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First Five Frenzy with Amanda Panitch of Lippincott Massie McQuilkin Literary October 24, 2014

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If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript. You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight.  You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.

 

The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript. By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.

 

Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Amanda Panitch’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.

 

 

 

Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?

 

Amanda: A strong first line is important, but so is the second line, and the third line, and et cetera. It’s great to be grabbed right away, but a strong first line means nothing if the strong writing isn’t sustained throughout the pages that follow.

 

 

Amy: Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc. What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?

 

Amanda: I receive a lot of submissions with prologues, and while of course there are always exceptions where the prologue is well-written and central to the story, a lot of times I come away feeling like the prologue is there solely to generate some tension before switching gears and dropping us into the protagonist’s mundane life. I find myself skipping prologues most of the time. If your opening is such that you feel you need a prologue to hook the reader, you might want to consider starting your story at a different point.

 

 

Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?

 

Amanda: It’s usually a combination of a great voice, a great concept, and a sense of propulsion. There’s a common bit of advice that writers should start their manuscripts with action, so I see a lot of chases, murders, car crashes, etc, which can be disorienting, as you don’t yet feel connected to the main character. I feel like a better word for action in this case might be change – so you would want to start your manuscript with something changing or something happening that’s out of the ordinary or unexpected. Those are the types of openings that tend to draw me in – ones where a character is undergoing some sort of upheaval.

 

 

Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?

 

Amanda: Things in those first five pages that tend to push me towards a pass are too much telling (over showing) and large info-dumps. We don’t have to know everything right away – as long as I have enough grounding to understand what’s going on, it’s okay if I don’t learn every last thing about your protagonist or their world in the first few pages.

 

 

Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?

 

Amanda: All three! If I had to pick one, though, I’d have to say I look for voice above all. I can work with the other two, but I can’t really help an author create voice. That’s why I always check out the pages that come with a query (and why sending that writing sample is so important if you’re querying me) – sometimes I won’t be grabbed by a query or I’ll find the plot description a bit lackluster, but the voice in the pages will be so strong I’ll want to keep reading anyway.

 

 

Amanda Panitch is an associate agent at Lippincott Massie McQuilkin (www.lmqlit.com). Before joining LMQ in 2012, she interned at Writers House and attended the George Washington University and the NYU Summer Publishing Institute. A writer herself, her first novel, Damage Done, will be released in July 2015 from Random House Books for Young Readers. She is actively looking for young adult and middle grade fiction and nonfiction across all genres.

 

She’d especially love to find a high fantasy set in a non-Western inspired setting, a dark psychological thriller, a quirky mystery, a gorgeous literary contemporary, historical fiction set in a place or time that isn’t often explored in fiction, or anything that features food as a main element. Other things that call to her are generational spaceships, unreliable narrators, magical realism, the pre-Columbian Americas, the Amazon, close sibling relationships, and slow-burning romances. You can follow her on Twitter @AmandaPanitch

 

If you’re interested in submitting to Amanda, please check the Lippincott Massie McQuilkin website for their guidelines.

 

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Kate Karyus Quinn October 15, 2014

WOW

 

 

One of the things I love most about this blog is getting to interview authors.  Nine times out of ten, I send them questions thinking I’ll know what their answers are going to be, but the authors always surprise me with their responses. Today’s W.O.W. with Kate Karyus Quinn is a perfect example. Both of her Young Adult novels take on dark and gritty themes, and I thought of course she must have some reasoning behind her ideas – but surprise, surprise that could not be further from the truth. Read question number five below to see what I mean. And huge kudos to Kate for being so honest in this interview!

 

 

Amy: At what age did you truly know you wanted to be a writer?

 

Kate: In second grade my best friend and I decided that we were going to live in a gigantic mansion in California when we grew up and write books for a living. I got a little distracted from that goal in high school when the theatre bug bit me. So it was only after getting a BFA in theatre and an MFA in film and television production (which I moved to California to pursue, so check on that part of my second grade goal), that I got around to realizing what I really wanted to do with my life was pretty much the thing I thought I wanted to do when I was just a dumb kid who didn’t know anything.

 

 

 

Amy: When did you complete your first manuscript?

