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three women sepiaAn 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!

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imagesWell, 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!

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I key-stroked “The End” on my first mystery months ago, but continue to revise, revise, revise. Sending chapters through two different writing groups always elicits valid comments. Although the story reads easily with active verbs and definitive description, there might be a glitch with a chunk of dialogue or a mis-match of logic to previous clues. It all needs attention.

And so I’m nervous about sending a query to a publisher who requires that my novel be finished and POLISHED. Will my story ever REALLY be polished enough to submit? I’ve heard it said that we could revise our story forever if we choose to do so. At what point do we stop? I suppose the fall-back position is that even if I think it’s done, my agent–if I ever find one–and the editor at the publishing house—if they ever hold my manuscript in their hands–will have their own ideas about sections that need revision.

Actually, to put a little pressure on myself to finish the first novel, I have begun my second. Not very far in, but I know who is done-in, and who-done-it. The inciting incident has been established. I’m wrestling with the reason behind the crime. Several possibilities are floating around in my head. I just have to pick the one that seems most logical and can be justified to a degree that is believable.

Well, that’s enough moaning and groaning for this morning.

 

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Yesterday, I attended an all day seminar in Hyannis, MA, sponsored by the Cape Cod Writers Center. The morning presenters shared their knowledge and experience with preparing printed books or manuscripts for e-book publication. It’s much more involved than I would have ever thought. But first thing this morning, I reformatted my entire novel in WORD!

The afternoon speaker from Grub Street spoke about marketing and self-publishing. She sees the big-box publishers as unfair to authors and quickly becoming dinosaurs. There are many relatively-new services out there for the express purpose of helping authors prepare their manuscripts for either or both e-publishing and self-publishing. The expense is not as big as you would think and is becoming more attractive for authors all the time. The payback when your book sells is a bigger piece of the pie than you’d ever receive from a main-stream publisher.

Given my recent disappointment with an agent search, I find I’m leaning more and more toward self-publishing, with the sister offer of an e-book.The best words of advice? Read any contracts carefully and don’t box yourself in with only one distributor!

And so, I now need to master the art of marketing through the social networks!

 

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It’s not good news… sigh.

It’s not bad news… sigh, again.

After three months of waiting, I finally received a response from the agent who’s been holding my first three chapters since November. She advised that she’s no longer accepting new clients.

I can’t say I’m surprised. Hitting the jackpot my first time out was a slim-to-none chance.

So now, it’s back to the drawing board, so to speak. A writer friend has given me the names of three publishers who do not require an agent. Unfortunately, one of them is closed to submissions until August.¬† The other two advise 12-16 weeks to respond to my submission.

On a positive note, that time frame will expire by the time the Cape Cod Writers Center conference occurs in August. They will be offering a “Pitchapalooza” of agents. Think of it as speed-dating! http://capecodwriterscenter.org/

Off I go to prepare my query letter for publisher #1… wish me luck!

 

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Well, its been two months since I emailed my first three chapters to the agent from CrimeBake. Because of the holidays… Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Years… I decided it was only fair to allow her extra time to read those chapters and get back to me.

I’ve been nervous about asking her… do I really want to hear what she has to say?

But I’m telling myself I’m totally prepared for her to tell me that my story is not quite what she’s looking for. Not many writers hit the jackpot first time out.

My fingers are crossed. My toes are crossed. So how much time do I allow for her to answer? How soon to follow-up on a follow-up?

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Several weekends ago, I ‘pitched’ my novel to an agent at the New England Crime Bake, the annual conference sponsored by both Sisters in Crime and Mystery Writers of America.

Sitting on the other side of the table from the agent was not as daunting as I had expected. She smiled at me, and I explained the story behind my novel. After asking a few questions, she looked at me and said, “Here’s my card, email your first three chapter.”

YEA! It was all I could do not to jump up off my chair and dance around the room. But, of course, I didn’t, being a completely professional person. I thanked her as we shook hands, and exited the room, passing the next author in line on my way out.

And so I sit and wait for her to find the time to read my chapters and get back to me with either good… or bad… news. The good news would be if she sayd, “I like your writing style and your characters sound interesting. Your story has potential, so I’d like to read the remaining chapters.”

The bad news would be, “I’m sorry, but your novel is not what I’m looking to publish right now.” That would be so disappointing, but I’m prepare to hear those words as well.

And so I sit and wait.

 

 

 

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Revise, revise!

The revision process is time-consuming, but at the same time, gratifying. Whenever I read another book on the craft of writing…and I have read many…there is always some piece of advise that makes sense to me, and I go back into my chapters and write what I hope are improvements.

The most recent craft book I’m reading is called “Characters, Emotions, and Viewpoints”, and is one of the best collection of hands-on advice that I’ve read for that facet of writing fiction. Creating the characters without just laundry-listing a description is one of the toughest challenges. The key is to sprinkle their description and personality as I go, and not to lump it all at the beginning. Leave a little more to be discovered later in the story. How delightful!

I’ve also just converted a scene at the police station from narrative and boring repetition to what I hope is a more exciting and tension-filled episode. Only my readers…current and future… will be able to tell me if I’ve succeeded.

It occurs to me that although it is taking me a long time to finish my novel, I justify my slowness with the fact that I’ve practically rewritten the entire story, although the basic plot has not changed. It begins on a different day [closer to the action], has more interesting characters…I hope… and moves along at a good pace without getting stuck in backstory and menial distractions. my downfall when I first began this project. Not to mention that I feel satisfied that I’ve found my style.

Back to the keyboard!

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On Sunday, a writing friend in Niantic, CT, told me about a contest sponsored by “She Writes”. The contest is for un-published and agent-less authors, and the work can be either completed or in-progress. Sounds good to me!

Because my narrating session at Perkins was cancelled yesterday, I had extra time to whittle down my Chapter One to exactly 2000 words so it would qualify for the contest. Then I had to create a one-page cover letter with miniature synopsis, personal info and a photo.

Deadline is midnight tonight, so I’m preparing to submit this morning. They will choose five winners who will be hooked-up with an agent…wish me luck!

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Scene Revision

After fighting back pain for several weeks, I’m coming back to my novel with a renewed zest. A scene that’s been giving me some trouble has finally got a solution. And that solution came from a combination of different comments from three different readers in my writing groups. The light has finally dawned!

The problem with the scene was based in the fact that it was mostly dialogue between a secondary character and the first antagonist, with my protagonist standing off to the side mostly listening with a small amount of internal thought. The solution was to bring my protagonist into the dialogue, accomplishing several things:

1. created another innocent suspect

2. explained some backstory between the protagonist and the first antagonist

3. revealed the subtle beginnings of change in the antagonist

My point is that you never know where the solution to a writing challenge will appear. Sometimes, while listening to or reading critique from a writing group member, I’ll think to myself, “What is she talking¬† about?” But then her words will fester below the surface for a while, then suddenly bubble to the top and gift me with a solution to a difficult scene.

But each change to a scene will probably require changes to the scenes that come after, as each cause creates an effect. This can sometimes drive me crazy, but I tell myself that it can only improve the story.

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