The Shit No One Tells You About Writing

By Bianca Marais, Carly Watters and CeCe Lyra

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This is a podcast for emerging writers, who are looking to improve their work with an aim to having it published, or anyone who would like a behind-the-scenes look at the publishing industry. Your host, Bianca Marais (the author of 'Hum If You Don't Know the Words' and 'If You Want to Make God Laugh') will be interviewing authors, agents, editors and just about anyone and everyone who's involved in bringing a book to market. She's joined by her cohosts, literary agents Carly Watters and CeCe Lyra, from P.S. Literary Agency who read and critique query letters and opening pages in their Books with Hooks segment. Expect good advice, honest insights, and a few laughs along the way.

Episode Date
Trusting Your Gut in the Face of Rejection - PJ Vernon

In today's Books with Hooks segment, we have Emmy Nordstrom Higdon from Westwood Creative Artists join us as a guest agent to review submissions not directed at Carly or CeCe. In this episode, Bianca and Emmy discuss authorial voice; jumping right into where the action is; how using appropriate comps can help cut down on a query's word count; including sample pages for more than one POV; and carefully choosing your story’s timeline/setting.

After which, Bianca chats with PJ Vernon, author of Bath Haus about the value of art; changing publishers in between books; trusting your gut when it comes to writing a story you want to write; differentiating POV voices; playing around with interesting structures; starting your book with high stakes; and book club conversations you'll be having once you're published.

Find us on our socials: 
Twitter: @SNOTYAW @BiancaM_author 
Instagram: @biancamarais_author @ the_shit_about_writing
Facebook: @tsnotyaw
Emmy Nordstrom Higdon on Twitter: @emmy_of_spines
PJ Vernon on Twitter and Instagram: @pjvernonbooks

Nov 25, 2021
BONUS: Submitting to Presses & Writing Outside Your Comfort Zone

In today's BONUS episode, Bianca chats with Ami J. Sanghvi and Patrick Hogan of Gutslut Press about the top ten reasons why indie presses reject submissions even if the writing is really great.

After which Bianca chats with author, Lee Matthew Goldberg, about sharing your drafts with other writers; the writing process when it comes to writing characters whose gender and age are different from your own; using sensitivity readers; muzzling the critical part of your brain, and giving yourself permission to draft; how crowdsourcing information can help generate interest in your book; authoring books in different genres; and using song lyrics in your book.

Find us on our socials: 
Twitter: @SNOTYAW @BiancaM_author 
Instagram: @biancamarais_author @ the_shit_about_writing
Facebook: @tsnotyaw
Ami Twitter and Instagram: @HotWraithBones
Ami Website:
Twitter and Instagram: @gutslutpress
Lee Twitter: @LeeMatthewG
Lee Instragram:@LeeMatthewGoldberg

Nov 22, 2021
Ken Follett's Incredibly Practical Tips for Writers

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Liz and Jami join us to discuss their submissions. Carly and CeCe unpack when to put the stakes at the beginning of the query instead of at the end; the Pixar storytelling rules about coincidences; weaving in emotion with explanation to make it more showing than telling; writing a story in first person and then going back with a “you” lens to make it hybrid second person; and giving a character a small but important goal in the beginning of the book that’s tied to the larger arc. 

After which, Bianca chats with world-renowned bestselling author, Ken Follett, about what to do when what you write isn’t coming out the same way the idea played out in your head; having a solid research process including reaching out to experts to ensure authenticity in your story; how to give crucial background information without it sounding like an info dump; tips for stitching unrelated scenes together; and the empathy that’s required to be a historical novelist and a writer in general.

Find us on our socials: 
Twitter: @SNOTYAW @BiancaM_author @carlywatters @@ceciliaclyra 
Instagram: @biancamarais_author @carlywatters @cece_lyra_agent @ the_shit_about_writing
Facebook: @tsnotyaw

Nov 18, 2021
How to Write a Novel in Half the Time

In today's Books with Hooks, Carly and CeCe discuss whether publishing is ready for Covid stories yet; using an inciting incident that is super specific, but doesn’t give away any spoilers; the importance of having a great, unique hook and a beautiful first line; why emotion needs to be on the page before description in a tense scene; and how a protagonist’s unconscious should also be on the page.

After which, I chat with The Holiday Swap's Maggie Knox, the pen name for writing duo, Karma Brown and Marissa Stapley, about when two writer friends have a wild idea to write a book together; how they facilitated the process; how they seamlessly brought their writing voices and styles together; and what advice they have for writers looking to co-author a project.

Find us on our socials: 
Twitter: @SNOTYAW @BiancaM_author @carlywatters @@ceciliaclyra @maggieknoxbooks
Instagram: @biancamarais_author @carlywatters @cece_lyra_agent @ the_shit_about_writing @maggieknoxauthor
Facebook: @tsnotyaw

Nov 11, 2021
Why You Shouldn't Compare Yourself to Other Writers

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Melissa and Stephanie join us on the show to have their query letters and opening pages critiqued. Carly and CeCe discuss the importance of hitting current social and class elements; not missing opportunities to let readers know more about the MC by adding in descriptions and reasons behind their choices; when and why a prologue works; and anticipating readers' questions and answering them at just the right time.

After which, Bianca chats with the author of My Sweet Girl, Amanda Jayatissa about submitting to POC agents/editors vs. non-POC agents/editors; structuring your novel in a linear vs. non-linear way; using old journals if you have them to put yourself in the mindset of a younger character; using Aeon 2.0 Timeline software; and why you shouldn't compare yourself to other writers. 