 

Kate: In December of 2007. That was the same year my first child was born. These two events happening together is not a coincidence. I was home with my son and he was a really great napper, so I had some time on my hands. Prior to this I had many many many beginnings of novels, but never got much further than that. Taking what I knew from having completed several screenplays from start to finish, I sat down and for the first time wrote a complete book.

 

 

 

Amy: How many completed manuscripts did you query before one garnered agent interest?

 

Kate: Three. My first book was a romance novel. It wasn’t the worst thing ever written, but it was a little too derivative to stand out. Strike one. My second book was an urban fantasy. It was way more original. Unfortunately, the plot was a disaster that no amount of rewriting could fix. Finally, my third book was a young adult novel. It was weird and I struggled to keep the plot from going off the rails, but in the end it all came together. This was, ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE, the book that got me an agent and a two book with HarperTeen.

 

 

 

Amy: Are you one of those people who has an easy time writing a query or does it take several tries before you land on the one you want to send?

 

Kate: I am terrible at writing queries, and even worse when it comes to the disgusting thing known as a synopsis. However, there are lots of people who are good at them and who after you struggle to write them, will help you make it better. Find those people. Make friends with those people. Bribe them if need be. And in the meantime, keep working on writing queries. It does get a bit easier over time.

 

 

 

Amy: You seem to have an amazing knack for writing dark, gritty stories. Where did the inspiration for ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE come from?

 

Kate: I have no idea. I honestly don’t set out to write dark or scary stories, but somehow my stories just tend to drift in that direction. The funny thing is that I am a total weenie. I’m afraid of the dark and I don’t watch horror movies because I get too scared and I just can’t handle it. Really, the way ALP came together was I just kept asking myself, “What would be interesting to have happen here?” Then I’d think of something like, my main character telling another girl to cut her heart out of her chest. That passed ‘is it interesting’ test, so it was in.

 

 

 

Amy: Can you give us a short summary of your call with your agent, Alexandra Machinist? How did you know she was the right fit for you?

 

Kate: This is such a hard thing to know, and you really just have to go with your gut. I really felt like I clicked with Alexandra on the phone and I also really liked how she was willing to fight for her clients when necessary. Since I am a huge weenie (see above) this was something I found super appealing and reassuring.

 

 

 

Amy: The writing process is grueling and querying even more difficult. What one piece of advice can you impart to aspiring writers to encourage them to keep working towards their dream?

 

 

Kate: It is so grueling. I know, I have been there. And so many of my friends who have also been published, were also there. I know people who spent ten years or more writing and querying before getting an agent and a book deal. You just can’t give up. Keep working on your craft. Connect with other writers. And go forward. You’ll get there eventually.

 

 

 

 

 

Another Little Piece

 

 

The spine-tingling horror of Stephen King meets an eerie mystery worthy of Sara Shepard’s Pretty Little Liars series.

 

On a cool autumn night, Annaliese Rose Gordon stumbled out of the woods and into a high school party. She was screaming. Drenched in blood. Then she vanished.

 

A year later, Annaliese is found wandering down a road hundreds of miles away. She doesn’t know who she is. She doesn’t know how she got there. She only knows one thing: She is not the real Annaliese Rose Gordon.

 

Now Annaliese is haunted by strange visions and broken memories. Memories of a reckless, desperate wish . . . a bloody razor . . . and the faces of other girls who disappeared. Piece by piece, Annaliese’s fractured memories come together to reveal a violent, endless cycle that she will never escape—unless she can unlock the twisted secrets of her past.

 

 

 

 

(Don't You) Forget About Me final cover

 

 

 

Welcome to Gardnerville.

 

A place where no one gets sick. And almost no one ever dies.

 

Except…

 

There’s a price to pay for paradise. Every fourth year, the strange power that fuels the town exacts its payment by infecting teens with deadly urges. In a normal year in Gardnerville, teens might stop talking to their best friends. In a fourth year, they’d kill them.

 

Four years ago, Skylar’s sister, Piper, was locked away after leading sixteen of her classmates to a watery grave. Since then, Skylar has lived in a numb haze, struggling to forget her past and dull the pain of losing her sister. But the secrets and memories Piper left behind keep taunting Skylar—whispering that the only way to get her sister back is to stop Gardnerville’s murderous cycle once and for all.

