Friday, April 10, 2015

5 Easy Steps to getting a Literary Agent!

You have finished your novel, and your first queries to literary agents have met with little success. What now? You CAN get a literary agent, you just have to take the essential steps first. What are they? I am reposting a blog I wrote for the QueryTrackerBlog to help you on your quest to being agented and traditionally published. If you haven't signed up for QueryTracker yet, keep in mind that I wouldn't have signed with an agent without it.

The 5 Essential Steps to Getting a Literary Agent


It was seven years ago, but I can remember it like it was today. I woke up on the day before Thanksgiving, booted up my computer, and saw the e-mail in my inbox. "I have reviewed your query letter and the first five pages of your manuscript and I would like to read more; can you please e-mail me the first 50 pages along with your author bio and and a list of comparable titles."

Now, by virtue of the fact that you are reading this blog on QueryTracker, I suspect you all have received similar e-mails and realize that this was no big deal. But it was a big deal to me at the time, and it is still something I remember fondly. I had sent this--my very first--query to Writers House (I am sure you all know what Writers House is) and gotten a request for a partial. Things fell apart from there, of course--the I regret to inform you e-mail followed shortly--but it was the first step of the 5 Essential Steps to Getting a Literary Agent.


Step 1)  Getting Your First Rejection.

Why, you ask, is this the first step? Well, consider the number of talented writers I know who have never received a rejection. The obvious reason is that none of them have ever sent a query letter in the first place. And why haven't they? The list is long--too much work, such a small chance of success, and not wanting to be slapped in the face top the list--but the reason doesn't really matter. If you are going to be a successful, agented and traditionally published author, you have got to put yourself out there--again and again--and in so doing you will be rewarded with rejections, apathy, criticism, (Sounds great, huh?) and the occasional positive response. Cherish the positive responses. Enjoying the small successes is the best way to keep on going.





Step 2)  Getting Your First Partial Request.

A request for a partial is not a guarantee you are going to be the next James Patterson or Daniel Silva, but it isn't a bad thing either: Someone (likely an intern or an agent's assistant) Somewhere (likely in NYC or San Francisco) thinks you can write. It is a validation of what you have known deep down all along. It is not a good thing: It is a great thing. But let's take a step back for a second, and do some math. Yes, yes, I know, they said there would be no math, but it is simple stuff and it makes my point. You sent out 10 queries and received 5 requests: What can you glean from this? You did a good job writing your query letter. On the other hand, if you sent out 20 queries and received just the 1 request, your query letter isn't any good. Revise it. (Here is the link to the QueryTracker Forum, where you can get great advice on how to improve your query.)



Step 3) Getting Your First Submission Request

After reviewing your partial, 10 agents have requested your full manuscript (this is what is called a submission request) but you get nothing but form rejections, lack of enthusiasm and, in many cases, nothing, in response. The fault here lies in your manuscript. I am not saying that your manuscript isn't any good, I am saying that it isn't good enough... yet. Getting an agent is a hard thing to do: Take a look at the acceptance rates on QueryTracker (and don't even consider the querying process without having QueryTracker on your Favorites list.) Many agents sign only one or two writers a year, some less than that. And many of the writers they sign come from referrals, not the slush pile. I am not saying you can't do it: my agent found me in the slush pile, and if I can do it, so can you. But you have to learn from the failures along the way. Kabitzing about how unfair the process is--or how arbitrary, or how frustrating--gets you nowhere. Asking yourself how you can improve is the correct approach. Go back to the comments you may have received; what are the agents telling you? Where is the weakness in your manuscript? Are your characters well-developed? Is your dialogue genuine? Is your prose tight? This is where you become a better writer: Don't waste the opportunity. Stop querying agents until you have fixed the problems with your manuscript; there are only so many agents who represent your genre. Stop querying. Start revising. Then query again. I say this from experience--this is the exact approach that worked for me in the end.



