Author: Chris Michaels (Page 1 of 15)

What to Ask After An Offer of Representation (by an Agent)

Here’s a great problem to have! You’ve poured your soul into your manuscript and you’ve stayed up nights working on the perfect query package. Now, an agent has bit and offers you representation. What do you do now? Here’s some of the industry-standard advice you MUST consider.

Glorious Heaven, light is shining around you and music is playing in the air and angels are dancing and it’s the most beautiful moment because AN AGENT WANTS YOU.

But now what? Do you just say yes and hope they’re the best fit for you? Maybe you better ask them some questions first. While I’m sure you’ve done your homework about agents and submitted to ones you already would feel relatively comfortable with, there’s only so much research you can do without actually talking to the agent him/herself. It’s also good to know if you two will be a good fit for each other.

All right. You’ve got them on the phone, they’re interested, so what do you ask?

Here are suggestions: (Pro tip: Don’t ask all of these. Find the ones you like or the ones you need and ask those. You don’t want to overwhelm them or yourself.)

About your project

  1. What does the agent like best about your project?
  2. Does the agent feel that the project is ready for submission to publishers, or will she require revisions before submission? Are they small tweaks, or does she want a major plot or character development change?
  3. Which publishing houses does the agent believe would be a good fit for your book?
  4. How many editors does she plan to pitch in the first round of submissions?
  5. Will the agent consult with you on all offers from publishers? Does the agent make any decisions on your behalf?
  6. Does the agent forward rejection letters to you?

Read the rest (there’s a lot more)…

Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at

Learnings from Comicpalooza

My wife and I went to Comicpalooza 2017 in Houston, Texas and it was a blast. She went to most of the writers panels and we both talked to many authors and artists. Here are some of the things she learned.

Comicpalooza is one of my favorite events all year long. A convention in the style of Comic-Con, Comicpalooza has something for everyone. Like Avengers? Star Wars? Steampunk? It’s got it all. Booths fill all of the George R. Brown Convention Center’s first floor with everything from photo opportunities (“Oh, a picture with Darth Vader? Don’t mind if I do.”) to t-shirt vendors. I definitely walked away with one custom-made t-shirt and the website for another t-shirt I wanted (Princess Leia telling a campfire story about Darth Vader to the other Disney princesses. You can find the shirt here.).

They also have artists and authors selling and promoting their work. And famous people! Several celebrities had signing booths, and, though I didn’t get their autograph (extra $$$), I did see Marina Sirtis (Star Trek: Next Generation’s Deanna Troi) and Summer Glau (Firefly’s River Tam). Stan Lee and George Takei also made appearances over the weekend.

One of the other great things about Comicpalooza is the panels. The third floor of GRB has dozens of small rooms where they host panels, workshops, presentations, and demonstrations. And the topics vary just as much as the general floor does on the first floor.

I attended several (at least fifteen) of these. This year, my husband and I bought four-day passes, which was great, because we were there almost all day all four days. Some of the panels I went to included an origami workshop, a sword demonstration by the choreographer of Kill Bill, and several NASA panels discussing the reality of science fiction.

I also sat through a bunch of writing panels. Here are some of the things I learned while I was there:

  • Writing Unforgettable Characters
    • Twist the plot to enhance your characters
    • Use sharp, hooky words to make your reader wonder why you used that specific word

Read the rest…

Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at

Resources for Educational Storytelling

In my quest to equip an army of educational storytellers, I have come across some other revolutionaries and sources or great help. I wanted to share a few of my favorites.



Writers’ Groups

Writers groups, or critique circles, are pivotal in becoming a professional writer. Thriller writer Nicole Wilson shares her thoughts on the importance of these groups, what makes a good group, and how to get the most out of the experience.

One of the most important steps a writer can take to help their craft is to join a writers’ group. It’s literally a collection of people who are experiencing the same struggle you are, and it can be incredibly encouraging.