 

 

 

 

KKQuinnKate Karyus Quinn has a BFA in Theatre from Niagara University and an MFA in Film and Television Production from Chapman University.

After growing up in the suburbs of Buffalo, NY, Kate left her hometown for Southern California and film school. After finishing her degree, she moved with her husband to Knoxville, Tennessee. However, just recently she made the move back home, with her husband and two children in tow. She promised them wonderful people, amazing food, and weather that would… build character.

Kate is first and foremost an avid reader and unapologetic booknerd. Although, she mostly reads YA and romance, she often samples different genres in her constant search for the next great read.

Kate is represented by Alexandra Machinist of ICM. Her young adult novels, ANOTHER LITTLE PIECE and (DON’T YOU) FORGET ABOUT ME, both from HarperTeen, are now available wherever books are sold.

 

 

 

FIRST FIVE FRENZY with Cate Hart of Corvisiero Literary Agency October 10, 2014

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If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript. You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight.  You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.

 

The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript. By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.

 

Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Cate Hart’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.

 

 

 

Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?

 

I think that first line really is crucial. I can tell an author has really put in the time and revisions when a first line really grabs me.

 

 

 

Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc. What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?

 

Arriving at a new destination, new school, new home. Dropping into the scene or the middle of an intense action sequence before I have a chance to get to know who the main character is.

 

 

 

When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?

 

I think the voice most of all, because I’ve found pages that normally wouldn’t be in my usual genres, but something about the voice hooked me. I also think that those first pages have set up questions I’m dying to find answers to, or set up a unique story I’m curious to see develop.

 

 

 

What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?

 

Too much exposition, or information, or backstory. On the opposite end, too much dialogue with little setting or internal thoughts to help me feel immersed in the world. The voice or the narration is not suited for the story or the genre.

 

 

 

What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?

 

I think first it’s a unique concept. I really have to fall in love with the story and have a clear idea of where I can place the story in the market. Second is the voice. A clever concept can fall flat if the voice isn’t well developed. Most times, I think pacing is something that can be worked with in revisions if the premise and the voice are strong enough.

 

 

 

Cate Hart is a Junior Agent at Corvisiero Literary Agency, where she started as an intern working closely with Marisa Corvisiero and Saritza Hernandez. A Tennessee native, Cate earned her B.F.A. from the University of Tennessee. Before joining Corvisiero Literary Agency, Cate worked in financial management.

 

Cate is seeking Young Adult and Middle Grade, New Adult and Adult Romance (specifically Historical Romance), and select erotica and LGBT. She is a fan of quirky, character-driven Young Adult, and snort-out-loud Middle Grade adventure. She loves Historical and Fantasy and would like to find a steampunk that explores new settings and ideas beyond Victorian London. She is also interested in magical realism, high fantasy, mystery, and any combination of the above.

 

If you’re interested in submitting to Cate, please check the Corvisiero Literary Agency website for their guidelines.

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with Lia Riley October 8, 2014

WOW

 

 

Some days you pick up a book and you know it’s going to be special. The story, the characters, literally everything about it is like a breath of fresh air. That’s how I felt after reading UPSIDE DOWN, Lia Riley’s debut novel in her OFF THE MAP series. From the first chapters I became a huge fan of Bran and Talia, and I knew instantly after I turned the last page I wanted to ask Lia to share her writing journey.

 

What I love most about this interview is Lia’s passion for New Adult, and how she relies on her CPs to help her through certain rough patches in her writing. It proves that with a solid manuscript, a good sounding board, and reliable writing friends you can produce an amazing book!

 

Many thanks to Lia for sharing her writing odyssey today…

 

 

What inspires you to write New Adult fiction?

 

Great question! I really feel like I “found” my voice in New Adult. My own New Adult years (and choices) shaped my life in profound ways and it’s been cathartic to go back and wrestle with some of those situations. This is a period when idealism and cynicism do battle, hearts are won and lost, we take risks and struggle with our identity and place in the world. I’m not sure how to say this without sounding all pretentious and grandiose, but New Adult has taught me that I’m far more of a character-driven writer and that’s a lesson that will impact all my future writing.