Step 4)  Getting Your First Revision Request

You may see this referred to as a Revise and Resubmit, but be careful: agents are very savvy about how they manage a writers expectations. You may need to read between the lines of their comments to realize you have received a revision request. What do I mean? Take my case. I worked very hard on revising my manuscript after it was rejected two dozen or so times at the submission level. I was fortunate to receive a lot of comments with the rejections, both good and bad, but let me tell you something: It is the bad comments you should be paying attention to. It is something you can work on. One agent told me: You write well, and I like the premise, but the main character isn't strong enough. That, my friends, was a revision request by my way of looking at it. So, that's what I did: I spent several months making the characters stronger and I sent it back to her with a carefully worded letter explaining that I had addressed the weaknesses of the manuscript and would she be interested in taking another look? (The key here is to be professional and polite.) In fact, I sent my revised manuscript to all the agents who had taken the time to make some comments (don't bother with the ones who sent form rejects or who didn't respond at all--they have no interest) and to the one agent who had specifically asked for a revise and resubmit. The agents who made comments were interested enough to spend some of their valuable time to help you: You owe it to them and to yourself to give them another shot. But only after you have worked hard to address the shortcomings in the manuscript.





Step 5)  Getting Your First Offer of Representation

Interestingly enough, the one agent who had specifically requested the R/R never even responded to my letter. Even when the offers started coming in and I let her know that I had several offers of representation, she simply said she was 'no longer interested.' (I wrote her back to thank her for help, by the way.) Her lack of interest didn't phase me, however, because I had received an offer. What to do in this case, when I still had another ten or so submissions out there? You want to let the agents know you have received an offer. They will either bow out (and save themselves some time) or expedite the reading of your manuscript in case they want to make an offer. I ended up with six offers in the next few weeks. (But just so we are clear, these six offers represented five years of querying, ten years of writing two different manuscripts, two writers conferences, and several laps of the earth trying to hike away my angst.) It can be done: You can get an agent through the querying process but it can only be done with a lot of hard work. Their are no shortcuts, no head starts, no tricks or gimmicks.

Just five steps.


Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

If You Can't Beat Them...

As many of you will know, it's the 21st Century, the era of digitilization, a tough time for us old school hold-outs who still love books. Or is it? Now that I have finally decided that the internet is here to stay, I am going to utilize it to promote books and literature. (If only I had thought of this earlier!) Yes, that's right, I am going to harness the tremendous power of YouTube to bring books back into the limelight. Introducing The Book Vlog, on YouTube: where I spend less than 5 minutes every week vlogging about books you should be reading. Cuz if you can't beat them, join them.

Before we begin, keep in mind that the person you are about to see is not a professional actor, it's me. Also, the video is filmed with my Iphone, held in a toaster, which was how I managed to get the best angle (huge points for cinematography.) Having said that, It's about content, right? Good books=good content, or at least am I hoping. Ok, without further ado; The Book Vlog, Episode #1


Ok, so James Earls Jones still has job security... but I made my point, and it was good fun. Just in case I piqued anyone's interest, here are the links to the websites of the five authors we discussed:
Steve Berry's website
Preston & Child
Daniel Silva's website
Jim Satterfield's website
Olen Steinhauer's website
Peter Hogenkamp's website

Cheers.
:)
Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


 
   





Saturday, March 21, 2015

The Debut Novel Review: I Am Pilgrim, on the Saturday Morning #MINI post


Another first for the #MINI: The Debut Novel Review. I mean, who needs reviews more than a debut novelist? (And I hope to be a debut novelist soon, so hopefully what comes around will go around.) First up:  I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes.

A quick aside before I get into it: I have a theory (which is mine): The best book John Grisham wrote was A Time To Kill. It was also the very first book he wrote--by flashlight at his desk so no one else in his law firm would know he was already at his desk. You have to be passionate to get up at 4:30 in the morning, trundle off to work, and write your manuscript by flashlight, and that kind of passion translates into a very good book. A Time To Kill is a very good book--Grisham's best--but it wasn't good enough to get published. Many people don't know that it was only after The Firm was published to critical acclaim--and excellent sales--that Grisham's publisher took a chance on A Time To Kill.



An author's debut novel has to be very, very good. Why? Because otherwise it wouldn't get published. Name recognition is huge is world of books. As evidence to support this statement, please consider that the names of Robert Ludlum and Tom Clancy are still being stamped on the cover of newly written books--despite the fact that both are passed away. (Ludlum has been dead for over a decade, yet he still draws readers.) This is why I am starting the Debut Novel Review--to even the playing field a little for my fellow debut novelists.