Find us on our socials: 
Twitter: @SNOTYAW @BiancaM_author @carlywatters @@ceciliaclyra @amandajayatissa
Instagram: @biancamarais_author @carlywatters @cece_lyra_agent @ the_shit_about_writing @amandajayatissa
Facebook: @tsnotyaw

Nov 04, 2021
The Secret to Overnight Success - Jesse Q Sutanto

In today's revamped Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe each tackle two queries that have been directed at them via the new submission process. They also discuss writing your first scene as if it were being filmed; trigger warnings vs. content notes; deciding what to include in the first five pages, and what to put elsewhere in the story.

After which, Bianca chats with Jesse Q Sutanto, author of the hugely successful Dial A For Aunties about her journey to publication; participating in NaNoWriMo; using the Ginko app for story structure; how a previously small deal can make a big splash later on; and the secret to overnight success.

Oct 28, 2021
BONUS EPISODE: When to Break the Rules - Leila Slimani

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Emma joins us on the show to discuss her query and opening pages. Carly and CeCe tackle sparking curiosity;  hooking the agent with keywords; repetition with dialogue tags and replacing them with action beats; writing in multiple POVs and making the reader question who’s doing the narrating; as well as homemade pasta!

After which, Bianca chats with Leila Slimani, author of In The Country of Others, about sticking to what you’re good at;  how Moroccans can identify with American Western movies and Southern Lit; finding your distinctive voice; having confidence in your reader; when to break the rules of writing; and dealing with imposter syndrome.

Oct 26, 2021
Staying True To Your Vision for Your Work - Ella Berman

In today's Books with Hooks, Carly and CeCe discuss putting a fresh twist on a popular trope; taking care not to use titles of novels that are already published; how the present tense offers tension and immediacy; not burying the hook in your query letter; not inadvertently dating your work; and stating specifically what obstacles are getting in your character’s way.

After which Bianca chats with Ella Berman, author of The Comeback about writing a novel that gets swept up in a social or legal movement; moving on from rejection; staying authentic to the characters; having characters experience quiet reckonings; the process of querying agents; dealing with rejection at every stage of your career; going out on submission to publishers; allowing yourself to process your disappointment; developing complex secondary characters; incorporating subplots; and writing as social commentary.

Oct 21, 2021
BONUS EPISODE: Romance, Rom-coms and Writing Sex Scenes

In today's bonus episode, we have three romance/rom-com authors who join Bianca to discuss all things related to the genre. NYT bestselling Lana Harper discusses her queer rom-com, Payback's a Witch, as well as world-building, character development, her inspiration for the novel, and her change of genre. Sarah Echavarre Smith, author of On Location talks about writing those racy sex scenes and the conventions of the genre. Jane Igharo, author of The Sweetest Remedy chats about how romance can tackle serious issues, and her journey to publication. 

Oct 19, 2021
A Wealth of Information Shared by Super Editor, Amy Einhorn

In today's Books with Hooks segment, we do a lot of brainstorming, which doesn’t necessarily align with the author’s vision for her novel, reminding us all that the author is the one who decides what their story is and isn’t. Carly and CeCe also chat about how editors like unlikely friendship stories; authors not having to give up on manuscripts, but persuing the ones that give you the best chance at publishing; taking care not to give resolutions in the query letter; aiming for a pressure cooker vibe; and how life-tense and story-tense differ.

Bianca chats with Amy Einhorn, President and Publisher at Henry Holt & Company, and editor of Liane Moriarty, Sarah Blake, Jenny Lawson, Laurie Frankel, Min Jin Lee and many other award-winning and bestselling authors. Amy shares a wealth of information about publishing, editing, the qualities of a good story, what makes an author successful, and much more. 

Oct 14, 2021
How Being Impatient to Publish Actually Works Against You - Ruth Ozeki

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss avoiding hypothetical questions; escalating baseline stakes and tension; how authors are the puppet masters of their own universes and need to justify all of their choices; giving the reader something familiar in the opening of a fantasy novel; the difference between head-hopping and omniscient POV; how to format dialogue; how you need to frame your memoir with a hook; and avoiding writing a character's struggles that are all internal.

Bianca chats with award-winning author, Ruth Ozeki, about there being no age by which you need to publish; writing in your own time when you give yourself permission to write; people assuming the main character is based on yourself; how you need to work hard to find yourself in all of your characters and give them a part of you; how the antagonist is the hero of their own story; the creative process vs pathology; writing a book because you have questions you get to act out with your characters; how the author and reader co-create a different book every time a reader reads it; and taking your time and understanding the tension between the poles of patience and impatience.

Oct 07, 2021
From the Archives: What I Wish I Knew Before I Got Published - Courtney Maum

Host and author, Bianca Marais, talks with the fabulous Courtney Maum, author of Before and After the Book Deal, about writing killer query letters and the ten things Courtney wishes she knew before she published her first book, I Am Having So Much Fun Here Without You. The episode is filled with tons of practical writing advice and lots of laughs. Learn from someone who's been there, done that, and wishes they'd known better.

Oct 04, 2021
In Praise of the Prologue and Organic Backstory - Christina Clancy

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss digging into trauma to reveal the root emotion; how even literary fiction needs a hook; readability and writing in italics in certain fonts; needing to connect with character; how a query letter must include details of a specific climax; always keeping the reader wondering about what’s going to happen next; and tackling certain themes responsibly. Carly also sings a time stamp jingle!