 

 

How many completed manuscripts did you query before one garnered interest?

 

I got my agent with my first completed manuscript, a historical romance. However, that book took me nearly two years (and many, many complete rewrites) before I began the query process. 

 

 

I love that UPSIDE DOWN takes place in Australia. How did you know you wanted it to be the setting for your book?

 

Well, first and foremost, I love Australians. I mean that quite literally. I married one–the perfect souvenir from my own Down Under travels! Generally speaking, Australians excel at dry wit and have one heck of an anti-authoritarian streak. To me, nothing is sexier than a sense of humor, and when the guy making the jokes has a hot accent and cheeky grin? Heck yes!

 

Secondly, to say that Australia’s landscape is dramatic is an understatement. The continent’s isolation has spawned animal, plant and human diversity that are like nowhere else on the planet. Even a brief wander into the wilderness yields a bone-deep sense that you are in an ancient place.

 

This is a country of extremes. When it’s hot, it’s boiling. When animals are poisonous, it means they can kill you with one bite. When there’s a storm rolling in from the Southern Ocean? Those waves are going to be huge. When you fall in love in such a place, buckle up–the ride’s going to be intense.

 

My agent and I chatted about New Adult last June and I shared my surprise there were so few study-abroad stories. She suggested I try one. So I did. I named my H/H Violet and Dylan, and developed a whole backstory. Luckily, Talia and Bran intervened, looked over what I was doing and said DUDE, GET OUT OF THE WAY. Turns out they were way smarter than me.

 

I cobbled together a synopsis and three chapters and my agent freaked, in a good way. In early August, she rang with the news Grand Central/Forever wanted to offer. I was visiting my parents in Michigan and after the call jumped into the lake with all my clothes on.

 

This isn’t my personal story fictionalized, but I have visited almost all the book settings. Also, I have struggled with OCD/Anxiety since a kid and Talia faces similar challenges.

 

 

Did your query for UPSIDE DOWN come easily or did it go through many drafts?

 

I wrote the synopsis for Upside Down in 3-4 days and the initial draft in around six weeks. I then edited the book for about eight weeks. This seems more or less the way I roll now, write fast, edit slow!

 

 

Did you have critique partners for UPSIDE DOWN? If so, how critical were they to your writing process?

 

Yes, I had critique partners for Upside Down but wrote much of the book in a bubble. For Sideswiped (Book #2 in the Off the Map series) and Inside Out (Book #3), I became heavily reliant on two critique partners who were invested in the characters and the story. When I got stuck in the second and third books, they threw me lifelines and helped pull me to psychological safety. They are my everything! At this point, I tend to write in “acts” (Act 1, 2 and 3–like a play) and edit each Act before moving forward. My CP’s read while I move onto the next part. Although, with this newest manuscript, I’ve gone underground and they might not see it until I’m done (giggles evilly).

 

 

How many agents did you query for UPSIDE DOWN? Did you receive immediate responses, or did you have to wait a while for replies?

 

I didn’t query for Upside Down. In January 2013, I started to seriously shop a historical romance, the first book I’d ever written. Within a few weeks, I had quite a few full requests, and soon multiple offers. From the start of serious querying to signing with Emily Sylvan Kim at Prospect Agency, the process took four weeks. I submitted to around twenty-five agents, had twelve full requests and four offers.

 

 

Can you give a short summary of your call with your agent, Emily Sylvan Kim? How did you know she was a good fit for you?

 

Emily and I have a fabulous relationship (I heart her so much) and we’ve laughed over the strange start to our relationship. I was querying the historical romance, and received multiple offers of representation. I’d made a decision on another agent about an hour before Emily called, at the 11th hour. She had only read the first 40% of the manuscript and was walking to a meeting in New York. We spoke on the phone for about ten minutes (at least fifty minutes shorter than I’d talked to any other agent). She was like “this is a total impulse offer.” That night, I decided to sleep on it, and who I felt best about in the morning, would be my choice. I woke, thought “Emily” and the rest is history. Yay impulses! Important factors that played into my decision were 1) She was kind and forthright 2) She had a relationship with houses I wanted to work with 3) She represented authors that I admire/fangirl over. I’m so glad I went with my gut.

