Building a fantasy world – by Greenhouse author Joanna Meyer

Fantasy writing is not a skill for the faint-hearted author!  The world you create – maybe one very different to our own, with its own rules, logic and appearance – has to totally convince the reader or you lose them because they either aren’t interested or because they just don’t buy in to what you’ve […]


I often get asked, “What problems do you most often see in queries and manuscripts?” That’s a big question, so let’s narrow it down a bit and focus on openings. Are there any kinds of beginnings to manuscripts that I frequently see and which tend to turn me off? Yes, there are! Here are six […]


This is the second in a series of posts in which I share a talk I’ve given widely around the USA over the last year or two. I hope you’ll find the posts useful, and before I begin you might like to read the first extract if you haven’t already: Here, I talked about […]


This is a post with a very important sub-title, so here’s the title in full: FROM ORDINARY TO EXTRAORDINARY: The art of creating a great saleable story and the craft of teasing out its full potential. I have given this talk at various conferences around the USA in the past 2 years, and I have […]


No blogs from me for a while now (thanks to those who said they missed me!). Vacation, catch-up, a bad cold, then busy with three deals – and counting. Those babies take time and priority! I’ve taken on two new clients in the last month or two and have gone through literally hundreds of submissions. […]

Time after time

I grew up in a house built in the 1580s. My family tree is charted back to the 1600s and includes a dude in a very fancy wig who has his own plinth in Westminster Abbey, London. The church I used to attend was consecrated in 1094. I went to its 1000th birthday party. Time […]

You mean I’ve got to write ANOTHER one?

[Please note: since chocolate is a well-known healer of woes in the writing community, this post is entirely illustrated with images of chocolate products. It should help.] For most of us the problems of writing just one book can seem insuperable. First, there’s the basic idea that’s got to be knockout. Then there’s all that […]

The Naked Truth (about submissions)

The debate on agents’ responses to submissions has roared even louder in recent months – or it has in the USA. We’ve seen agents changing their policies in various ways (only replying if interested/replying to some under various criteria/giving Twitter updates etc etc), and others contemplating doing so. Everyone has an opinion on what’s appropriate, […]

A case of the Saggy-Baggies

There is a sorry complaint that affects way too many manuscripts – even some of the best debuts that we see. Like Dutch Elm Disease or Athlete’s Foot this malady can overcome something great (a tree, a foot, a story!) and turn it somewhat rotten at the core. It can sap your potential, spoil your […]

Query writing – a guide for the anxious

I toyed with much fancier titles for this post, but then decided to say it straight. What you want to know is how to write a great query and the whole process worries you sick, right? Everyone else in the industry has blogged on this topic, so there’s no shortage of great advice around, but […]

Internet perils (especially regarding underpants)

So it seems that the moral of the week (in the US, at least) is this: if you are going to send pictures of your undergarments around the internet, make sure they aren’t grey and distinctly unstylish. I’ve found myself transfixed by this very contemporary, cautionary tale of personal and professional disaster. When we pass […]

The critique pact

Firstly – this post is illustrated with book jackets from three just published – or about to be published – Greenhouse authors. Relevant to my topic? Not really, except that all three authors (Amanda Cockrell, Sarah Aronson, Harriet Goodwin) have, at different times, been both critiquer and critiqued, so it’s a neat segue to what […]

A fine line

It can be a very fine line between ordinary and extraordinary; the submission that stands out, that goes on to achieve a great sale – and the one that just doesn’t quite make it. I’m thinking a lot about this at the moment as I start preparation on my speech for SCBWI Florida in January. […]

Two inalienable rules which you break at your peril

Aha, you have leapt to my blog believing you are going to be given two outstanding tips for writing success, both of which you will be able to pin above your laptop as you pound the keys. Sorry to disappoint, but today’s rules are not quite like that and have been dragged from the earthenware […]

How to make an agent happy

Look, you don’t have to tell me. I know perfectly well that every morning you climb out of bed and say to yourself, ‘Hmm, how I can bring a little joy to the heart of a literary agent today?’ Because of course I’m besieged by people asking just that question (and because I’m obviously a […]

Holiday snaps and revision questions

Sarah’s in deepest Cornwall on holiday this week, so I’m taking over blog duty. I thought I’d pose some revision questions to help with any self-editing that some of you might be doing. I’m just back from holiday myself, so as a treat, I’ll cut my questions with some snaps from the Canaries. Does your […]

HOW TO WRITE THE BREAKOUT NOVEL: Part 6 – The Final Mystery Ingredient!

