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Posts Tagged ‘agent response’

ah-ha momentFor the past few years, I’ve listened to well-meaning comments from two writing groups, manuscript evaluators and uninterested agents. After a particularly brutal critique session this past weekend, my brain finally kicked and I experienced an “ah-ha moment”.

I had lost my title character.

A comment made several months ago at a mystery writers conference to “start with the body” sent me off on a major rewrite to move my chapter thirteen to page one. This forced me to re-introduce my potential suspects after the body dropped. What I sacrificed was providing my future readers with a sense of my characters as they responded to each other. Without real-time dialogue, the victim morphed into dreaded and story-slowing back story.

And so, last Saturday, as I drove home with my ego bruised and my head spinning, it occurred to me that all along I’ve been categorizing my story in the wrong genre. Since the first word was put to the page…or more accurately, onto the screen… I’ve considered it a mystery, but it doesn’t start out that way. It’s more accurately defined as perhaps ‘women’s fiction” that becomes a mystery with a dash of romance along the way. I’ve just found a blog called “Women Fiction Writers” and subscribed.

I’m no longer writing for some unknown agent or publisher with an unknown laundry list of what sort of story they are seeking at the moment. I am writing for myself. The story that has been in my head since the beginning has resurfaced and set me free. Will I self-publish? Most likely.

Are my instincts right? Who cares! All I know is that I’m reinvigorated about bringing my original concept to life on the page!

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hands on keyboardThis 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!

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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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group discussion2This week heralded the 51st Anniversary of the Cape Cod Writers Center Conference. Previously hosted in the quaint village of Craigville, last year the conference organizers found it necessary to move to the larger and more attendee-friendly Resort and  Conference Center of Hyannis, Massachusetts. With the growing number of attendees, the need for additional parking and WiFi access became crucial.

The classes offered were top-notch, with instructors from around the country. One of my classes was titled, “Five Pillars of Promotion”, and detailed the actions necessary ahead of publication, along with a timeline to insure that a newly printed book is well received.

Another class was called, “Pitches, Queries, and Proposals”. This workshop was taught by a husband-wife team who entertained us with their friendly disagreements.

My third and final session was named, “Conference Idol”, and was perhaps the most valuable hour I spent this past week. Three agents sat at the front of the room. Each attendee submitted their first page, identified only by title and genre. As the page was read, each agent lifted her hand when she heard something that would cause her to stop reading. When two hands went up, the reader halted her recitation, and the agents explained why they would go no further if this story was submitted to them for consideration. Whether they were commenting on my first page or someone else’s, the insight garnered from the perspective of the agents was invaluable.

As a bonus, one of those agents offered to sit down with me and review my first page word by word. I readily accepted, and she suggested several improvements, among them moving a strong sentence halfway down the page to be the first sentence. What a difference that made! I must have rewritten that first page more than twenty… or more!…times, but I now think it’s finally beginning in the most provocative part of the story.

I’m looking forward to my next conference, held in November, called “CrimeBake’, sponsored by the New England chapter of Sisters in Crime. This conference is devoted to mysteries, and will no doubt be as equally valuable.

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sketch of question personOK… so I’ve been wrestling with my opening chapter for what seems like forever. I’ve read many writing craft books. One craft book says the author can’t mess with normal until your reader knows what normal is.

And so I’ve arrived at a quandary… how do I hook my reader [and my first reader is an agent] with the inciting incident and show my main character’s normal life at the same time?

A while ago, I attended an event at a local library called Author Idol, where the 25 authors sitting in the audience had each submitted their anonymous first three pages. The four agents up on stage raised one hand when the reader came to a place where the agent would reject the manuscript. Two agents’ hands in the air signaled the reader to stop. Would it surprise you to hear that most of us didn’t get past the first two paragraphs???

How scary is that???

How perfect does that opening have to be???

What happened to editors???

If an agent is not willing to read at least the first three pages, what hope do I have of ever getting published?

So it’s back to the drawing board. On Saturday, I’ll submit to my writing group yet another attempt at my opening. My fingers are crossed that I’m at least getting closer.

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sketch of question personThere are several publishing houses out there who do not require an agent. This sounds tempting until I read the fine print for their submission guidelines.

The one that I’m considering requests a query email, a 2-5 page synopsis and the entire manuscript as attachments.

My concern centers around my constant worry that someone will ‘borrow’ my story without my knowledge. Compared to the usual process that an agent requires, which is a query letter first, after which they request perhaps the synopsis and possibly the first three chapters, it seems to me that providing everything upfront, electronically, with no prior interaction with a human being puts me at somewhat of a disadvantage.

Am I being a bit paranoid? Probably.

I’d be interested to hear from those of you who are published whether you worked through an agent or dealt directly with a publisher.

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