Ok, enough digression--a fearful habit of my blogging self. On to I Am Pilgrim. (Warning: No Spoilers in this review.)

 Debut Novelist Terry Hayes

Everybody looks for something different in a book. I like good writing. My wife enjoys a good premise. Daughter #1 likes fast-paced action. Son #1 is drawn to a twisting plot. Son #2 loves great dialogue (and he can be heard--often--reciting lines from his favorite books again and again.) Daughter #2 is a fan of memorable characters. (And yes, I have a lot of children.)

Great books--and debut novels--have all of these. I Am Pilgrim is no exception. I was drawn in to the writing from the first sentence:

'There are places I'll remember all my life--Red Square with a hot wind howling across it, my mother's bedroom on the wrong side of Eight Mile, the endless gardens of a fancy foster home, a man waiting to kill me in a group of ruins known as the Theater of Death.'

That's good writing. But I Am Pilgrim doesn't stop there: there are memorable characters (the main character, Pilgrim, and the well-conceived bad guy, Saracen) for daughter #2; an excellent premise--only one man can stop a pyschopathic jihadist on a mission to destroy America--for my wife; great pacing and lots of action for daughter #1; crisp dialogue for son #2; and a superb, serpentine plot for son #1.

Yes, I Am Pilgrim is the ideal book for my family--it's also the ideal book for you. Click on the link to I Am Pilgrim and give it a try--and support a debut novelist!

That's a wrap, folks. Thanks again for your time and attention, and stay tuned to PeterHogenkampWrites for news about my own debut novel, Absolution

What are your favorite debut novels? Please let me know by responding in the comments. I'll end by posting several selected reviews of I Am Pilgrim:

The Guardian review of I Am Pilgrim
NYTimes Book Review of I Am Pilgrim
Kirkus Reviews; I Am Pilgrim

cheers, :)


Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


 
   


Thursday, March 12, 2015

3 Authors You Should Be Reading, on the Thursday Afternoon #MINI post


You're at the airport, staring at the bookshelf prior to catching a twelve-hour plane ride to Bali, desperately seeking a fresh voice in #thrillers. Let's not take anything away from Lee Child or James Patterson or Steve Berry or James Rollins or Gillian Flynn or Michael Connelly or David Baldacci (great authors all) but you have read their excellent books already and Daniel Silva writes only one--phenomenal--book a year, so what does one do? One consults the infinite wisdom of the #MINI, that's what. This is what the #MINI says: There are many other great thriller authors out there--too many to name on the #MINI--but here are three that you should not ignore:

1) Joseph Kanon:  Everyone has a bias, and I believe in stating your bias from the get-go. I have a soft spot for superbly written thrillers with a literary feel, in which the setting becomes another character in the book. That summary screams Joseph Kanon, the author of seven novels including Istanbul Passage, The Good German and Leaving Berlin. There are so many things I like about Kanon's writing--the rules of the #MINI are clear, short and sweet--but I will mention just two. If you like to escape when you read a book, try Kanon: when I read Istanbul Passage I was in Istanbul (no, not literally), post-war Istanbul, that is. His writing can take you not only to places but periods of history, not an easy trick. But it's Kanon's prose I like best, straightforward and at the same time convoluted, deep and yet superficial, simple but sometimes as complex as the plots Kanon weaves with deft touch. My fellow Daniel Silva fans, give Kanon a try. Here are some selected reviews:

LA Times Review of Istanbul Passage
The Telegraph review of Leaving Berlin 
The New York Times Review Of The Good German
Joseph Kanon's Website



2) Olen Steinhauer: Espionage is a complex, multifaceted world, and nobody paints this world better than Steinhauer. So subtle are his brushstrokes that the reader is often confused about who the good guy is. (Who is the good guy, anyway?) And yet Milo Weaver, the protagonist from Steinhauer's Department of Tourism trilogy, is sympathetic despite the ambiguity, the shifting loyalties, and the violence. If you are wondering what the life of a modern day spy is like, pick up a Steinhauer novel (start with The Tourist.) My fellow Le Carre fans, give Steinhauer a try. Here are some selected reviews:

 The Washington Post review of The American Spy
Cleaveland Plain Dealer review of The American Spy
Olen Steinhauer's Website