The dog days of summer are here and temperatures are soaring. Early-morning mist hangs limpid over the meandering river. I could stare are the greens of the foliage all day and never count the colours. And even the dogs themselves – in this case, Greenhouse intern Wee Man – give up all frolicking in favour […]


If these walls could speak, what would they say? They would say, ‘We see King Henry, still fit and dashing, ride up on his fine horse, all arrogance and certainty. We hear the crunch of the stones, the flash of an emerald ring, and the young Princess Elizabeth escaping her keepers as she runs towards […]


Another very hectic week, and I’m writing this semi-packed for a late-afternoon flight to London. Yes, I really am leaving in just over three hours . . . Our great news of the week, which you may already have spotted, was the fabulous deal for Megan Miranda’s debut YA novel FRACTURE, which sold during BEA […]


So I win Bad Blogger of the Year Award for my silence over the past 10 days. I know, I know, I’m supposed to be banging out my every thought and movement on the blogosphere, but it’s just too busy around here to do that (as you can probably guess since I’m writing this on […]

HOW TO WRITE THE BREAKOUT NOVEL: Part 2 – Larger-than-life characters

Last week was monumentally insane for a variety of agently reasons, so sorry it’s taken longer than I hoped to write the second chapter of our masterclass series on Writing the Breakout Novel. Part 1, last week, was on AN INSPIRED CONCEPT. This second episode focuses on CHARACTER and is aptly portrayed by today’s image […]

HOW TO WRITE A BREAKOUT NOVEL: Part 1 – An Inspired Concept

OK, enough messing around! It’s time to roll up our sleeves, sharpen our pencils, and get down to business. So have a strong cup of coffee standing by as we enter the classroom this week in the first of a series of (probably five) posts titled HOW TO WRITE THE BREAKOUT NOVEL. These are based […]

In the roll of an eye

Ah, so a note has just appeared in the mail saying it’s that time again. Time to make an appointment with the eye doctor. Perfect – I’ve been having some problems with my baby-blues for a while now, so not a bad idea to get them checked out. You see, I have a bit of […]

Nearly but not quite

This photograph of the Golden Gate Bridge, taken on the way down from the Marin Headland, was judged last week in my very first photographic competition. Judged – and found wanting. The verdict? Nearly Good Enough But Not Quite. Which is a generous way of saying – it was bumped off in the first round. […]

The heron and the fish!

This photograph may look like it’s a picture of a lonely heron holding out for a fish amid the tumult of Great Falls (Maryland), after a Spring of incessant rain. It’s actually a picture of me (and Julia – you’ll have to imagine there’s a second little heron) watching the Greenhouse submissions pour into our […]

And the word for the week is . . .

REVISION! How could it not be, when I’ve spent most of the past week a) sympathizing with writers struggling with it b) waiting for writers to show me the fruits of it, and c) cudgelling my brains to produce notes that will enable writers to embark upon it. Yes, Revision is a big, dark, scary […]

Query and submission tips on Labor Day!

Hi there – and happy Labor Day to anyone reading this in the USA. Sympathies to you Brits, who are back at work right now – no doubt not having the kind of weather we’re enjoying today in Virginia. To any of you affected by Gustav – just to say I’m thinking of you a […]

Hotties and other beautiful people

In the course of my reading this past week, I’ve encountered a number of . . . attractive people. To be more specific: A whole lotta hot guys, who have a number of anatomical things in common. I’ll list a few: rippling six packs; rock-hard abs; sun-flecked blond hair; emerald-chip eyes; square jawlines; strong chins; […]

So much to say, so little to say . . .

So it’s the weekend again. Thank goodness. It’s been a really long, really arduous week and all I feel like doing is stretching out on a reclining chair and slurping a frappuccino, loaded with an extraordinary number of calories. Which, on top of last week’s blog (oh, and various previous references to cake . . […]

I was told there’d be cake!

Most mornings, the Greenhouse Husband and I encounter each other while making strange faces at ourselves in the bathroom mirror as we brush our teeth. Every single morning for the past week, the GH has chortled the same thing at me: ‘I WAS TOLD THERE’D BE CAKE!’ And then he laughs uproariously – or uproariously […]

Reaching into the jewel box

So I’m approaching the end of a week where I spent a lot of time on your queries and submissions. Can you imagine what this aspect of agenting is like? Come into the Greenhouse with me and I’ll show you! I open my inbox and look up the list – it feels vertiginously high. So […]

The Tao of Sarah

I have had a realization: that I tend to use the same phrases again and again when I’m working with writers – because these principles are true for everyone who wants to create a fabulous and special novel. I therefore offer them to you now: 1. SQUEEZE THE JUICE FROM THE FRUIT Extract the absolute […]

Seedlings at the Greenhouse

Who knew an agent’s life was so sleep-deprived? Pardon me if I just rest my eyes a moment (zzzzzz). Fact is, there’s been a lot of midnight-oil-burning down at the Greenhouse this week: sitting at my desk wading through your manuscripts while the rest of the civilized world is comfortably watching CSI MIAMI with a […]