The Starving Novelist
 
This is a continuation of last week's entry, regarding some of the important things I've learned since undertaking this journey a year ago.

The first chapter- The first chapter is almost just as important as the query in getting a request for a submission- especially since a lot of agents request sample pages along with the query.  When I originally wrote my opening chapter, I THOUGHT it was original, creative, and most of all, pulled the reader in.  However, as of lately, this first chapter of my ms has proven to be my nemesis.  How do I know this?  Well, for starters, ALL my submission requests came from queries with NO attached sample pages, and when I got feedback from agents regarding submissions, there was often a mentioning of my first chapter.  Back to the drawing board!  Lesson- don't put hours and hours into a query, and then neglect your first chapter.  Your first chapter needs to introduce the main characters, and at least HINT at the conflict.  Oh, and don't overload the first chapter with backstory (another one of my faults)!!  Spread it out throughout the ms . . . leave a little mystery ;o) 

Agents- One piece of advice I'd like everyone to take with them is: Don't lose your integrity!!  Remember who you are!!  Agents are not God's, and we are not their little minions.  They need us just as much as we need them.  Let's face it, most of us are . . . well . . . desperate.  We want to find an agent so bad, we sometimes put up with a lot of behavior we probably wouldn't put up with in any other sort of business relationship.  Don't get me wrong, I've had really good experiences with several agents (even though I received rejections from them), and will most likely query them again with future projects.  They were considerate and respectful, and I would highly recommend them.  On the other side of the spectrum, there are some who are . . . . less considerate and respectul (I'll avoid specific details- no need to start a debate).  We've all heard author/agent horror stories.  Don't become one of them!

Feedback- What is there to say?  This stuff is like gold- most of the time.  I say most of the time, because sometimes the feedback can be very vague, like "I don't get a sense of urgency" or "the writing doesn't sparkle".   Just like I did, you're probably racking your brain right about now, trying to 'break the code'.  My point is, sometimes you have to disregard some of the feedback, or else you'll drive yourself mad trying to figure out what the h*ll they're talking about.   However, if you're receiving similiar feedback time and time again- USE IT!!  Don't disregard it as 'coincidence' or some kind of 'conspiracy'.  Take it, and use it to make your manuscript "sparkle" *sarcasm*.

Moving on- Don't throw in the towel until you've done everything in your power to get represented.  I've heard of people sending out HUNDREADS of queries before getting an offer of representation.  The key is to always be open and willing to making changes to your query and ms.  Oh, and continue to write!!  Try to get a little bit of writing done while querying.  Also, in my own opinion, READ, READ, READ!!  Reading other books will give you ideas on how to word things, or how to set up your plot.  Personally, I know the more I read, the better I write (strange, but true).

Wow, if I've learned all this (and more!) in a year, I wonder what I have to look forward to this year?   Here's to wishing all my fellow writers a wonderful and successful New Year!

 
 
Waiting is something you do a lot of when you're trying to get published.  Queries get emailed (or snail-mailed) to agents- some respond within minutes, some respond within weeks, and some have the "no-response-means-not-interested" rule, which I despise by the way- I'd rather get the four word rejection (not for me, thanks) than no rejection at all.  However, waiting to hear back from a query is nothing compared to the nail biting, obsessively checking your email, heart pounding type of anxiety that ensues after sending off a partial or full submission. 

About a month ago, I got my first request for a partial submission.  It was literally the happiest moment of my short writing career.  Not because I had six-figure visions floating in my head, but because I had actually piqued someone's interest.  The query that I had wrestled with for over two weeks must be half-way decent!  

After putting together a synopsis (which is another type of personal torture for me- I'll explain why another day) and polishing up my first three chapters, I emailed the submission package to the agent.  Then the waiting started.  Fortunately (or unfortunately, depending how you look at it), I didn't have to wait very long.  A couple of weeks later I received a very nice rejection letter telling me that even though he thought "elements of the project were appealing," the conflict wasn't substantial enough.  Now, for the part that I can only explain as divine intervention- as soon as I closed that email, there was another message from an agent requesting a full. 

Of course, the dissapointment from my rejection kept me from getting too excited about the request.  Also, after looking at some statistics on querytracker.net, I noticed she'd requested fulls from 90% of the queries she'd received (she's a new agent).  Needless to say, my hopes aren't that high.  Regardless, the request was enough to keep me from crying myself to sleep that night!  

Luckily, this uber agent is a speed reader (literally- self proclaimed ten pages per minute!).  According to her blog, she plans on having the majority of the manuscripts read by October 6th (TODAY!), and will start contacting writers then (with rejections AND offers of representation). 

Now, I'm not a pessimist, but I am a realist.  I'm not expecting an offer- not because I don't think my manuscript is good, but because I don't think it's what the MAJORITY of agents are looking for.  When I wrote my novel, I wrote what was in me . . . what I wanted to write- with no regard for what was "in", or what agents were looking for.  Do I think my story is good?  Yes.  Do I think there is a market for it?  Definetly.  Do I think there are agents out there that would love it?  Of course!  The problem is finding them.  

Regardless of the outcome, I am super excited and thrilled that I piqued someone's interest with my query, and that person is actually going to read my manuscript (if not all of it, at least some of it).  If nothing else, I'm hoping to gain some feedback.  As long as the criticism is constructive, I'll be okay.  However, if she tells me the writing was hopelessly terrible?  Well . . . you can't bet I'll be crying myself to sleep that night ;o)