3) Robert Wilson:  Robert Wilson could write a book about watching grass grow, and I would enjoy reading it. That isn't to say that his plots aren't interesting, because they are--layered, serpentine and unpredictable--but it is to say he puts words together in such a way that makes for good reading. And he stitches characters together as well as the best writers of literary fiction, characters that live and breath and think like we do. I love Wilson's cerebral style, his elegant prose. Wilson's A Small Death in Lisbon is on the short list of my all time favorite books, but all of his books are good, and I would recommend any of them.  My fellow Ken Follet fans, give Wilson a try. Here are some selected reviews:

The Guardian review of The Ignorance of Blood
Publisher's Weekly review of A Small Death in Lisbon
Robert Wilson's Website

Ok, that's a wrap. Thanks again for tuning in, and do NOT forget to check out The Intern, the serialized novella I am writing on #wattpad. (The Intern is approaching its conclusion, and continues to close in on the top 10 of the General Fiction genre on #wattapd.)  For those of you wondering about first book of The Jesuit thriller series (my mother and her Canasta group,) my agent is in the process of submitting to publishers as we speak, so I hope to have some news within a few weeks (or months.) I appreciate your support.



Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.






Saturday, March 7, 2015

Movie Review: The Theory of Everything, on The Saturday Evening Blog Post



There is a reason Eddie Redmayne won the Oscar for best actor in a leading role: If you are a fan of outstanding acting, pick up the clicker now (yes, before you read the rest of the review) and watch The Theory of Everything: Eddie Redmayne's Stephen Hawking is just that good. Again and again I found myself thinking I was watching actual footage of Hawking, as opposed to an actor's portrayal. Felicity Jones shines as well, as Jane Wilde Hawking, the renowned astrophysicist's first wife.


The cinematography is excellent, a collage of lenses, angles, and colors that brings the viewer back to Cambridge in the sixties, when Hawking was still a young man. The camera tells us that there is something wrong with him--but there is enough ambiguity in the telling so that we don't know what. And I loved the score, which perfectly compliments the moving pictures without becoming the focus of the viewer's attention.

Ok, so 5 stars for both the dramatic and cinematic aspects of the film. Now on to the literary aspects...


Here's where the problems start. Let's begin with genre. The Theory of Everything doesn't have one. Watching it, I would say that it has elements of a romance, a drama, and a coming of age story, but it doesn't meet all the requirements of any of the three. Before I watched it, I was thinking it was going to be a biopic of Stephen Hawking's life, but there is little in the way of information about his life that the average viewer doesn't already know. The focus of the movie is the relationship between Hawking and his first wife, Jane, which should make it a romance, and it starts out well enough in this regard. But when problems between Stephen and Jane lead to a dissolution in their marriage, there is not enough development of the issues between them--almost as if the screenwriter wanted to gloss them over. One minute they are the ideal loving couple, the next they are Splittsville?

It took some research to figure out why this had occurred. The movie was based on a memoir written by Jane Hawking, Travelling to Infinity: My Life with Stephen, which Jane wrote originally in 1999 after Hawking divorced her to marry his nurse. In 2008, she revised the book heavily after Stephen divorced his second wife and reformed a relationship with her. I felt as though the screenwriter was trying to let us know that they had divorced without dragging either party through the mud. But divorces don't occur in the absence of screams, fights and tears, no matter what the screenwriter would have us believe. In trying not to tarnish either the individuals or their relationship, the writer tarnished both, making the people seem unrealistic and the relationship surreal. Conflict drives stories, and who has ever heard of a divorce without conflict?



Now on to the abrupt ending. Ok, so I am a writer and I can make my books any length I want, right? So I shouldn't complain about a movie, where the length is controlled? Actually, almost all writers have the same issues about length (other than JK Rowling and Dan Brown obviously) that screenwriters do. And a movie about the relationship between Stephen and Jane should show us why they reunited, not just tell us that they did by putting in a lovely scene with the two of them at Buckingham Palace.

But, as Meatloaf said, Two out of Three Ain't bad....



So, four stars for The Theory of Everything, based on the outstanding acting, excellent cinematography and fantastic musical score. Enjoy.

Ok, thanks again for your viewership and support. Please let me know what you thought of the movie--I am always interested in other people's opinions. In other news, The Intern is nearing its conclusion on #wattpad to excellent reviews and a top 10 spot in General Fiction. Give it a look.