How They Work

A small group of people meet at a predefined location, usually a bookstore or someone’s house. Everyone is a writer, so it’s a safe zone to express your successes, frustrations, and everything in between. Also, each person is at a different stage in their writing. Some are already published, others are agenting, and others are working on their first manuscript. Normally, there’s a set page limit, so all of you bring, say, ten pages a week every Thursday night at 7 PM. Each person either reads their piece aloud or has it read aloud by someone else in the group. Then the group takes a few minutes (some are stricter and time it) to discuss any big-ticket items.

My Experiences

I’ve been lucky enough to be a part of two great writers’ groups in my writing career. A friend – who later became my husband – invited me to tag along to his group. The first time I went, I had no clue what to expect. We were meeting at a Barnes & Noble, and, when I walked in, there was this small table toward the back where eight or nine people were sitting. I found Michael and was immediately welcomed with open arms in the group. I made several friends that, three years later, I still keep in touch with. As for the structure, each person picked someone else to read their five pages. We went around the circle and gave short feedback. The author was not aloud to speak until the feedback was complete.

The second writers’ group I’ve loved (which I’m currently in now) is also amazing. We meet at one woman’s house and sit around her dining room table. Everyone reads their own ten pages out loud, then whoever has a comment speaks and the group discusses. The author is allowed to comment with the group. It’s a loving community of 8-13 people (depending on the week), and we share food and life as well.


There are many benefits to joining a writers’ group.
1) Simply put, you have access to a support group. These people either know what it’s like to go through what you are now or they want to know, so they encourage sharing stories, both successes and failures.

Read the rest…

Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at

(Writing for fiction) Research, Research, Research

As an author of technology thrillers, Nicole Wilson does a lot of research before she ever pens the first word. Here is a great article about her research process.

So there’s this funny thing called “research” that creeps up on unsuspecting writers. There are two sides to this: Some want to write without having to do any research (cough cough me). Others have to limit themselves on how much research they’re allowed to do or they’ll get carried away. Regardless of which side authors fall on, research is a necessity for most.

How much research is necessary is dictated by the book. It varies by genre, setting, situation, etc. But, for the most part, it’s important to get the facts straight. Readers pay attention, and it throws them when something is almost right, but there’s one thing off. It takes them out of the book. They’re no longer immersed in the story, which is the exact opposite of what writers want.

Writing in the thriller genre, I work in today’s world. Therefore, I need to know the basic layout and feel of cities (even if I do end up butchering it; then I can claim it was “for the book”). I need to get whatever the topic of my book is straight so I can figure out where to stick to real life and where to deviate. My books have a lot of technology in them, so I need to know how that technology works. For historical fiction, it may seem obvious that research is pivotal. Readers pick that book up partially so they can experience what 12th century villages were like. Fantasy may not seem so obvious. “They can make up their world so what do they have to research?” However, a lot of fantasy has basis in the real world, or some basis in our scientific principles (e.g. how physics works, gravity), so they need to research in order to create their own realistic imaginary world.

When to do the research is a matter of preference. Some authors do it before plotting, some do it before writing, some wait until they’re in the moment and need information. I (now) do mine early on, though I usually do some research throughout as I come across things I didn’t think of in planning.

Read the rest…

Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at


Query Letter Tips

I have been sending out query letters like a crazy person lately. Let me tell you, writing a novel is hard, but nothing compared to cramming a year of your life into a four-paragraph sales pitch. Nicole Wilson was a lifeline for me. She reviews the most important query letter tips.

In the process of getting Deception ready for agents, I’ve done quite a bit of research on query letters. As there’s no sense in keeping all this information floating around my head to myself, here are some tips I’ve learned along the way. (I’m leaving out some of the standard ones like include word count and genre because I’ve mentioned them in my annotated query example below):