After which, Bianca chats with Christina Clancy, author of Shoulder Season, about the research that goes into writing a novel; thinking about your book even when you’re not able to write; knowing when to stop researching and start writing; how close you need to stick to historical fact and how much can be invention; starting a whisper campaign; finding ancillary resources; when a story needs a prologue; being willing to cut things even during a third draft; figuring out where the beating heart of your story is; and why every writer has to despair at some point of the process.

Sep 30, 2021
From the Archives: Talking with the Bestseller Whisperer

Author and host, Bianca Marais, chats with Tara Singh Carlson, the first editor to have two of their novels picked by Reese Witherspoon's Hello Sunshine Book Club. Besides acquiring numerous bestsellers like The Silent Wife, The House at Tyneford and The Light We Lost, she's also edited the publishing phenomenon, Where The Crawdad's Sing by Delia Owens, which has been on the New York Times Best Seller list for more than three years. Tara discusses what it takes to be the next Delia Owens as she shares amazing insight into how bestsellers happen. 

Sep 27, 2021
The Evolution of a Rejected Manuscript on its Journey to Publication

On today's Books with Hooks segment, we have an author come onto the show to discuss her submission with us. In the segment, Carly and CeCe chat with Shari about linking multiple POV stories in a query letter; answering the 'why now?' question; establishing what’s at stake for each POV character; how an offer implies a transaction, and how all of life is about power; being careful who you comp as that creates expectations; explaining the thematic pressures that affect characters; how regret is a passive emotion; and nailing entry and exit points in each chapter.

After which, Bianca chats with debut author of The Tiger Mom's Tale, Lyn Liao Butler, about how to find support as a debut novelist; debuting in a hostile climate; how much is out of your control as a debut author; revising a novel and changing POVs in the process; all the mistakes writers make with their first novels; the evolution of a rejected manuscript on its journey to publication; why reading is so important; how to use feedback and critique; and how to choose the right agent. 

Sep 23, 2021
Having Fun with Your Writing & Getting Out of Your Own Way - Lauren Groff

In today's Books with Hooks, Carly and CeCe discuss thinking of your query letter as real estate with curb appeal; considering what you’re providing for the reader’s sake vs what you’re providing for the character’s sake; being clear with memoir with regards to what you’re working towards as a climax; memoir needing to have a sub-genre; immersing a reader in scene instead of giving a round-up of feelings; and the problem with presenting a character just to immediately kill them off.

After which Bianca chats with award-winning novelist, Lauren Groff, about avoiding perfectionism; laying the groundwork for inspiration; how dialogue should complicate what’s happening on the page and deal with power structures; dealing with characters’ emotionality; how historical fiction has the past speak into the present day; how good art is trying to speak as truthfully as possible; how omniscient POV is the most fun you can have; and how fiction is the art of sculpting time through words.

Sep 16, 2021
The Importance of Staring into Space - Sunjeev Sahota

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss how paranormal stories are making a comeback; having YA characters sound like, and have the emotionality of,  teenagers; the difference between loud and quiet novels; always focusing on what’s happening in the present; who is allowed to tell which stories;  and avoiding starting stories that begin with surrender as that doesn't invoke curiosity. CeCe is also forced to eat her words of advice given in a previous episode!

 After which, Bianca chats with the award-winning author of China Room, Sunjeev Sahota, about finding your writing groove; coming up with your own process that works for you; the importance of staring into space; and why chasing a changing definition of success can be dangerous. 


Sep 09, 2021
BONUS EPISODE: 10 Legal and Business Topics for Writers to Consider

In today's BONUS episode, CeCe chats with Katherine Miller Goldman, an intellectual property attorney, to answer all of your questions! They discuss what an intellectual property attorney does; what intellectual property is; what you can and can’t copyright and trademark; quoting song lyrics in your novel; what permissions you need when writing about real people in a memoir; if a therapist or doctor can write about their patients; what composite characters are; using pen names; offering teasers for free; filing a copyright application; setting up LLCs; writing true crime and getting permissions; considering derivatives; what fair use is; and getting out of contracts.


Nothing on this episode is specific legal advice for any individual's situation. The information discussed on this episode is no substitute for speaking confidentially with a qualified lawyer about your concerns. What you’ll listen to here is intended to help you be more thoughtful about intellectual property and the law when you write your stories, create your art, and build your business.


Sep 07, 2021
Every Story Will Tell You What it Needs - Megan Collins

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss leaning into specificity; concerns over white saviorism and teachable moments; dialogue needing to sound exactly like the character would speak; requiring drama outside of parallelism; starting with character and putting the reader in someone’s head right away; how multi-POV books should be pitched; and focusing on plot rather than feelings.

After which, Bianca chats with author of The Family Plot, Megan Collins, about writing limited omniscient third person; getting approval from your publisher; the immediacy of present tense; how every story will tell you what it needs; bringing poetry into any genre of writing; how you should choose your POV character; and coming up with secondary characters based on the purpose you need them to serve.


Sep 02, 2021
Finding Your Plot Engine - Megan Abbott

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss focusing on trauma and conflict rather than the perfect life that came before; not taking up too much space for a set up in a query letter; starting with the inciting incident; the problem with objectivity in omniscient POV; how curiosity comes from active emotion; writing well on a line level; pitching plot rather than feelings; and the golden rule of dialogue.

