Terry’s October Newsletter

October 2016.jpg

Read the first chapter of The Moon King here ūüôā

Check out my writing tip videos:

Here’s the link to last month’s watercolor newsletter

That’s all this month. Happy Write-o-ween!

From Terry!

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Your Villain Is Just the Hero That Succumbed to Her Own Weakness

Having trouble writing your villain?

When I wrote my first novel, I focused so much on building up my main character that I seriously neglected my villain. Turns out my villain was as flat as a board and it seriously impacted my story (not in a good way). It wasn’t until I thought of my villain as the hero of his own story that I was able to make him come to life.

If you’re struggling with writing your villain, maybe this tip will help.

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The Simple Test That Will Tell You How Compelling Your First Chapter Is

deathIf you think the first chapter of your novel could use some improvement, there’s one simple test that can tell you how¬†to make it better.

Kill the main character at the end of your first chapter.

This will tell you how compelling your first chapter is.

Write something like, “Jim slips off¬†the¬†bridge and falls to his death.”

Now your main character is finished. He can’t achieve any of his¬†goals.

Next, list out all the consequences that come into effect since the main character can’t achieve their goals.

If the list is short and lacklustre, it’s a good sign that your first chapter has room for improvement.

The consequences matters because they give the reader an idea of what’s at stake. The larger the stake, the more compelled¬†your reader will be to find¬†out what happens next.

A great example is Katniss Everdeen from Suzanne Collins’¬†The Hunger Games.

Let’s kill her at the start of the novel and see what happens.

“The train to District 1 crashes and Katniss Everdeen dies.”

Now what consequences come into play¬†if¬†Katniss can’t accomplish her main goal?

Main Goal:

  • Take her sister’s place in The Hunger Games and survive.


  • Primrose will be taken to The Hunger Games instead and Primrose¬†will surely die because she’s young and doesn’t possess any archery skills like Katniss.
  • Gale will be heartbroken now that his crush is dead.
  • Peeta will be heartbroken now that his crush is dead, plus he’s going to die himself in The Hunger Games without any purpose to live any more.
  • Katniss’ mother will likely have a heart attack because Katniss is dead, and now Primrose will be sent to The Hunger Games and die too.

The consequences of Katniss’ death are very high and the reader doesn’t want any of those things to happen. The reader eagerly turns each page to find out what happens next, because¬†Katniss must accomplish her goal above all cost.

A great thing about this test is that you can keep killing your main character at the end of each chapter to see if the consequences are still high enough to keep the reader engaged.

As in The Hunger Games, each chapter¬†proves to test Katniss’ ability to survive and raises the consequences even higher:

  • Katniss becomes a symbol of hope to all the Districts, she can’t die!
  • Katniss respects Rue’s death, she can’t die, because of the huge emotional pull Katniss’ action has on the reader now.
  • Katniss develops conflicting feelings about Gale and Peeta, the reader must know who she chooses.
  • etc.

A lot of emerging authors don’t realize that the consequences must be clear from the start.¬†It’s why most first-time novels don’t make it. It’s why mine didn’t.

When I finished my first novel, The Moon King, I used the first few chapters to introduce the setting, characters, and the main character’s goal, but I didn’t spell out the consequences until¬†later chapters.

The initial feedback I got was very telling. It was to the effect of, “The first half is boring and drudges along, but the second half is super exciting and I couldn’t stop reading.”

Now that I’ve learned about building up consequences right away using the “Kill the main character” test, I’m¬†editing my first few chapters to be much more compelling.

If¬†you think that your first chapter could use some improvement, simply kill the main character and list out the consequences that you’ve written about so far.

If there aren’t many, or they aren’t very high, then you may need to do a rewrite.

Here’s a simple template¬†you can use to do the test on your chapters (it’s a downloadable word doc)

Happy writing!

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4 Free Tools to Help You Find the Perfect Agent

Heyo! If you’re looking to get your work published, you already know that you have to go through an agent first.

Here are 4 free tools that will help you to find your perfect agent!

1) Agentquery.com

This is what you want to use to find an agent.

Not sure how to find an agent? Start with agentquery.com. Simply choose which type of genre your manuscript falls under and agentquery.com will instantly pull a list of hundreds of agents looking for your type of manuscript.

It’s super simple to scroll through agents at a glance, or read more about each agent in their profile. Perhaps the most helpful thing is that agentquery.com lists each agents’ requirements and links directly to their website.

2) Querytracker.net

This is what you want to use to keep track of which agents you’ve contacted.

This website is awesome. It has pretty much every agent you could hope to find on the internet. What’s also even more awesome about it is that it allows you to track who you’ve queried, and what their response was.

Before I stumbled across querytracker.net, I was keeping track of all my query letters in excel. I had columns for agents’ names, emails, requirements, what I’d sent them, and their response. Querytracker.net does this all for you in an even more simple way.

3) Twitter #10queries

This will let you see agents critique query letters.