  • DO customize your query for each agent. Put their name at the top (make sure it’s spelled correctly), and always include something that indicates you at least read their website (maybe a recent book they’ve represented, another author, etc.).
  • DO read their website for submission guidelines. Every agent has different guidelines. While this may seem like a hassle, they’re looking to see who is professional enough to research. They’re looking for business partners (as writing is a business). And they get an average of 100 query letters A DAY, so they need something to thin the pile.
  • DON’T expect feedback from them. Their job is not to provide you feedback. It’s to tell you if they are able to sell the book or not.
  • (This is my own personal advice) DON’T include words like “and then this happens” or “and another character enters” while telling your story. You want to engross your agent in your query letter. Make them feel like they’re reading a book and want to read more after they’ve finished your letter. Don’t remind them they’re at work, sifting through email. We all know how lame that feeling can be. :)
  • DON’T use a query blaster or CC/BCC a bunch of agents on the same email. This tacks onto my first “do.” You must customize for each agent. Also, several of them have said that nothing gets a query deleted unread faster than that (because they can tell).
  • DON’T try to be fancy or gimmicky. Like I said before, they’re looking for professionals, and your query letter is a business letter. This is not the time for pink or scented paper or gifts that represent the book. Send them what they want and nothing more.

Read the rest (there’s a lot more)…


Nicole Wilson spends her days planning for disasters and her nights writing about them. She lives in a small apartment with her husband and two cats, all who contribute to her writing endeavors. Nicole has written many books and short stories and is at work on more. Three of the short stories have been published online, which you can find on her website at


Narrative Identity and Anime: A Brief Intro to Anime

This is part of a series that draws on ethnographic fieldwork with anime fans. The series creates a framework for exploring the relationship between narrative, performance, and identity. I explore a theory of narrative identity in which individuals incorporate elements from stories into their lives. I document how anime fans use anime-specific narrative resources such as archetypes, icons, and language to shape their personal identity narratives and perform those identities to both anime fans and non-anime fans.

Check out the rest of the series.

“Anime” literally means animation from Japan. In popular circles, however, and especially among fans, anime is characterized by a specific visual style. Merriam-Webster defines anime as “a style of animation originating in Japan that is characterized by stark colorful graphics depicting vibrant characters in action-filled plots often with fantastic or futuristic themes”(2005). While it is true that anime is as varied as any art form, anime fans, critics and the general population identifies anime with some common visual tropes such as large eyes with richly colored corneas, multi-colored hair, stark animation, exaggerated style, and dramatic camera angles.

Frequently, visual cues take root in Japanese comics, Manga. Often, manga series will spawn anime spinoffs or remakes. Many of the terms used to describe anime also have their roots in manga such as sojo (anime or manga for girls), shonen (anime or manga for boys up to 18), seinen (anime or manga for young adults), and seijin or hentai (anime or manga with adult, often graphic themes). Certain reoccurring anime themes also owe their existence to manga. The “giant robot” genre, “real robot”, and retelling of Japanese folklore were all made popular by the “god of manga,” Osamu Tezuka. Manga series are also known for their very long runs and extensively complex storylines. This has been adapted to anime in series like Gundam and Pokémon with universes more complex than almost anything found in Western literature.

Anime fandom became more prominent in Japan during the 1970s. The Japanese film market began to shrink because of television competition, which led to experimentation and the adaptation of manga styles. This created many of the current features of anime and gave rise to a couple key genres such as Mech and Space Operas. A subculture in Japan formed around magazines. This group called was called otaku which generally means someone obsessed with something, usually games, anime or manga.

Astro Boy (1963) was the first television-produced anime series, and the first anime to be widely distributed overseas (Clements 2006). Through the 1970s and 1980s the worldwide export of anime grew beginning what has been called the “golden age of anime” and the “second golden age” of Japanese cinema (Kehr 2002).

In America, anime fandom began growing 1980s, taking cues from the otaku of Japan. These small groups would gather to watch pirated episodes on VHS tapes. The imports of anime and manga were difficult because of price and translation issues. After the computer revolution in the 1990s, an undercurrent of anime culture began to grow in the United States, fueled by increasing interest in goods from Japan. The internet opened the door for anime fans to connect with other fans and share their media.

At the same time, main-stream television began replaying dubbed anime such as Gundam, Pokémon and Sailor Moon. Several networks reformatted their late-night programming around anime. Soon after, anime began to hit the mainstream market as “Japanimation,” graphic novels started to climb in the bookseller charts, many stores adding a dedicated manga section by the early 2000s.