Cheers, :)


Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.








Sunday, March 1, 2015

#MINI Book Review: Lincoln's Bodyguard by TJ Turner




Lincoln’s Bodyguard (Oceanview, April 2015) is historical fiction at its best: authentic, thrilling and just plain good fun. Author TJ Turner starts out with the interesting premise that Lincoln's bodyguard Joseph Foster stops John Wilkes Booth before he can kill Lincoln in Ford’s theater, and moves on from there: to a post-Civil War America that remains as divided as it was prior to the war; to a presidential administration torn by competing influences and petty jealousies (sound familiar?); to a postbellum South ripped apart by an occupying Federal Army at war with a stubborn Confederate insurgency.




Historical fiction is either made or broken by the research that went into the writing, and Turner did not disappoint: Lincoln’s Bodyguard is steeped in history—but reads like a thriller, taut and fast-paced. It is obvious that Mr. Turner knows his history, but he also knows his writing; the prose is fluid (and not overdone), the dialogue is genuine and appropriate for the setting, the characters are well-developed, and the pacing is fast, but not rushed.



Stories drive books, however, and Lincoln’s Bodyguard features a good one, a tale about a man on a journey to save his country and himself, a journey filled with pitfalls, romantic interludes and lurking enemies. Turner displays a veteran’s skill in his debut novel, which bodes well for fans of the genre: I look forward to his next offering. I will end by posting the link to the Amazon page: Lincoln's Bodyguard by Tj Turner. Give it a try.





Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.


 
   














Tuesday, February 24, 2015

The 5 Lessons I Learned from writing Serial Fiction: What You can pick up from #GameOfThrones #GOT


Like so many of my ideas with which I later struggled, writing a serialized novella on Wattpad seemed like a good idea at the time. What's the big deal? Write. Edit. Publish. Repeat. From the standpoint of a writer trying to remain patient as his first novel slowly makes its way to the bookshelves (getting there!) the immediacy of it was the most appealing aspect. Write. Edit. Publish. Repeat. Nothing to it, right? Not so fast. Writing serial fiction challenges you in ways you may never have expected, and, in doing so, teaches you to become a better writer. Here are the five (hard) lessons I learned:

Lesson 1) Let me ask you something: What keeps you waiting for the next episode of your favorite series? I am willing to bet it is the characters. #GOT comes out in April (and I can't wait to be reaquainted with Lord Tyrion and Daenerys Stormborn (I would have said Ned and Rob Stark but... well, you know) even though I, having read the books, know what happens. My motivation is to spend more time with the characters that have pulled me in. When you are watching/reading something over a prolonged period of time, it is your love of the characters that keeps you going. Hard-earned lesson 1? The most important aspect of any work of fiction is the characters. You can have great prose, a thrilling plot, fast pacing, and crisp dialogue, but if your characters aren't well-developed, complex, rich and interesting, you haven't accomplished anything.

Lesson 2) There are two types of writers, plotters and pantsers. The plotter plans out the entire book before it is written, outlining each chapter before striking down word one of prose. The panster begins with a general premise, and then just writes by the seat of her pants, often ending up in a place where she never expected. I am a pantser. I start with the basic plot and the main character, and go from there. When I began The Intern, all I had in mind was a faceless young woman struggling to retain her ideals amidst the chaos of her internship. The first chapter basically wrote itself (always a good sign), the second chapter went well, and then the problems began.

In my mind, a good book, as it reads out, picks up on the small details mentioned in the first few chapters and develops them. I love to mention something in passing in the first chapter and then expound upon it later, and when you are not writing serial fiction, you can go back and add these details as you edit, with the luxury of knowing what details need to be sewn in--but you can't do that when you publish each chapter as you write it. So, my second--hard--lesson learned from writing serial fiction: A small amount of structure and organization goes a long way. Create a basic outline of your next work of fiction, and leave lots of space where you can pencil in ideas as you think of them. You are going to find that every minute you spend so doing will eliminate 5 minutes of editing time later on.