 

 

Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?

 

When I first started, writing didn’t feel “real.” I’d sit at the computer and do a lot of negative self-talk. I’d tried NaNaWriMo a few times and never gotten very far. Self-doubt whispered, “Why will this time be any different?”. At first, my goal wasn’t publication, but “write a shitty ass first draft.” And I did. I was so happy and proud of myself when I finished. Then I did a read through and thought “holy monkey, girlfriend, you have some WORK to do.” During the next year, I joined RWA, met writer friends, went to an RWA National Conference and became hooked. There are still days when I feel like a fraud. Writing can be sucky, lonely, frustrating work. However, even at it’s worse, it’s the absolute best. I’m an addict at this point.

 

 

 

Upside Down

 

 

 

If You Never Get Lost, You’ll Never Be Found

 

Twenty-one-year-old Natalia Stolfi is saying good-bye to the past-and turning her life upside down with a trip to the land down under. For the next six months, she’ll act like a carefree exchange student, not a girl sinking under the weight of painful memories. Everything is going according to plan until she meets a brooding surfer with hypnotic green eyes and the troubling ability to see straight through her act.

 

Bran Lockhart is having the worst year on record. After the girl of his dreams turned into a nightmare, he moved back home to Melbourne to piece his life together. Yet no amount of disappointment could blind him to the pretty California girl who gets past all his defenses. He’s never wanted anyone the way he wants Talia. But when Bran gets a stark reminder of why he stopped believing in love, he and Talia must decide if what they have is once in a lifetime . . . or if they were meant to live a world apart.

 

Available now via Amazon, and Barnes and Noble.

 

 

And here’s the latest release in Lia’s OFF THE MAP series:

 

 

Sideswiped

 

 

 

It was only meant to last the summer . . .

 

Talia Stolfi has seen more than her share of loss in her twenty-one years. But then fate brought her Bran Lockhart, and her dark world was suddenly and spectacularly illuminated. So if being with Bran means leaving her colorless NorCal life for rugged and wild Australia, then that’s what she’ll do. But as much as Talia longs to give herself over completely to a new beginning, the fears of her past are still lurking in the shadows.

 

Bran Lockhart knows that living without the beautiful girl who stole his heart will be torment, so he’ll take whatever time with her he can. But even though she has packed up her life in California and is back in his arms for the time being, she can’t stay forever. And the remaining time they have together is ticking by way too fast. Though fate seems determined to tear them apart, they won’t give up without a fight—because while time may have limits, their love is infinite.

 

Also available via Amazon.

 

 

 

Lia RileyLia Riley writes offbeat New Adult Romance. After studying at the University of Montana-Missoula, she scoured the world armed only with a backpack, overconfidence and a terrible sense of direction. She counts shooting vodka with a Ukranian mechanic in Antarctica, sipping yerba mate with gauchos in Chile and swilling XXXX with stationhands in Outback Australia among her accomplishments.

 

When not torturing heroes (because c’mon, who doesn’t love a good tortured hero?), Lia herds unruly chickens, camps, beach combs, daydreams about as-of-yet unwritten books, wades through a mile-high TBR pile and schemes yet another trip. She and her family live mostly in Northern California. For more on Lia, check out her website, or follow her on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr or Pinterest.

 

 

 

 

 

 

QUITE THE QUERY… It’s a secret no more September 26, 2014

QuiteTheQuery

 

 

This space is usually where I place the intro for this series. In most cases it goes something like this: Queries are hard. But once you hit on the right story, and work with your CPs and betas, you can write one that will attract agent interest. This is not something I just put out there, but what I TRULY believe.

 

Over the years I’ve written more queries than I care to remember. In fact, for one manuscript I think I rewrote the query 25 times. It got some agent interest and then went nowhere. Then I wrote this baby, and well, from the moment the words hit the page it felt right…

 

 

Eighteen-year-old Grace Lafferty only feels alive when she’s dangling by her teeth 500 feet above ground. As a post-World War I wing walker, Grace thrills crowds, and battles inner demons, trying to forget her abusive childhood and a secret that haunts her every move.

