Intern Tips - General

  1. Do not write a synopsis that is a blow-by-blow account of each chapter. 2-5 pages is the norm; anything over that is a bit iffy.
  2. Label anything you send to an agency. Page numbers go in one corner (usually upper right), and your name and the title of your manuscript go in the other (the upper left). Don't forget to label your synopsis as well.
  3. Make sure you know what your genre is and don't overdo it. You don't need to have vampires, werewolves, zombies, mythical gods, witches, warlocks, unicorns, and aliens in one story just for it to be considered paranormal.
  4. Keep pop culture references to a minimum.
  5. Do not forget to send an SASE (Self Addressed Stamped Envelope) with paper queries.
  6. Double-space your material. It might save you paper, but it'll make a reader go blind.
  7. Stick to traditional fonts. Size 12, Times New Roman is pretty standard.
  8. Be careful of repetition. Show your readers your vocabulary isn't limited to basic adjectives.
  9. But please don't make your entire manuscript a ride through the thesaurus. 
  10. Not every line needs a dialogue tag.
  11. DO include a copy of your query when sending partials. Either that, or provide a cover letter of some sort, reminding the agent what your story is about and its length.
  12. It's not always necessary to send a copy of your query letter with full submissions. I asked Naomi about this and she told me that, because the number of fulls agents request is so much smaller than partials, it isn't really necessary. "If they've asked for the full, chances are they'll remember who you are."
  13. A partial that is free of typos is impressive.
  14. Know the difference between to, too, and two. Also, their, they're, and there.
  15. Your synopsis shouldn't be longer than your first chapter. Neither should your prologue.
  16. If the information in your prologue is repeated in the first chapter, you don't need the prologue.
  17. Be a good intern. You get cupcakes. (This is the best advice I'll ever give, so take note.)
  18. It's probably a bad sign if your supporting characters are more interesting than your main one.
  19. If you're writing a mystery, your killer has to have motivation. Unlike killers in real life, who sometimes murder people just for the sake of murdering people, fiction needs motivation.
  20. If you're going to put quotes at the beginning of every chapter, make sure they're relevant.
  21. SHOW don't TELL.
  22. If an agent requests a partial, send a decent amount of pages. If your first three chapters are only 20 pages, it's best to send 50.
  23. Your average human being does not have fuscia, purple, yellow, or red eyes.
  24. Black clothes, tattoos, and an earring do not a bad boy make.
  25. You probably don't need a prologue.
  26. For those embarking on collaborative projects, make sure your voices blend seamlessly.
  27. Be open to feedback. If an agent gives you suggestions on how you could improve your story, and offers to look at the manuscript again if you make them, it's definitely worth considering.
  28. 30,000 words is not a novel. 200,000 is a beast. 60-80,000 words is generally a safe number to strive for.
  29. Characterization is SO important. Even if your plot is The Greatest Thing I've Ever Seen, it won't go anywhere without characters who aren't well-rounded and believable.
  30. It's easy to tell when you've basically rewritten a movie.
  31. Proofread.
  32. If you're going to write about an actual town/city/school/place, do your research. If your facts aren't accurate, someone's going to notice.
  33. Unusual names are fun. Indecipherable ones are not.
  34. If your female character has a male name, make sure you let readers know, RIGHT AWAY, what her gender is. Same goes for men with feminine names.
  35. Never send out your first draft.
  36. If you're going to use foreign words in your manuscript, be sure to include context clues.
  37. Keep the text speak to a minimum, and make sure readers can understand it.
  38. Watch out for shifts in tense. You don't want to start off a sentence in the present tense, only to have it end in past.
  39. Multiple punctuation marks are not necessary.
  40. If one of your characters has an accent that's actually written into the story, make sure you're consistent.
  41. 'Anyways' is not a word.
  42. Always give the ending in your synopsis.
  43. Setting: you need to have one.
  44. Don't spell real people's names wrong.
  45. A synopsis should always be written in present tense.
  46. Your story needs to have chapters.
  47. Always have someone read over your synopsis. If it doesn't make sense to them, it won't make sense to an agent trying to wade through it.