Lesson 3)  Have you ever watched an episode of a series on TV (my favorites are Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad, Homeland) and been disappointed? One of the reasons the three series I listed are such hits is their consistency. Serialized programs live or die by consistency. When there is an entire week (or more) going by before the next episode airs, you had better fire up the viewer to suffer the wait by creating a good episode. That's why the season finale is always such a doozie--the writer knows it's another 6 to 9 months before the next episode. A mediocre episode loses viewers. Period. A good episode keeps viewers. Period.

Serial fiction presents the same dilemma. In a book, a reader can just keep reading past a mediocre chapter, and the mediocre part is soon forgotten. Not so with serial fiction, especially when there was often several weeks or more in between chapters being posted. And I could see it as I reviewed the numbers of reads (one of the informative aspects of writing on Wattpad). Good chapter, reads remain consistent: mediocre chapter, reads go down. My third--hard--lesson: Every chapter has to be well-written; every chapter has to stand alone. This applies to writing anything, really: if a word or sentence or paragraph or page or chapter can't stand on it's own two feet, get rid of it.



Lesson 4) One of the unique aspects of serialization is that many viewers or readers will jump in the middle of the series. I started watching #GOT in the middle of Season 3--and other than driving my teenage son crazy with questions--I managed just fine. People hear about something, they tell other people, and those other people check out an episode or chapter or two--often times in the middle of something. The writer has to account for this, has to make sure that the reader/viewer can follow along and get drawn in without getting confused and frustrated and tossing in the towel. It's a good skill for a writer to acquire (I haven't mastered it yet, but I'm getting better) and it will pay dividends later on.

The trick is that you have to do it without using a lot of backstory or info dumping. And that's a great thing to practice because backstory and info dumping are manuscript killers. This is especially true in serialization because the people who have already read the previous chapters don't want to go over the same stuff again, they want the story to move forward. The fourth lesson: Always write forward. Too much backstory kills. This is sometimes difficult, I know, because we are taught to start in the middle of a story, and it so tempting--so easy--to plunk down the backstory. But don't do it--agents and editors sniff out this kind of thing like sharks sniff chum. Weave tiny threads of the backstory in--only when absolutely needed--and remember, readers are smart, they can figure a lot of stuff out as well.

Lesson 5) One of the best--and worst--aspects of #GOT is the risks that the author takes. What do I mean? I loved Ned Stark, couldn't wait for Sunday night to see him again, and then he loses his head. That's a risk--when you kill off a character that popular, it's risky. Same thing again with Rob Stark, and so on... BUT there is a lot gained as well. What could be worth that price you ask? Star Trek may have been a great show, but did you ever think that Captain Kirk was going to be vaporized? No, you didn't. Let me ask you: Do you feel the same way about any character in #GOT? (You haven't been paying enough attention if you said yes.) That's my point. George RR Martin got my attention, and he's keeping it. Lesson 5: Take risks. Be innovative. Surprise people. Otherwise you are going to lose them. The same applies to writing a book; a reader can shelf you at any time. Make it so they wouldn't dare.


Ok, thanks for your attention. If you would like to see how if I listened to my own advice, here is the link to The Intern on Wattpad. Wattpad is free and easy to join, and there are over 80 million stories to choose from. March should be an exciting month for me, as my literary agent, the wonderful and talented Liz Kracht of Kimberley Cameron & Associates, is shopping my debut novel, ABSOLUTION. I will certainly keep you all informed when I have a publisher and a publishing date. Thanks again for your support.



Peter Hogenkamp is a physician and author living in Rutland, Vermont. Peter's writing credits include ABSOLUTION, the first book of The Jesuit thriller series; THE LAZARUS MANUSCRIPT, a stand-alone medical thriller; and The Intern, a serialized novel based loosely on Peter's internship, published bi-weekly on #Wattpad. Peter can be found on his Author Website as well as his personal blog, PeterHogenkampWrites, where he writes about most anything. Peter is the founder and editor of Prose&Cons; a frequent contributor and reviewer at ReadWave; the founder and moderator of groups on Facebook (The Library), Google+ (Fiction Writers Anonymous); and a Beta-reader at StoryShelter. Peter tweets--against the wishes of his wife and four children--at @phogenkampvt and @theprosecons. He can be reached at peter@peterhogenkamp.com or through his literary agent (Liz Kracht of Kimberely Cameron & Associates) at liz@kimberleycameron.com.