 After which, Bianca chats with  Megan Abbott, author of The Turnout, about the themes writers return to; the research that goes into a novel; how you don’t need to just write what you know, but what you’re curious about; the struggle to write authentic movement and gestures as your characters make their way through the world; making the reader do the heavy-lifting; and writing an unreliable narrator.

Aug 26, 2021
BONUS EPISODE: A One-on-One Books with Hooks & Preparing for #PitMad

In this BONUS episode, we have the author, Ruth N,  join us to chat about her query and first pages. Carly and CeCe discuss giving the characters more agency; describing the plot rather than the ingredients of a plot; and how a query should focus on your hook, inciting incident, and the escalating stakes. 

After which, Bianca chats with Sara Nicolas who gives some pro tips on how to navigate the upcoming #PitMad and Pitch Wars Blog Hop. 

Aug 24, 2021
Writing an Engaging First Chapter - Caitlin Wahrer

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss being careful with your verb choices so as not to create misunderstandings; the query letter question test; describing the tone of your book as one thing or the other; being careful not to have characters who just have unrelated drama happening to them; changing locations in opening scenes; what constitutes historical fiction; guarding against overwriting and too much mind wandering; getting to the hook faster, and not repeating what’s in the opening pages in the query letter. 

After which, Bianca chats with  Caitlin Wahrer, debut author of The Damage, about what needs to be in an opening chapter; hooking the reader with immediate questions; writing dual timelines as opposed to flashbacks in the present day; choosing past tense and then struggling with the tenses during flashbacks; structuring stories in a non linear timeline; writing multiple characters in third person close; working with an agent on a revise and resubmit; why writing a query letter for a novel with multiple POV characters is difficult; and the pros of third person close compared to first person.

The query letter can be found on our Ko-fi page:


Aug 19, 2021
How to Know When You're Ready to Query Agents

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss not being vague in your query letter; letting us know what’s at stake for a character;  why repetition is your enemy in the first five pages; making the geography and the hook of the novel clearer; inciting specific curiosity; and taking care not to write a hidden protagonist.
After which Bianca chats with Julie Carrick Dalton, author of Waiting for the Night Song about how to know when you're ready to query. Julie discusses being in the query trenches, as well as entering writing contests; taking part in literary idol events and charity auctions; doing workshops run by agents and editors; working with Manuscript Academy; asking for scholarships or fee waivers; entering Twitter contents like #pitmad; studying writing; what climate fiction is; and answering why you’re the most qualified person to tell a story. 


Aug 12, 2021
BONUS EPISODE: How to Make Your Imaginary Worlds Come Alive Through Worldbuilding

In this bonus episode, Bianca chats with Andrew Wall of Craft Better Books about everything you need to know about worldbuilding. Whether you write adult fantasy, YA fantasy, dystopian fiction or sci-fi, there are many elements of worldbuilding that you need to consider and incorporate into your work in order to make your fictional world come alive and feel authentic. Andrew guides you through the process and what you need to pay attention to. 

Aug 09, 2021
Finding a Hook & Writing Dual POV Stories - Andrea Bartz

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss what an action prologue is and the pitfalls of using it; telling us what characters like rather than what they don’t like; how if you know someone’s problems and passions, you know their life; entertaining rather than explaining in the opening pages; sharing the details of prior representation; and the process of changing agents. After which Bianca chats with author, Andrea Bartz, about coming up with a hook; how everything is potential material; why the sophomore novel is so scary; having energy around the kernel of an idea; choosing the best POV for your story and navigating the limitations for third person; the challenges posed by dual timelines and POVs; and readers' reactions to less likeable narrators.

Aug 05, 2021
From the Archives: 10 Harsh Truths Writers Need to Know

Author and host, Bianca Marais, chats with literary agent and author, Cece Lyra, about the 10 harsh truths writers need to know about writing and publishing. In the discussion, Cece drops some truth bombs about the importance of standing out in the market, making a living off of your writing, not being able to please everyone, taking your craft seriously, dealing with rejection and the importance of a platform. 

Aug 03, 2021
Writing Intuitively Without Plotting or Outlining - Samantha Downing

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly reveals that she's a bionic super agent! CeCe and Carly also discuss mixing up your sentences so they don’t all begin the same way; aiming for the quirky rather than the generic; ensuring there’s an emotional shift in each scene; the importance of getting dialogue right; choosing a setting that reflects the story's conflicts; plausibility and the domino effect; and giving your characters clear goals in each scene. And then we answer more of your questions! 
Bianca chats with bestselling thriller author, Samantha Downing, about why backstory is bullshit; teasing suspense for as long as you can; writing intuitively without plotting and outlining; learning how to write as you go rather than formally studying writing; not needing any fancy software to write; hiding clues in plain sight; not being predictable; and writing characters that are compelling and relatable. 


Jul 29, 2021
BONUS EPISODE: Delving into the Author/Editor Relationship

In today's jam-packed bonus episode, Carly chats with author, Jael Richardson, and HarperCollins Senior Editorial Director, Jennifer Lambert, about the author/editor relationship. They also discuss having an outline to work with to keep you on track and feeling motivated; creating a fully developed dystopian world; working on one thing at a time during each draft; making the world building rules disappear for the reader; informing and entertaining readers; what a writer’s responsibility is to their audience; characters’ upward or downward trajectories; figuring out who your audience is, and whether that shapes the writing process; writing for young adults vs adults; the FOLD (Festival of Literary Diversity); how acquisitions happen in publishing; how important a platform is for nonfiction; and how the publishing industry has changed during Covid. 

