This past weekend, I attended Crime Bake in Dedham, MA. Sponsored by Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America, this conference is always inspiring, but not without its disappointments to a budding author.
First, there was the ‘First Page Critique’ session after lunch on Saturday. When my first page was read, only one agent defended my efforts because she has seen my progress. But neither she nor the other four agents raised a hand to indicate they would read further.
Second, my pitch to an agent, hoping to hook her into asking for my first three chapters, fell on deaf ears. This could be my fault, because I decided to change my genre from mystery to romantic suspense after the pitch practice session on Friday night. I’m going back to mystery genre.
Third time was a charm! My manuscript evaluation was provided by Ray Daniel, a Boston author. He pointed out that although my writing is good, and my verbs are strong, I’m asking my reader to hang in with me for a third of the novel before we find out that there is a body. Over the months, I’ve changed my opening scene too many times to count, but Ray’s words made sense to me. I finally got it!
So I flew out of bed early on Sunday morning, rushed to my computer and opened a new file. I pulled Chapter 12 forward, did a bit of tweeking and printed off a new page one. When I arrived at the Dedham Hilton for the final day of the conference, I bumped into Ray within minutes and asked what he thought of the new first page. He gave it a thumbs up…yea!
My writing days will now include not only regular revision, but a re-sequencing of my chapters to move my suspects into the middle.
But, oh, how exciting this is!
Posted in Agent Review, Conferences, Seminars, Uncategorized | Tagged agent response, Chapter One, conference, Crime Bake, fiction, first line of chapter one, first novel, Hook, manuscript, mystery genre, novel pitch, opening scene, revision, Sisters in Crime | 4 Comments »
An email arrived inviting me to choose my top three agents for the pitching session at the Crime Bake Conference, sponsored by Sisters in Crime New England and Mystery Writers of America during the weekend of Nov 8-9-10.
This year, the organizers are offering eleven agents and editors for our selection process. Bios for them all are provided on the Crime Bake website.
And so my analysis began! I read each bio to discover what sub-genre that agent is seeking at the moment, and their experience in the publishing industry. A follow-up exploration of each corporate websites with a browse through their most recently published authors solidified if they seem to be a good match for my mystery/romance story.
I settled on my top three, registered my picks via the online form, and will now wait until I register at the conference to find out which one is my assigned agent.
The pitching session will take place on Saturday afternoon during the conference weekend. Those authors who are participating will be collected outside the pitching room, and herded in as a group to spend our five minutes in front of the pour assigned agent. If all goes well, and my pitch includes enough of a hook, the agent may request more of my story. Wouldn’t that be encouraging?
Cross your fingers!
Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged agent, agent response, agents, fiction, Hook, Mystery Writers of America, novel pitch, Sisters in Crime, waiting game | Leave a Comment »
Well, today was the deadline to submit 15 pages for a manuscript evaluation at the upcoming Crime Bake Conference, sponsored by Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.
After several revisions, I managed to condense the first 13 pages of my story to end with Chapter 2 where the initial hook hopefully sinks in. The first page was a cover sheet, and the second a one-page synopsis. How difficult was that to write??? All the broad strokes on one page!
My submission will be assigned to an agent, an editor, or a published mystery writer for evaluation. I’ll find out who when I register on November 8.
The two of us will find a quiet corner in the Hilton Hotel and spend fifteen minutes together. She will tell me what she thinks of my story and my writing. It will be a nerve-wracking experience, but a necessary evil. After sending my story through two separate writing groups, eliminating my original opening chapters and many unnecessary scenes, plus rewriting the first page a gazillion times, I can only hope that my evaluator thinks my story is in pretty good shape.
During this conference, I will also pitch my book to the attending agents. Maybe I’ll finally get a bite!
Posted in Agent Review, Conferences, revision, Seminars, Uncategorized | Tagged agent response, deadline, fiction, first line of chapter one, first novel, Hook, manuscript, Mystery Writers of America, opening scene, revision, Sisters in Crime, Synopsis, writing groups | 1 Comment »
After I joined the Cape Cod Writers Center several years ago, I heard that there was a well-established writing group near me in the town of Stoughton, MA. Knowing how important it is to get feedback from readers, especially other writers, I joined them immediately and have never looked back.
This group is comprised of several teachers, a retired insurance agent, an engineer, and a grandmother, among other members who drift in and out of the group as life permits. The manuscripts vary from coming of age stories to historical novels to mysteries and everything in between. At any particular meeting, we will have between four and eight participants, all eager to hear and be heard as we make suggestions to improve each others efforts to put a story on paper.
Sometime after joining, I was asked if I’d be interested in forming a new writing group with another writer who lived in south Plymouth, about an hour’s drive from my home. My answer was an enthusiastic “YES!” We meet at least twice each month. Members have joined and dropped out, our number has gone up and come back down, but we remain a viable resource of gentle critique with only improvement in mind.
When yet a third group was formed in my area via a website called “Meetup.com”, I thought I could handle the extra work involved to not only prepare my own piece for submission, but to review the writings of the other members. After several meetings, I came to the conclusion that three was too many and dropped out.
And so, I have settled back into my original two groups and am content. Each member zeroes-in on a different aspect of the writing, which carries a value beyond compare.
My advice on writing groups? Find one where you feel that most members are making valid suggestions to improve your story, and keep on writing!
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Ever since I stepped onto the pathway to write a novel, I’ve never stopped reading or listening to stories written by the many talented authors we now enjoy. Whenever I hear a phrase that rings true to my characters or my plotline, I jot them down for possible use in my own story. I can usually picture the exact scene and paragraph in my manuscript where a particular phrase will fit perfectly.
At the various conferences and workshops I’ve attended over the years, several class leaders have advised that this “borrowing” is an accepted practice, and that the original creator of the phrase should be flattered!
However, in the interest of not plagiarizing another author’s efforts, I strive to alter the actual words while keeping the spirit of the phrase intact. Here are a few examples of recent gems:
“She drew a shaky breath”; “her voice vibrated with rage”; “he eased off the gas pedal”, “she cast a suspicious look”; “he nodded her into a chair”; “she depressed the disconnect button”.
I will continue to listen for other delightful phrases that have potential to transform my story into a more textured and interesting read.
Posted in revision | Tagged clever phrases, fiction, first novel, manuscript, revise, revision | Leave a Comment »
When I first decided to write a mystery novel, simply because I loved to read them, I had no idea how complicated it could get. Choosing the right words and putting them on the page in the proper order is not so easy as you would think!
In addition to the basics questions like who will my characters be, where will my story take place, and what’s the problem that will move the story along, there is an endless list of other details that must be woven into the pages. Character arc, subplot, logical dialogue, scenes that evolve from cause and effect, and varied sentence beginnings.
And, of course, with every conference or on-line course, other facets come into play. Recently, someone handed me an article about sensory detail and how adding sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste can add depth and texture to a story. And let’s not forget the sixth sense: intuition. Each scene should have at least one, but make sure it’s appropriate to the characters and setting.
Another workshop advised that each page needs to include three elements: Feelings, Action, and Thought. Notice the acronym FAT!
And so I continue to revise, and hopefully improve my mystery! One of these days, I might actually feel that it’s as finished as I can make it. The trick will then be to find an agent who agrees with me that my story is worthy of publication!
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