 

No one’s ever questioned Grace’s motives, or sanity, until Henry Patton, a mechanic with plenty of scars from the battlefield, joins her barnstorming team. With each new death-defying trick Grace performs, Henry pushes her to consider her reasons for being a daredevil. Annoyed with Henry’s constant interference, and her growing attraction to him, she continues to test the powers of the sky.

 

After one of her risky maneuvers saves a pilot’s life, a big-time Hollywood studio offers Grace a chance to perform on the national stage. She jumps at the chance to have her future secured. But when a trick goes horribly wrong, it crushes her world and brings an unwanted visit from her alcoholic father who could demolish all her dreams. With her future in the air slipping away, Grace must confront her past and decide whether Henry, and her life, are worth risking for one final trick.

 

Complete at 68,000 words, NOTHING BUT SKY was inspired by real-life women who risked everything to follow their barnstorming dreams in the early twentieth century. It will appeal to readers who enjoyed CODE NAME VERITY and SUCH A RUSH.

 

 

So as you may have guessed by now, I’m sharing this query today as my way of saying…I HAVE AN AGENT!!!!

 

Yes, it’s true. I’ m lucky enough to say I’m now working with the lovely Roseanne Wells at Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency. This moment has been a long time coming for me. I’ve always thought about what I would say when it arrived, and now I’m completely speechless. All I can say is I’m incredibly grateful to Roseanne for seeing the potential in NOTHING BUT SKY, and for loving Grace and Henry enough to take a chance not only on this manuscript but on me too.

 

In keeping with the tradition of this series, I’ll share one tidbit:

 

The idea for this book came from a trip I took to the Field Museum in Chicago. Once the little plot bunny started hopping around in my head, I knew immediately what the first line of the query would be. Though the plot changed a little, and some of the characters went through serious revisions, I was adamant that the first line always remain the same – and it did.

 

One last thing is very important for me to share. I know for a fact this would have never happened without the love and support of everyone in the writing community. You lifted me up when I was down. Made me laugh when all I wanted to do was cry. And most importantly, made me keep trying even when I was at my lowest. I’m not going to list everyone by name but you know who you are, and I’m sending hugs to you across miles and oceans. Thank you. Thank you for ALWAYS believing in me!

 

 

And you know I can never finish such an important post without using gifs from one of my favorite guys to express my feelings…

 

 

 

OMG Fallon

 

 

 

And please excuse me while I go and do this…

 

 

 

JF Dancing

 

 

 

TYpic

 (And yes, those are biplanes on my shirt!!)

 

 

XOXO,

 

Amy

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday with N.K. Traver September 24, 2014

WOW

 

 

“I want to give up.” It’s an easy thing to say after getting a mounting pile of rejections. But for some people the rejections make them stronger. Make them fight harder for what they want. That is the case with today’s featured author N.K. Traver. As she shares in her own words, a rejection “felt like a personal blow, like saying no to my idea meant I wasn’t cut out to be a writer.” But as her journey shows, N.K. used those negative responses to push herself. She learned about the craft and became a better writer which resulted in connecting with her agent and the eventual sale of her debut, DUPLICITY.

 

Many thanks to N.K. for sharing her inspiring writing odyssey today…

 

 

Amy: What inspires you to write Young Adult Fiction?

 

N.K.: Honestly, I really miss the days before jobs and bills, when family and relationships came first. I love reliving the drama and the thrill of those days.

 

 

Amy: How many manuscripts had you completed prior to DUPLICITY?

 

N.K.: Two. A YA fantasy and its sequel.

 

 

Amy: If you had preliminary rejections, how did you deal with that process and continue to write?