Jul 27, 2021
Curiosity May Kill the Cat but it Makes a Writer

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss avoiding wordiness in your opening pages; how writing is a dance and you’re leading, but the reader is dancing with you; how important world building is; giving characters emotionality; being careful of writing dialogue of agreement; avoiding repetition and hand holding; the importance of establishing your tone in the opening pages; explaining comps so they clarify things rather than confuse the agent; using active emotions; and listening when a book tells you what it wants to be.

After which Bianca chats with bestselling author, Karma Brown, about why eavesdropping  is an essential writing skill; the importance of avoiding info dumps in dialogue; why flamingos are amazing; paying attention to your instincts; the value in waking up at 5am to write; writing across genres; finding time in the day to write when you are less needed; and breaking down your goals into manageable chunks. 

Jul 22, 2021
BONUS EPISODE: What it Takes to be a Successful Indie Author

In this BONUS episode, Carly is joined by her client and indie author, Kiersten Modglin,  to chat about what it takes to be a successful indie author. Carly and Kiersten discuss why an indie author would need an agent; using social media effectively; why persistence pays off; how to get comfortable with TikTok; building an author brand and being consistent with it; interacting with your readers; building buzz as an indie author; running your own business, and capitalizing on the audiobook market. 

Jul 20, 2021
Reading: The DIY MFA

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss giving your characters the opportunity to react to big events; only including what's essential to intrigue an agent in the query letter; not giving away spoilers; and not counting on backstory and secrets to do the heavy lifting in dual timeline narratives. After which, Bianca chats with Anne Bogel (author, the creator of the blog Modern Mrs. Darcy, and host of What Should I Read Next? podcast) about what writers can learn about the craft through reading. 

Jul 15, 2021
From the Archives: Two Opposing Views on Handling Tricky Backstory

Bianca Marais, finishes her discussion with Lisa Cron, author of Story Genius and Wired for Story. In this second of two episodes, Lisa unpacks her approach to backstory. Weighing in with an opposing view, is bestselling author, Karen Dionne (The Marsh King's Daughter and The Wicked Sister) with her advice of how to work in backstory without dragging your story backwards. Be prepared to pick sides!

Jul 12, 2021
Pitches, Loglines and Queries

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss quiet plots; using the #MeToo hashtag; deciding what kind of author you want to be; plausibility in fiction; the 'looking back' vibe; and how comps intersect and are in conversation with one another. After which, Bianca chats with Mary Kole, founder and executive editor at Good Story Company, about pitches, loglines and queries; the premise of a story; and the meat of a query. 

Jul 08, 2021
From the Archives: The Biggest Mistake Writers Make: Lisa Cron

Bianca Marais, chats with Lisa Cron, author of Story Genius: How to Use Brain Science to Go Beyond Outlining and Write a Riveting Novel (Before You Waste Three Years Writing 327 Pages That Go Nowhere) and Wired for Story: The Writer's Guide to Using Brain Science to Hook Readers from the Very First Sentence. In this first of two episodes, Lisa discusses the biggest mistake writers make, discovering your character's misbelief, the myth of plotting, and why character profiles don't work. Bianca and Lisa also disagree about backstory! This episode will be continued next week.

Jul 05, 2021
Focusing on Tension Rather Than Plot - Emily Henry

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss prioritizing plot and character over voice in a query letter; giving an old trope a fresh twist; why love at first sight is so tough to write; how writing is a political act; and avoiding defamation or licensing issues in your writing. After which, Bianca chats with Emily Henry, author of Beach Read and People We Meet on Vacation, about focusing on tension rather than plot; keeping yourself and your readers guessing; backstory being why front story matters; starting with misdirection; and not giving your characters too much self awareness. 

Jul 01, 2021
Director's Cut Bonus Episode: 3 Agents Explain Book Adaptation for Film and TV

In this BONUS episode, Carly is joined by Dana Murphy, an agent from The Book Group, and Addison Duffy, an agent from UTA, to talk about all things related to film and TV rights, including book to film, and book to TV adaptations; what intellectual property is; how agents get a project ready to shop around; how books get optioned; which books are appealing; how a sales record no longer matters; and why it's an exciting time for writers to be capitalizing on  all of this!

Jun 28, 2021
Writing Those Tricky Unlikeable Characters - May Cobb

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss the difference between urban fantasy and magical realism; using a scalpel in writing surgery; delivering answers to readers' questions; coming-of-age stories vs YA fiction; and knowing who your audience is.  After which, Bianca chats with May Cobb, author of The Hunting Wives, about writing those tricky unlikable characters; making sure your readers know why your characters make questionable choices; the iceberg approach to characterization; firing an agent;  having the right people read your work; and writing the story that keeps you up at night. 

Jun 24, 2021
The Importance of Finding Your People

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss making it clear what's at stake, and what the hook is, in your query letter; how important readability is; not leading the reader too much; pitching plot as opposed to feelings; limiting your use of punctuation; and guarding against white saviorism. After which, Bianca chats with Jessica Payne, the host of #MomsWritersClub about finding your people; the challenges faced by mothers who write; being creative when you're exhausted; drawing on creative reserves; having a sense of community; and keeping your tank full.