#10queries is a great # to follow on twitter, because agents use it to critique their slush piles of query letters. They’ll usually write a few words about what the query is pitching and tell you what they like and don’t like.

I use it to see what types of things agents are looking for and also what to avoid.

4) Twitter Pitch Parties

This is what you use to get in touch with agents as fast as possible.

During a pitch party, you tweet a one-sentence synopsis of your novel and include a certain #. During the pitch party (often just one day), hundreds of agents will peruse the tweets associated with the # and favourite the pitches that they like. If they favourite yours, it means they want you to email them directly with your full query.

This is the fastest way you can get in touch with agents, without waiting for them to go through their slush piles.

Carissa Taylor keeps an ongoing calendar of upcoming pitch parties on her blog. I suggest scrolling through her list and seeing if there are any coming up that you can participate in.

Happy Writing!

Finished your first manuscript?

killer queryYou need to know how to write a killer query letter!

  • Learn the 3 step process
  • Know how to format your query in a professional manner
  • Read examples of other killer queries
  • Plus tips & tricks to get ahead & more! 


Every Author’s Must-Do Checklist

After years of writing (and receiving a mountain load of feedback), I’ve created a guide on how to write better.

Here’s what I’ve learned and try to follow so far. Add your tips to the comments!


  • Introduce setting – where is the reader? Be quick about it, no extensive descriptions
  • Introduce character right away. Who are they? What do they care about (motivation)? Why do I care about them?
  • Now introduce character situation that we’ve all found ourselves in and can relate to. Immediately! This makes the reader feel connected to the character, “Yup, I’ve been there.”
  • Now introduce what’s different about how the character acts in the situation that the reader might not have thought of OR how the situation forces the character to act in a way that the reader would wonder what they would do
    • This lets the reader know what kind of character the main character is and how they differ from them


  • Explain what is happening through dialogue or action – do not “tell” back story or what is happening!
  • Don’t tell the reader everything upfront, let them discover where they are.
    • John was scuba diving at the great barrier reef VS swarms of fish danced around John’s arms. He turned to examine the blue corals that clung to the rock cliff.
  • Every page and situation must
    • contain no adverbs
    • contain no descriptive ways to explain dialogue other than, “he said” “she said”
    • Start late
    • Leave early
  • Take time and really think through the setting. This way you’ll be one step ahead of the reader and they’ll think, “that makes total sense where they are, I didn’t think of that yet!”
    • If someone is hiking, think about everything they could possibly bring. If someone is in a new setting, think of everything they could possibly see – then slowly reveal these things.
  • Write freely – then go back and trim everything but what’s absolutely necessary
  • List the most expecting thing that might happen next. DON’T let that happen! It’s too easy
  • At any point in the story, the reader must know what’s at stake and what must be done to solve the main problem. You’ll lose them if the path is ambiguous
  • The main character tries to achieve his/her goal, but the exact opposite happens and he/she has to regroup and form a new plan, being extra vulnerable, but coming out stronger
  • Never let the main character reflect on what’s happened to him/her, until they’re forced to reflect from something bad happening to them
  • In the ending, the character must come back to an original problem/situation. The only difference is that they’ve changed how they acted based on their character arch and what they learned.


  • Never force the main character to create situations until they’ve come through their arch. Every situation is forced upon the character and he/she is only forced to choose how to act
  • The main character doesn’t have to succeed, he/she just has to try his/her hardest (until the climax)
  • You character needs a backstory – what makes them who they are today?
  • The main character should be a reflection of the reader and get into situations the reader can see themselves getting into given the setting. The main difference is that the main character is the reader’s ideal. He/she is slightly better at doing what they do than the reader.
  • The main character can get into clich√© problems, but never solve them in clich√© ways
  • The main character is decisive, not passive.
  • The main character must always be honest with himself/herself. You can’t lie to the reader
  • The reader should always know slightly more than the main character so that they can’t wait for the main character to find out (kinda like how you can’t wait to tell a good friend something you know and they don’t)


  • Every secondary character must act in their expected ways
    • if a character is easily angered, they are always easily angered – the reader shouldn’t have to guess how they’ll act
  • ¬†Secondary characters can create situations for the main character


  • The antagonist, no matter how vile, must always have some redeeming quality.

 Traditional Storytelling Framework

  1. Your character is in their comfort zone
  2. They want something they can’t have
  3. To try and get it, they embark on a journey into unfamiliar territory
  4. They realize they’ve entered into something beyond them, but they master it
  5. They are faced with a big decision – get what they want, or do the greater good
  6. Climax! They do everything they can possibly do to do the greater good and pay a heavy price for it
  7. They travel back home
  8. They reach home, but realize they’ve changed

Finished your first manuscript?

killer queryYou need to know how to write a killer query letter!

  • Learn the 3 step process
  • Know how to format your query in a professional manner
  • Read examples of other killer queries
  • Plus tips & tricks to get ahead & more!