 

N.K.: They say “the first cut is the deepest,” and I think that’s so true. The first rejection I ever received, for that YA fantasy referenced above, basically brought me to tears. It felt like a personal blow, like saying no to my idea meant I wasn’t cut out to be a writer. It’s all I could think about the rest of the day. I’d poured my heart into that book. I’d even edited it. Like, twice. Couldn’t the agent see my abounding potential?? But the rejection was also a challenge. It made me face the harsh reality that maybe I still had some things to learn, and if I wanted this, I was going to have to work harder. It drove me to improve. Thanks to my rejections, I signed up for a local writers’ conference and a course on how to get published, and joined an online forum where I could swap work with other writers. The encouragement and enthusiasm of the people I met kept me going.

 

 

Amy: How long did it take you to write the query for DUPLICITY? Did it go through many drafts?

 

N.K.: Ahhh not the “q” word! Some people have a natural talent for writing queries … I have a natural aversion. I want to say it took me at least a month or two to get the query for Duplicity down, including back-and-forths with critique partners. I think it went through at least 5 different versions and a hundred million tweaks?

 

 

Amy: How many agents did you query for DUPLICITY?

 

N.K.: 10. But I want to add to that–Duplicity was a much different experience from my first manuscript. I queried over 80 agents on my YA fantasy with very few requests to show for it. With Duplicity, I sent out a cautious batch of 10 queries … that all came back as rejections. So I stopped, took a harder look at my first page, and rewrote the first chapter until my fingers bled. Then I entered it into two online pitch contests, intending to query afterward if I made the cut for one of them, except I made the cut for both! Suddenly I had 11 requests for pages from the contest agents.

 

I think that’s a really long way of saying 21.

 

 

Amy: Did you receive instantaneous response or did you have to wait for requests/rejections?

 

 

N.K.: It varied from agent to agent. I heard back anywhere from 2 days to 8 weeks.

 

 

 

Amy: What was your “call” like with your agent, Brianne Johnson? How did you know she was a good fit for you?

 

 

N.K.: It was like flying to the moon and discovering they have plants made of cookie dough. Bri was so enthusiastic about my work and had some great ideas for revisions. One thing that struck me was her interest in my career beyond Duplicity, and I liked that she was going into our potential partnership for the long term. Really I could go on for pages, but it comes down to 1) Her incredible professionalism 2) Her amazing publishing connections 3) That I felt entirely comfortable with her and her direction for the book.

 

 

Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?

 

 

N.K.: Yes. After I’d sent those 10 queries for Duplicity and received rejections on all of them, I was devastated. I had so wanted my experience with Duplicity to be different than my first book. I had learned so much since then, both about the publishing world and writing. I had edited and polished and edited and polished some more, and my excited, encouraging critique partners had raved that this could be “the one.” So it really hurt to feel like I’d come so much farther only to get the same results. I didn’t think I would ever be good enough to get published. But it’s writing. It’s what I’ll always be doing, with or without a book deal. So just like I had to with those first rejections, and all the rejections after–I picked myself up, and I tried again.

 

 

 

Amy: What advice did you get early on in your writing career that you still use today?

 

 

N.K.: An editor friend of mine told me writing is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ve found that to be true in learning the craft, getting an agent, getting a book published, and even in drafting a new manuscript. I think it goes hand-in-hand with one of my favorite quotes from Earl Nightingale: “Never give up on a dream just because of the time it will take to accomplish it. The time will pass anyway.”

 

 

 

 

Duplicity

 

(Releases March 17, 2015)

 

 

In private, seventeen-year-old Brandon hacks bank accounts for thousands of dollars just for the hell of it. In public, he looks like any other tattooed bad boy with a fast car and devil-may-care attitude. He should know: he’s worked hard to maintain that façade. With inattentive parents who move cities every couple of years, he’s learned not to get tangled up in things like friends and relationships. So he’ll just keep on living like a machine, all gears and wires.


Then two things come along to shatter his carefully-built image: Emma, the kind, preppy girl who insists on looking beneath the surface – and the small matter of a mirror reflection that starts moving by itself. Not only does Brandon’s reflection have a mind of its own, but it seems to be grooming him for something – washing the dye from his hair, yanking out his piercings, swapping his black shirts for … pastels. Changes he can’t explain to his classmates, who think he’s having an identity crisis, and certainly not to nosy Emma, who thinks this is his backward apology for telling her to get lost. Then Brandon’s reflection tells him: it thinks it can live his life better, and it’s preparing to trade places.