Jun 17, 2021
Plotting, Outlining and Structuring Your Novel - Hannah Mary McKinnon

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss the heartbreak of the querying process; the power imbalance between agents and authors; giving agents an idea of whether your novel is commercial or literary fiction; picking your comps and inciting incident; and avoiding two heroes' journeys in one query. Bianca also challenges Carly to name her nemeses. We all talk and disagree A LOT about Mare of Easttown, and we take more of your questions. After which, Bianca chats with Hannah Mary McKinnon, bestselling author of You Will Remember Me, about plotting, outlining and structuring your novel; skeleton drafts; the 16 beat structure; layering your novel during edits; and choosing POV. 

Jun 10, 2021
Genre Tropes and Conventions - Uzma Jalaluddin

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss leaning into unlikable characters but how to make them relatable; avoiding info dumps, especially in dialogue; starting at the right place; and trusting both yourself and your reader.  After which, Bianca chats with Uzma Jalaluddin, author of Hana Khan Carries On about writing rom coms; the tropes and conventions of the genre; choosing the best setting for your story; tackling important themes in all genres; the three-act structure; and keeping your secondary characters in check.

Jun 03, 2021
What Goes Into Overnight Success & Mastering Pacing

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss being more explicit about genre and tone; establishing emotionality in your main characters rather than just having them being observers or vessels; giving your reader access to your character's thoughts and feelings, while balancing show vs tell; setting not just the story stakes, but scene stakes as well; and eliminating wordiness.  After which, Bianca chats with Heather Chavez, debut author of No Bad Deed, about pacing and tension; how long overnight success takes; being stubborn and passionate about your work; how to effectively integrate action/reaction sequences; and using action beats vs dialogue tags. 

May 27, 2021
Bonus Episode - Taking All Your Questions

In today's bonus content episode,  Bianca, Carly and CeCe take all your questions about agents' and publishers' contracts; finding a reputable agent; being out on submission; the etiquette of querying;  why agents might offer R&Rs; the kinds of revisions you'll be expected to do, etc. 

May 24, 2021
Hooking Your Reader & Keeping Them Turning Pages - Jeffery Deaver

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss falling in love with a story before falling in love with an author; what constitutes a memoir and the different types of non-fiction; giving time frames for your manuscripts; and using the present tense for more immediacy.  After which, Bianca chats with publishing phenomenon, Jeffery Deaver, about hooking your reader and keeping them turning pages; and why books are products with your readers being your customers. 

May 20, 2021
The Writer's Life - Lily King

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss using pseudonyms; the difference between women's fiction and book club fiction; beginning your book with adult characters in adult novels; giving agents trigger/content warnings; how to propose sequels; and how to find the most compelling entry point into your story.  After which, Bianca chats with award-winning and bestselling author, Lily King (author of Writers & Lovers) about the writer's life; scrapping novels halfway through; dealing with rejection; and starting the process all over again with a new book.

May 13, 2021
What You Can Learn From Your Rejections

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe discuss the issue of swearing in novels; how characters feel about the action playing out on the page; and moving around the puzzle pieces of a story. After which, Bianca chats with Katie Wall, a book coach at Craft Better Books, about what you can learn from your rejections; why patience will pay off down the line; and why you might do better working with a book coach.  

May 06, 2021
Writing Starter Novels & Establishing a Research Process

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe fall in love with another submission; discuss writing from perspectives that aren't your own; what the 'arrogant win' is; how to write prologues; and writing second person PoV. After which, Bianca chats with Kristin Beck, author of COURAGE, MY LOVE, about writing and researching historical fiction; how to establish an effective research process; what you can learn from starter novels; and putting off writing your passion project until you're a better writer. 

Apr 29, 2021
What Every Writer Can Learn From Other Great Writers

In today's Books with Hooks segment, Carly and CeCe fall in love with one submission; suggest using a different PoV for another; discuss how characterization can be revealed through what a character notices, and how a writer is an artist who doesn't get to see their audience. After which, Bianca chats with Daniel Ford, author and podcast host, about what he's learned about writing from his years of interviewing great writers, as well as the benefit of creating a writing playlist, and how patience really is a writing virtue. 

Apr 22, 2021
How to Build Your Author Platform in an Authentic Way

Carly Watters and Cece Lyra are now co-hosts of the podcast (Yay!),  who will be doing the Books with Hooks segment every week, in which they discuss your query letters and opening pages. This week's segment specifically looks at how to trust both yourself and your reader. After which, Bianca Marais chats with author, Kerry Clare, about how to be a human on the internet as you work to raise your author profile ahead of publication.  

Apr 15, 2021
In Praise of Bookstagrammers

In the regular Books with Hooks segment, author and host, Bianca Marais, chats with P.S. Literary agents extraordinaire, Carly Watters and CeCe Lyra about query letters and opening pages that listeners have submitted.  After which, Bianca interviews Traci Thomas, Bookstagrammer and host of the wildly popular podcast, The Stacks,  about the value of Bookstagrammers, the influence of social media, and fighting for the the community who champions authors.

Apr 08, 2021
Career Advice from Bestselling Susan Wiggs

In the regular Books with Hooks segment, author and host, Bianca Marais, chats with P.S. Literary agents extraordinaire, Carly Watters and CeCe Lyra about query letters and opening pages that listeners have submitted.   After which, Bianca interviews bestselling author, Susan Wiggs (author of The Lost and Found Bookshop) about staying relevant; treating your writing like a business; showing up for yourself; and how to combine creativity with making shrewd decisions for your career. 