By 2010, anime style had taken a powerful place in influencing popular culture. Many American films and television shows borrow hallmark anime style techniques, clothing and fashion has assimilated an anime look, and graphic novels in manga form have become bestsellers for children”™s and young adult fiction.

Even with this growing popularity, the kind of fanatical devotion many “true” anime fans exhibit has not been adopted by the mainstream. This will be discussed in detail later. Therefore, many anime fans sit just outside the cultural norm here in the United States. Many consider themselves a counterculture or a subculture, holding meetings to watch and discuss anime, dressing in anime character costumes, and interacting intensely with other fans through the World Wide Web.

The 2000s also gave rise to satires and non-Japanese competition (such as Transformers Galaxy Force and Avatar: The Last Airbender) that borrow anime aesthetics which become popular, showing the wide acknowledgement of anime. Anime has become such an important aspect of Japan”™s financial health that, in 2008, the Japanese government created the position of Anime Ambassador and appointed Doraemon as the first Anime Ambassador to promote anime worldwide in diplomacy (Doraemon Swon in as Anime Ambassador 2008).

In the next post, I will introduce Fan Studies and Anime Studies before we dive into our analytical framework for narrative identity.

Virtual Reality Storytelling and the Future

One of my favorite books is the steampunk adventure Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld set during an alternate-history First World War. The world is lush and well thought out and the characters are incredibly real. Not to mention he is a word-smith extraordinaire.

So, imagine my excitement when I found a virtual reality lab building his world.

This is part of the Creators Project and is being carried out by a group of USC students and professors. They are experimenting with creating landscapes for stories to emerge from. The idea being, if you create a story space and let people interact inside it, unique stories will emerge. This is a similar concept to fan studies, but on a new level.

Keep you eye on this project. I will continue to bring you updates.

What I’ve Learned From Writing My First Draft

Writing is hard. Writing a first draft of your first novel is even harder. The pressure to get it right. The wondering if it is good enough. The anxiety of even getting to the end. But, its also the best learning experience. Another author, Nicole Wilson, shares lessons learned from her first draft of Deception.

I have spent the last seven months working toward living my dream: being a full-time paid author. First step: write the book. In those seven months, I’ve plotted and outlined a novel, written a first draft, edited twice myself, and had one other person edit it. It has been amazing. I never thought I would have done my first novel so quickly (though I know I’m not finished).

But through all of the stages of this first novel, I have learned one crucial thing: writing well is hard.

That’s right. Just writing, with no audience in mind, with no purpose, can be easy. Less stress, no deadlines. But drafting and writing and editing and polishing takes a lot of work. There are more pieces to the puzzle than I first saw when I said I wanted to write a novel. From character profiles to editing three or four times before letting ANYONE else see it, it’s a difficult process.

Plotting and Outlining

When I first decided I wanted to write a novel, I had four or five ideas swirling in my head as possible choices. I’d picked up bits from books I read, movies I’d seen, conversations I’d overheard. But I just had a kernel of what I needed. After two months of thinking about my novel, not even to the point where I was putting together an outline, I had a page and a half of random bullet points and a temporary title (which didn’t even get used). I didn’t even have a name for my main character.

I spent the next month trying out a new outlining style, one I’d not done on any of my short stories: notecarding. Basically, you write all of your scenes on notecards, one scene per card. This way, it’s easy to rearrange scenes or add in additional ones later. And that’s exactly what I did. When I finished my first pass, I think I had about forty notecards. That meant I had to average about 2,000 words per scene. I knew that was unrealistic since some of my scenes were, for sure, going to be less than 500. So I read the story to myself in notecard format and added in additional scenes where I could.

I also learned, though not until halfway through my first draft, that during this stage I should be drawing up character profiles. You can read my earlier blog post on this topic, but in short, I need to learn who my characters are. Why they do what they do? What makes them different than all the other characters in my book?

Read the rest

Query Shark

Another amazing tool for writing query letters. This site is a cornerstone for authors everywhere. The query shark is an actual agent who spends her free time critiquing query letters. There are hundreds of queries from all genres, each with commentary.

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