Posts Tagged ‘writing’

Show Don’t Tell, Quebec

September 21st, 2016 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments

There are dozens of blogs for writers on the importance of show, don’t tell. It’s the difference between stating your character “is happy,” and saying, “with each step her feet felt like dancing.”

Well, show-don’t-tell is also a handy thing for a writer to keep in mind while on vacation in a foreign place, so that the time away is either spent taking pictures or experiencing the journey without constantly popping online to write about it.

To that end, here are a handful of pictures from a recent excursion to Quebec, to bike (casually and with friends) the P’tit Train du Nord trail. It’s an affordable, relatively easy rail-to-trail, so even if you’re a novice you can do it. Over 3, 4 or 5 days the trip includes gorgeous B&Bs that serve both dinner and breakfast. Just remember the words of one of our favorite B&B owners, Guy, along the trail. “Take your time, it’s a holiday, not a job.”

Click on the below images for an enlarged slideshow…


Ending a literary agent relationship

August 11th, 2016 • by Karen A. Chase • 2 Comments

So, I have a confession. A few weeks ago my literary agent and I broke up. I’ve been quiet about it because it’s been so much to process, but it’s time to share so others can learn from my journey. My blog is often upbeat, so let’s have some fun with this sad story.

In the “we have to discuss our relationship” email, the agent admitted that in showing it to editors at publishing houses, she realized she didn’t have the resources (editor contacts/understanding of my readership) to sell my genre of book. She suggested I might consider finding a new agent.

Admittedly, my first reaction was…


How could this be after all our time editing, and talking about this book? Naturally, I asked myself, “Did I not ask the right questions about her specific contacts? Had I relied on her judgement over my knowledge of my readership?” Regardless, it became clear that we would only amass more rejections together.

I’m not going to lie. For about a week my mornings began like this:


After this stage passed, reality set in. I had to find a new agent. That meant query letters. Submission guidelines. The possibility of more rejections.

My first morning at the laptop felt like this:


But then I read an article about aiming for 100 rejections. Could searching for an agent in a specialized and subjective industry be about odds? If I secured my first agent after only 8 rejections, then out of 100, I’d have options.

So for the last two weeks, this has been me nearly every day:


I’ve been combing PublishersMarketplace, literary agencies and primarily using an online agent-search resource called QueryTracker to sort out who I’ve queried, being careful that they represent my genre.

That’s not to say my book is a fit for everyone. So I’m also like this when I look at my inbox each day:


I’ll keep you posted, but here are the stats so far: 50 queries sent. 7 rejections. 2 partial requests. 2 full manuscript requests.

I will go to the mattresses!


And for all you agents out there with a manuscript wish list (#MSWL) that includes American Revolutionary historical fiction with more battles than bodice-ripping, and a reluctant, yet likable male protagonist like Jamie in Outlander?

I’ve only one word…


Writing and Reading Rhythm

June 30th, 2016 • by Karen A. Chase • No Comments


Emerald Lake, Canada.

As both a writer and reader, I’ve come to appreciate the rhythm behind prose. Understanding why it’s important, and what it does for readers emotionally, is easier when I liken it to a well-composed piece of music. I love this piece, Haunted by Waters, by Mark Isham, written for the movie A River Runs Through It.

While it mimics the feeling of fly fishing, Isham says he was also struck by the poetry of the script’s words. Consequently this song is a reminder of how sentence structure, length, and syntax evoke feeling. Hit play on the link to the song (above) and then read along noting the timing of it…

Sometimes, like up to the :30 point, sentences are best short. Minimal. Simple. Withholding. Anticipatory. Repetitive. But too simple too long? That’s boring. Dulling.

So, like Isham’s next refrains (:30–:52), sentences also need to be a bit more complex, adding in commas, breaths. A few highs, and some lows, propel us along. Repeating this pacing, as he does after :53, adds extra emphasis for a lead-up to something more impactful.

Consequently at 1:17, when the strings come in, his sentences flow with even more complexity, adding in emotionally charged refrains, long or languishing melodies, and then swirling higher right up to 1:40. Then he adds a crescendo of repetition again, and that second-by-second, word-by-word feeling builds even more until he meanders back down to… a pause.

A paragraph break.

Then he brings in staccato at 2:00–a brief repeating–and that begins another little meandering through several seconds, or sentences, that allows us to return to a comfortable refrain we’ve heard before. The rest of his song, takes us through a variety of pacing and structures, again and again, until we have a gorgeous closing that feels not only right, but leaves us, in the end, with the feeling of wanting more.

If you’ve not been reading or writing with such rhythms, I urge you to listen to classical soundtracks like this one. Composers build soundtracks to increase emotional impact, and as E.M. Forster once said, “In music fiction is likely to find it nearest parallel.”

For more on this topic, I also suggest David Jauss’ book On Writing Fiction, and especially Part III on flow.