Apr 01, 2021
Writing From Rage & Own Voices Stories

Author and host, Bianca Marais, chats with P.S. Literary agents extraordinaire, Carly Watters and CeCe Lyra, in their regular Books with Hooks segment, in which listeners submit their query letters and first pages to get advice on grabbing their dream agents' attention. After which, Bianca interviews South African author, Keletso Mopai, about writing from rage, how to publish a short story collection, social commentary and activism in writing, and the necessity of #OwnVoices in publishing.

Mar 25, 2021
Capturing Time and Place - Ann Mah

Author and host, Bianca Marais, chats with P.S. Literary agents extraordinaire, Carly Watters and CeCe Lyra, in their regular Books with Hooks segment, in which listeners send in their query letters and first pages to get advice on grabbing their dream agents' attention. After which, Bianca interviews author, and food and travel writer, Ann Mah, about capturing time and place; how to be inspired by your travels; doing in-depth research; and when setting becomes character. 

Mar 18, 2021
Why Writing is a Marathon - Marissa Stapley

Author and host, Bianca Marais, chats with agents extraordinaire, Carly Watters and CeCe Lyra, in their regular Books with Hooks segment, in which listeners send in their query letters and first pages to get advice on grabbing their dream agents' attention. After which, Bianca interviews bestselling author, Marissa Stapley, about why being a writer is a marathon and not a sprint, and what it takes to be successful. 

Mar 11, 2021
Indie Publishers

Author and host, Bianca Marais, chats with agents extraordinaire, Carly Watters and CeCe Lyra, in their regular Books with Hooks segment, in which listeners send in their query letters and first pages to get advice on grabbing their dream agents' attention. After which, Bianca chats with Alexandria Brown, co-owner of indie publisher, Rising Action Publishing Co, about the pros and cons of  the various types of publishing, and why you might want to consider going with an indie publisher. 

Mar 04, 2021
First Books with Hooks & Freelance Editors

In this jampacked episode, author and host, Bianca Marais, chats with fabulous agents, Carly Watters and Cecilia Lyra, as they launch their exciting new segment, Books with Hooks. In it, Carly and CeCe read the query letters and opening pages of novels that listeners have submitted in order to get useful critique. This will be a regular segment of the show going forward. After which, Bianca chats with freelance editor, Rachel Spence, about everything you need to know about developmental edits and manuscript evaluations.

Feb 25, 2021
Turning Rejections into Success Stories

Author and Host, Bianca Marais, chats with writing team, Tracy Dobmeier and Wendy Katzman, authors of Girls with Bright Futures, about how they turned their rejections into a success story, as well as learning to write fiction in your 40s; seeing headlines ripped from the pages of your novel; overcoming adversity; and believing in yourself and your work. 

Feb 18, 2021
Finding Your Process as a Debut Author

Author and host, Bianca Marais, chats with award winning author, playwright, screenwriter and journalist, Byron Lane — author of the acclaimed A Star is Bored  (which was inspired in part by Byron's time as assistant to beloved actress Carrie Fisher) — about finding your process as a debut author; getting help when you need it; learning your craft; and mining tough times in your life for fictional gold. 

Feb 11, 2021
Showing vs Telling and Online Writing Retreats

Author and host, Bianca Marais, chats with Amherst Writers & Artists method facilitator, Susie Whelehan,  about supercharging your creativity with online writing retreats. These 60-90 minute retreats are a great way to revive your imagination during tough times, and to remind yourself that there's a whole writing community out there; that you're not going it alone. Bianca also does a deeper dive into showing vs telling, exposition vs scene.

Feb 04, 2021
Creating Characters That Feel Real : Claire Lombardo

Author and host, Bianca Marais, chats with Claire Lombardo, the New York Times bestselling author of The Most Fun We Ever Had, about creating characters that feel real, writing scenes that won't ever be used, showing vs telling, writing realistic dialogue, and keeping track of multiple timelines. It's an episode so jam-packed full of useful information that you may have to listen to it twice!

Jan 28, 2021
Balancing Heartbreak and Humor - Steven Rowley

Author and host, Bianca Marais, chats with bestselling author, Steven Rowley (Lily and the Octopus, The Editor and The Guncle) about writing tearjerkers that are also hilariously funny. Steven gives his advice for writing humor and how to incorporate it when delving into heavy themes.  He also shares many nuggets of wisdom about point of view, writing from life, being a gay writer,  taking a circuitous route to publication, and how to talk about your work. 

Jan 21, 2021
My Journey to Publication - Julia Claiborne Johnson

In this hilarious episode, author and host, Bianca Marais, chats with Julia Claiborne Johnson, bestselling author of Better Luck Next Time and Be Frank with Me,  about becoming a debut novelist in her 50s, her journey to publication, the challenges she faced with her second novel, juggling writing with being a mother, managing expectations, and the advice she'd like to share with emerging writers. 

Jan 14, 2021
Kicking Off a Wonderfully Creative Year

Author and host, Bianca Marais, discusses the main reasons why writers give up, as well as all the things that get in the way of creativity: the pursuit of perfection; allowing the inner critic too much head space; not prioritizing your writing; procrastination and the fear of failure. Consider this your pep talk to ensure a kick-ass creative year!

