This Week: Query-Writing Bootcamp

I wonder how much money I’ve spent on this noveling endeavor.  I’ve taken classes, hired a developmental editor, gone on retreats, entered contests, purchased Snowflake Pro. .. I do believe all of these things have made me and my manuscript better, but shite.  It’s adding up.  Maybe that’s why so many professionals have managed to write novels on the side.  They’re the only ones who can afford it!

Anyway, I bring this up because I have spent money again.

This time on an agent one-on-one Bootcamp through Writer’s Digest.  This is how it works:  you gain access to an online tutorial on query letters and other submission materials taught by two literary agents (Tuesday).  Then, over the next two days you revise accordingly.  You also gain access to a 3-hour discussion board on each day where the agents are required to answer everyone’s questions (Wednesday and Thursday).  On the final day, you submit your query letter and the first 10 pages of your manuscript (or the first 9 pages and a 1-page synopsis) for real-life agents to review (today).  They have two weeks to provide comments.

So that’s what I’ve been up to this week.  Learning, chatting, revising.  I bought the course because I’m at the submission stage and I knew my query needed work.  I wrote it 6 months ago and the experience was so tedious, it actually reminded me of the Law Review competition in law school! ::shudder::

For those of you who don’t know, after a year of enduring the most difficult year of law school and finishing all your finals and submitting all your papers- boom!  You’re asked to write another paper  for a chance to participate in a prestigious extracurricular activity- Law Review.  The competition was, literally, my worst experience in law school.  That’s what writing my query letter was like last summer.  I spent a year and a half writing and editing an entire novel, and when I was done, I had to write a letter that pitched and summarized both my story and myself in 3 paragraphs.  It was ridic.  It sucked.

I did the best I could at the time, but that’s not saying much.  So I figured the Bootcamp would provide me with useful feedback and, more importantly, motivate me to take another stab at the letter with fresh eyes.

I know for a fact my query is a lot better now.  For one thing, it’s more accurate.  Originally, I had been pitching this thing as a love story, now I describe it as a coming-of-age novel.  I also learned from the discussion board that first-time novelists should note if they have used a developmental editor in the query- who knew?  I asked the agents if they found it more difficult to pitch diverse characters/writers to editors.  They more or less said no.

Overall, I would say that the tutorial was fine, but I never would have paid for just that.  The value in this Bootcamp is the interactions with the agents and the feedback I will receive from them, as they read and judge these things literally every day. It also doesn’t hurt that my submission essentially doubles as a pitch.  The agents reserved the right to ask for more pages if they like you and it just so happens that the agency, Kimberley Cameron & Associates, was on my list.

So it’s been a productive week.  I should receive comments by Feb. 7th, and after incorporating the feedback, I will be back to pitching!  In case you’re wondering, yes, I do still have some minor revisions, but nothing crazy.  I’ll be done (again) soon!!

I’ll keep you posted!!




Someone Read My Novel And She Said…

We’ll get to that.  But first, let me tell you what’s been going on the past month and a half.  First, I haven’t looked at my novel, and I’m proud of that.  Gotta take a step back.  Then other things happened:

My Deadline Passed

The date January 14, 2014 came and went.  When I first started this blog, that was the deadline I gave myself to finish a first draft.  When I hit it early, I changed the goal to finishing editing by that time.  So that’s where my novel is at at the moment, in the best state I could make it without outside feedback.

I Paid for Professional Feedback

Yup, I paid a million dollars to have the project reviewed by Writer’s Digest 2nd Draft Developmental Editing Service.  Basically, they read your entire manuscript and provide a 12-15 page report that includes a synopsis of your novel, an emotional response chart, detailed comments on dialogue, characters, plot, writing skills, and concept.  They also provide ratings on all of those items and tell you whether they would recommend, consider or pass on the project.

I was very happy with the results.  They accepted a revised version a few days after I sent the document, agreed to my request for a female editor, and got back to me in about two weeks (she read a whole novel and prepared a report in that time!). Good service.

And the Editor Liked It!

champagne 2

(Photo by Marcus Hansson)

She liked it, she really liked it.  Forgive me, while I bask in this glory.  After all of this time trudging along, I am allowing myself to enjoy a positive response.  Seeing my “grades,” ranging from good to excellent was one of the best experiences I’ve had in a long time!  It really meant a lot that, as I read through her comments,  it was clear that she understood what I was trying to do/say.  Successfully conveying the ideas I was trying to present was one of my biggest goals, and I love that she got where I was coming from.

In terms of genre, she labeled it a drama/love story. Finally! I know what it is! It’s pretty low on comedy (according to her emotional response chart), which I think means it can’t be chick lit? (Yes, I’m still trying to figure that all out).

But her most important contribution was definitely her suggestions, which she thankfully made in a way that came across as useful and didn’t hurt my feelings (which I was prepared for).  She gave me  insightful ideas that I would not have come up with on my own, and I really think that if I incorporate them, I can bring my novel to the next level.

Here are some comments I would like to share:

  • Lessons from Robin Logline: “Francesca and John seem as though they’re meant to be together, but when they break up and get back together, they must decide whether love is enough when they want such different things.”
    • That’s pretty accurate.  One of the themes of my novel is definitely the question of whether love is enough.  I still wonder—can love be enough if both parties are sufficiently committed?  Or is a relationship doomed if people have vastly different goals?
    • Btw, according to Wikipedia, a logline is “a brief summary of a television program, film, or motion picture [or novel!!] often providing both a synopsis of the program’s plot, and an emotional “hook” to stimulate interest.”
  • On concept: “While the story operates on a low-concept premise, following the break-up, reunion, and break-up of two intelligent but fundamentally different people’s relationship, the themes and motifs present throughout the story make it so much more than a simple drama or love story.  The prose style is often simple and straightforward, and this manuscript provides an easy and fun, fast read, but the content really makes a reader think and reflect quite often.”
    • Yes!! That is EXACTLY what I was going for! An easy read for a smart person. 🙂
  • On plot: “Lessons from Robin is not a plot-heavy story, but the way in which the author reveals pieces of information at specific moments when they will be most significant or surprising makes the structure work well.”
    • This was very interesting to me, because the entire time I believed my story was plot-driven rather than character-driven.  Often when people say they are writing a character-driven novel, my reaction is “who wants to read a book where nothing happens?!”  But I guess that’s not what it means because stuff definitely happens in my novel—I promise!  I’ll have to think about this more later.

Anyway, like I said, she certainly shared some criticisms, but this is my blog so that’s all I’m going to say about that for now. 😉  And for the record, I know for a fact that the service does not simply tell everyone their novel is great because 1) I read a scathing review of the service (that was later taken down) by someone upset that the editor basically told him his story didn’t make sense and 2) this service is not only for people who finished their manuscript, but also for people who keep getting rejected by agents.  What good would it do to just tell someone their story is great in that scenario?