule:

My time is so disjointed that I typically find whatever time I can to get my butt-in-chair. When I first began writing, I wrote everything longhand and transcribed it later. I love the flow of longhand. There’s a certain freedom to it. The blood seeps from my soul a little easier.

Now, more often than not, my best drafting time is 4am in the morning. That’s the only time that my house is completely quiet. And now, I draft straight to computer to save time. I’ve been reading articles about drafting faster, so I’m going to try some new techniques with my next story. I’ll save my report about their effectiveness for a later date.

The most important aspect of writing and revising is filling that page. It doesn't matter how fugly your first draft is... or even your second. Give yourself permission to suck. Because you can't edit or revise an empty page.

4) Getting Hit in the Feels & Facing Your Fears:

My fears are the same as any other writer… any artist… my greatest fear is that no one will like my work. Or worst, they’ll hate it. The amount of time that we spend on our projects is enormous. Our stories are aptly compared to children.

If your child comes home from school and says he or she has been bullied, you get hit in the feels. You feel all the pain in an amplified state. It’s no different with our literary babies. But at the end of the day, you have to write the book that you would read and hope that your own enthusiasm catches fire.

5) When You're Ready to Give Up, Write Another Story

There have been a few times when I really and truly felt like hanging up my pencil. None of my stories were being accepted by agents or publishers. I had told the best stories I knew how to tell. And what’s worse, I knew that it wasn’t necessarily that my writing was bad. The stories I’d written just weren’t saleable at the time I’d written them. So I changed my focus, wrote something new, and still got rejected.

I told myself that I had one story left in me to try to woo the traditional publishing market. And once I’d finished the story, even it kept meeting wall after wall. Until, lo and behold, a small publisher decided to give me a shot. And the story Evernight Teen accepted was DRAWN. And then unrelated to that, I also signed with my agent Ella Kennen shortly thereafter regarding a totally different story.

So keep plugging away. Keep punching the wall. Bandage yourself up and pour yourself a drink if you must, but keep fighting.

6) Approach Reviews with an Analytical Mind:

I probably shouldn’t read reviews, but I do. I may yet get to a point when I don’t read them. Good or bad, though, I like the more descriptive ones that really get into the meat of what they liked and/ or didn’t like. This might sound crazy, but I learn a great deal from detailed reviews. Even from reviews that I read for other authors’ books.

From my own personal experience in disliking certain books despite their being wildly popular, I know that my stories won’t reach everyone. And that’s all right, too. My hope is that if someone dislikes my stories, that they engage a scholarly, constructive tone in their review versus a vitriolic diatribe. The latter is unhelpful.

About the Book:

Caught between the sweltering fall landscape of Wilmington, NC beaches and southern illusions and expectations, all sixteen year-old Cameron Shade thinks about is art. That, and for Farrah Spangled to view him as more than just a friend. Cameron longs to win her heart through art.

After several warm interactions with Farrah, including painting together at the beach, Cameron discovers just how complex Farrah’s life is with her boyfriend and her family. Following a tense run-in with Farrah’s father, she forbids Cameron to ever speak to her again, but Cameron’s convinced there’s more behind the request.

To impress Farrah with a last-ditch effort, Cameron sketches her portrait. But the sketchbook he uses hides a dark secret. Farrah’s now in grave danger because the sketch he drew of her siphons her real-life’s soul into the sketchbook. Cameron now has twenty days to extract Farrah. To save her, he must draw himself into the book.

If he fails… they both die.

Amazon | Goodreads

About the Author:

Chris Ledbetter grew up in Durham, NC before moving to Charlottesville, VA in 11th grade. After high school, he attended Hampton University where he promptly "walked-on" to the best drum line in the CIAA. And, without any prior percussion experience. He carried the bass drum for four years, something his back is not very happy about now.

After a change of heart and major, he enrolled in Old Dominion University and earned his degree in Business Administration. He's worked in various managerial and marketing capacities throughout his life. While teaching high school for six years in Culpeper, Virginia, he taught business management, business law, marketing, and sports marketing. He also coached football.

As a self-described, young reluctant reader, he writes young adult stories specifically to reach other reluctant readers. As a participant in the prestigious Nevada SCBWI Mentor Program, he was blessed to be mentored by Suzanne Morgan Williams, 2012 SCBWI member of the year.

He now lives in Wilmington, NC with his family, including three cats.

Website | Twitter | Goodreads

-- posted by Susan Sipal, @HP4Writers


  1. Thank you so much for hosting me. I hope your readers find this helpful. :-)

  2. Just sent this to a friend who is just starting her writing journey. Thanks for all the info.

    1. Omigosh, Carol! Thank you! I am so flattered. I hope she finds it useful. :)

  3. Oh… I just saw your bio and book. My step-daughter lives in Wilmington. I'll have to read this book just because I love that city--AND your story sounds intriguing too!

  4. There are so many wonderful tidbits to glean from this. Thanks so much for sharing, Chris :-)

  5. Chris!!! You've given such practical advice here. HUGE congratulations to you. Your perseverance and positive attitude paid off :)

  6. Great article. I didn't even know Pinterest had writing craft stuff...I thought it was all photos...?! So fun to read more about your journey, Chris, and your book! CONGRATS and I'm glad you kept trying and didn't give up You are brave to read reviews, too. :)

    1. Thank you Carol!!
      Check out this Pinterest board of mine:
      And that is only one of about 3-4 writing craft boards I have.


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