And when it pulls Brandon through the looking-glass, not only will he need all his ill-gotten hacking skills to escape, but he’s going to have to face some hard truths about who he’s become. Otherwise he’s going to be stuck in a digital hell until he’s old and gray, and Emma and his parents won’t even know he’s gone
.

 

 

N.K.TraverAs a freshman at the University of Colorado, N.K. TRAVER decided to pursue Information Technology because classmates said “no one could make a living” with an English degree. It wasn’t too many years later she realized it didn’t matter what the job paid—nothing would ever be as fulfilling as writing. Programmer by day, writer by night, it was only a matter of time before the two overlapped. For more on N.K., check out her website, get info at Goodreads, or follow her on Twitter.

 

First Five Frenzy with Michelle Richter of Foreword Literary September 12, 2014

FFF SideWords

 

 

If you’re like me, you toil for hours editing and fine-tuning the first pages of your manuscript. You look at the first lines to make sure they are compelling and tight.  You examine the next few paragraphs, hoping your MC’s voice is already taking hold of the reader.

 

The First Five Frenzy is all about getting an agent’s perspective on what works, and what fails, in those first pages of a manuscript. By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your manuscript a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.

 

Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Michelle Richter’s perspective on what’s important in those critical first pages.

 

 

Amy: Many writers have the impression that a great first line is imperative to drawing in the reader. How important is a first line to you as an agent?

 

Michelle: It’s pretty clutch. Sometimes a writer can come up with that one line that grabs me by the throat (which is a good thing). But it has to flow into a narrative that holds my interest and that makes sense with that first line. But if you don’t have a killer first line–and most don’t–that’s OK. Just hook me within the first 1-5 pages.

 

 

Amy: Many times a writer is told to stay away from common openings like dreams, eating breakfast, riding in a car, etc. What are some common openings you recommend writers stay away from?

 

Michelle: All of the ones you mentioned, of course. But also, discussions of the weather (unless this is the about a tsunami or blizzard or tornado), waking up from a dream, someone’s morning routine whether tooth-brushing/blow-drying/going to the bathroom or running around getting kids ready for school.

 

 

Amy: When you’ve responded to a writer to request a partial or full manuscript, what was it about their first pages that piqued your interest?

 

Michelle: Usually it’s a combination of a great voice, compelling character(s), and a hint of a plot that will either thrill or move me, depending on whether it’s mystery or women’s fiction.

 

 

Amy: What are some common mistakes writers make in their first five pages?

 

Michelle: Including an epigraph, which never does anything to advance plot and uses a full page. Those first few pages are precious real estate. I’m also very much an opponent of prologues, something a lot of writers use. Unless a prologue takes me by surprise, is extremely short yet consistent with the feeling of the rest of the book–and not a flash-forward or flash-back that will be repeated later–I think it can easily be eliminated.

 

 

Amy: What resonates with you most in those first pages? Voice? Pacing? Unique concept?

 

Michelle: I’m looking for a unique concept in the synopsis, and looking for the first pages to show me the writer can execute that concept, with a strong voice, vivid characters, and most importantly, a plot. As much as I love character-driven fiction–and I do love it, a lot–something has to happen. In The Casual Vacancy, for example, Rowling is fantastic at creating characters. But I felt no momentum or urgency, no plot, because the event that informed the action happened at the beginning and then I kept waiting for something else and eventually stopped reading (I didn’t finish the book).

 

 

Michelle Richter is an Associate Agent at Foreword Literary. She was at St. Martin’s Press for eight years, where she edited Melissa Joan Hart’s MELISSA EXPLAINS IT ALL, among others, and worked on a variety of fiction and nonfiction. Michelle is seeking fiction including book club reads, literary fiction, well-crafted women’s commercial fiction, thrillers, and mysteries (amateur sleuth, police procedurals and smart cozies). In nonfiction, she’s seeking fashion, film, television, science, medicine, sociology/social trends, and economics. She has a soft spot for stories set in Boston, Ireland, and Russia. You can find her on Twitter at @michrichter1.

 

If you’re interested in submitting to Michelle, please check the Foreword Literary website for their guidelines.

 

 

 
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