Jan 07, 2021
How to Create and Maintain Suspense in all Genres

Author and host, Bianca Marais, chats with Putnam editor and adjunct professor of publishing for NYU, Mark Tavani, about all things suspense: techniques on how to create it, how to maintain it, and how to apply these concepts across all genres. Suspense is why we read; it's what keeps us turning pages. A story without some elements of suspense will fall flat. Learn how to avoid making that mistake in your work in progress. 

Dec 31, 2020
Point of View and an Update on the Industry: Carly Watters

Author and Host, Bianca Marais, chats with literary agent, Carly Watters from P.S. Literary Agency, about elements of craft and the state of the literary industry. Carly discusses factors you need to consider when choosing the right point of view (PoV) and PoV characters for your novel, as well as what the industry looks like after Covid and the Penguin Random House purchase of Simon & Schuster. 

Dec 24, 2020
The Latest Literary Trend: Writing Partnerships

Author and host, Bianca Marais chats with bestselling author duos, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke, as well as Lynne and Valerie Constantine (who write as Liv Constantine) about the pros and cons of writing partnerships, as well as everything you need to know to run one. After this discussion, Bianca is on the search for her bosom writing pal!

Dec 17, 2020
What All Writers Can Learn From the Thriller Genre

Author and host, Bianca Marais, chats with bestselling author, Samantha M. Bailey, as well as Nita Pronovost, editor and vice president/editorial director at Simon & Schuster Canada, about the lessons all writers can learn from the thriller genre, including coming up with high concept premises; something known and unknown, something hidden and something shown; the labyrinth approach; considering your novel two halves when it comes to pacing; and how to nail your endings.  

Dec 10, 2020
Talking Audiobooks & Elements of Craft with Katharine Lee McEwan

Author and host, Bianca Marais, chats with award-winning British actress, writer, and producer, Katharine Lee McEwan, about all things audiobooks — including producing your own — as well as: scriptwriting, narrative voice, tone, emotional impact, torturing your characters and incorporating humour. 

Dec 03, 2020
Why Writing Groups are Integral

Author and host, Bianca Marais chats with two members of her BACKSpacers writing group, Alek Trpkovski and Suzanne Dugard, about why writing groups are integral in your writing journey. They tackle issues like: what you should look for in your writing group; how to critique each other's work; effectively managing a group; the highs and lows of getting your work critiqued; how to incorporate feedback; how to start a writing group. NOTE: this episode contains some profanity and mature themes. 

Nov 26, 2020
What You Need to Know About Self Publishing

Author and host, Bianca Marais,  chats with author, K.A. Tucker, who's gone from self publishing to traditional publishing, and then back again. Kathleen explores the pros and cons of both kinds of publishing; moving back and forth between genres; building your brand; reader loyalty and Bookstagrammers; and what you need to know if you're considering self publishing. 

Nov 19, 2020
Succeeding in the YA (Young Adult) Market

Author and host, Bianca Marais, chats with the effervescent Liara Tamani, author of two YA novels, All the Things We Never Knew and Calling My Name, about writing for the YA market, knowing what young people want to read, getting your message across without preaching, her circuitous route to a writing career after being accepted to Harvard Law School, the importance of timing, as well as barriers to entry that writers of color face in publishing.

Nov 08, 2020
Writing Sex Scenes & Befriending Booksellers

Author and host, Bianca Marais, loves booksellers! And she especially loves Rebecca Speas of One More Page Books in Arlington, VA. In this episode, Bianca and Rebecca talk about the power of the bookseller, why authors should foster relationships with their local indie bookstores, how you can be a feminist and love bodice rippers, and how not to write awful, cringeworthy sex scenes. This episode is a bit risqué and a lot funny. 

Oct 15, 2020
When You Don't Make Shit Up - Memoir & Nonfiction

Author and Host, Bianca Marais, chats with Kelly S. Thompson, an award-winning writer and editor with a broad range of experience and education in the writing and editing field. Kelly is the author of the memoir, Girls Need Not Apply - Field Notes from the Forces, and instructs at several universities and colleges in Canada teaching creative writing and nonfiction. In this episode, Kelly discusses memoirs, creative nonfiction, fact checking, asking loved ones for permission, and various other aspects that nonfiction authors have to consider. CBC Canada Reads shortlisted author, Jesse Thistle, who wrote the memoir, From the Ashes, weighs in on honesty, paying tribute and putting personal stories out into the world.

Sep 24, 2020
Bestselling Jane Green's Advice to Writers

Author and host, Bianca Marais, chats with the delightful international bestselling author, Jane Green, about her twenty-five year career in publishing. Jane gives insight with regards to rejection letters, bidding wars, bestselling novels, a writer's brand, when it's time to change agents or publishing houses, appreciating success, and the extreme highs and lows that are all a part of the industry.

Sep 18, 2020
How an Editor Acquires a Manuscript

Author and host, Bianca Marais, takes you behind the scenes of publishing as she chats with editor, Kerri Kolen, about how editors acquire manuscripts; what the acquisition process looks like; how interminable the wait for news is; as well as how advances are calculated, how royalties work and Audible's opportunities that are available to authors.

Sep 18, 2020
Delving into the Author/Agent Relationship

In today's episode, we're exploring the most important professional relationship that an author will have in their career - the one with their literary agent. Powerhouse author/agent team, Jill Santopolo (bestselling author of the The Light We Lost and More Than Words) and Miriam Altshuler (of DeFiore and Company) , give us a behind-the-scenes look at how to find the perfect agent, how to successfully pitch yourself to them, and how to ensure that the relationship is a successful one going forward. 

Sep 18, 2020