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First Five Frenzy with Mary Kole of Movable Type Management November 16, 2012

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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 five pages of a manuscript.  By reading each agent’s comments, I hope you’ll learn how to make your MS a shining gem that will be requested time and time again.

 

 

Today, I am proud to share Literary Agent, Mary Kole’s perspective on what is 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 that to you as an agent?

 
It’s very important. I like to have something in there that raised tension or hooks me–makes me wonder about something that’s been mentioned. Cramming too much information in the first sentence or starting with dialogue (you haven’t put the characters “on stage” yet, don’t make them talk) are two weaker gambits.

 

 

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?

 
Dream openings are a huge cliché and I recommend you avoid them at all costs, even if you think you’re the one writer in the world who has the perfect reason to make it work. Everyone has already ruined it for you, don’t even try. Another big opening no-no is the disorienting beginning, where a character (who we don’t know) is running from something (we don’t know what) and the stakes are…we don’t really know but it sure is frantic! We aren’t connected with the character yet so throwing us into life-or-death drama right away is a waste. More on that here:

 

 

http://kidlit.com/2012/05/21/confusion-is-not-the-same-as-mystery/

 

 

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

 

 

Voice, starting in a specific scene, being grounded in a present moment, and getting some kind of conflict. It doesn’t have to be life-or-death (see above) but it should inject tension. More on what I mean by “grounding the reader” here:

 

 

http://kidlit.com/2010/08/04/grounding-the-reader/

 

 

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

 

 

A character sitting in their room and thinking about how much their life sucks. Not only is this telling, but it’s all internal conflict. We need a nice balance of internal and external conflict in fiction. Also, that action should be balanced well with information–too much information at the beginning (whether through telling or flashback) is an info-dump and also stalls pacing.

 

 

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

 

 

I have to have a sense of voice, as I said above, and that action or conflict right off the bat that will keep pacing brisk. The concept is more something that I react to after reading the query letter and seeing the larger scope of the story–it doesn’t have to come into play in the first chapter but, if your novel is truly unique, getting a sense of that early on certainly won’t hurt!

 

 

Be sure to check out Mary’s new book, WRITING IRRESISTIBLE KIDLIT: The Ultimate Guide to Crafting Fiction for Young Adult and Middle Grade Readers from Writer’s Digest Books for more tips on how to make your novel stand out in the slush!

 

 

 

 

Mary came to literature from a writer’s perspective and started reading at Andrea Brown Literary Agency to see what it was like “on the other side of the desk.” She quickly found her passion there and, after a year of working behind the scenes, officially joined the agency in 2009. In 2012, she became a Senior Literary Manager at Movable Type Management, where she is also heading up the children’s department. In her quest to learn all sides of publishing, she has also worked at Chronicle Books and earned her MFA in creative writing at the University of San Francisco. At this time, Mary is only considering food books, food memoirs, cookbooks, and, for the children’s market, young adult and middle grade fiction and truly exceptional picture books from authors, illustrators, and author/illustrators. She prefers upmarket premises with literary spark and commercial appeal. Her favorite genres within children’s books are character-driven fantasy, thriller, horror, adventure, humor, contemporary/realistic, romance and mystery. She blogs at http://www.kidlit.com, which has been named one of the 101 Best Websites for Writers by Writer’s Digest Magazine for three years running.

 

 

Mary is currently open to queries and represents PB, MG, and YA. If you’re interested in submitting to Mary, please make sure to check the Movable Type Management website for their guidelines

 

A Meaningful Blog Hop November 9, 2012

 

 

2011 was not a good year for my family.  In September alone, we had our beloved pet die unexpectedly, and two family members get incredibly sick – both of which required hospitalization, and then months, which will now turn into years, of treatment.  So needless to say, I was happy to kiss last year goodbye.

 

2012 has been infinitely better. My family members are doing well, and no new dog yet, but it may happen some time in the future.

 

It goes without saying that this year has been much better than the last – and for that I am sincerely grateful – which leads to the new blog hop I’ve decided to join.

 

Author Brenda Drake has designated the next several weeks to encouraging bloggers to post what they are most appreciative of this holiday season. It’s a chance to recognize all those things we are blessed with and most likely don’t have time to recognize during the year.

 

Today, I am grateful for…

 

My family who is always supportive of everything I do…

 

When I decided to train for a 1/2 marathon they said, “go for it” – although they were skeptical I would actually pull it off  (which I DID)

 

When I finally confessed I was writing a book they didn’t say “What are you crazy?” they just said, “We always knew you were a writer.”

 

And when my short story, “Emanate” was recently published (as part of “The Fall” anthology), they cheered and celebrated like I’d won an Academy Award.

 

Celebrating family is something I think we should do every day, but I know we get too caught up in life to do that. But at least for today, I hope I can honor them in some small way by saying, “thank you,” “I love you,” and I’m eternally grateful to call you my own.

 

How about you?  What are you grateful for this holiday season?  I’d love to hear from you , or better yet, join the hop and let the blogosphere know what you are celebrating this time of year.

 

When Imagination Builds An Empire October 15, 2012

 

 

Been away for a bit to recharge the batteries.  It feels good to finally get back to writing!

 

One of the cool things I did on my down time was visit Universal’s Islands of Adventure and the Wizarding World of Harry Potter in Orlando, Florida. It is impossible to put into words how amazing the experience was, but I’m going to try.

 

J.K. Rowling’s books have been a presence in my life for over thirteen years, and I’ve been anticipating this visit since the park first opened in 2010. My affinity for all things Harry Potter began when I worked at a book distribution company early in my career. I had several friends who were children’s book buyers, and every once in a while, they would bring me an ARC they insisted I read.  One day I found one, with an odd title, sitting in my chair.  It was called, HARRY POTTER AND THE PRISONER OF AZKABAN.

 

At the time, Harry Potter had quite a following in England, and was just on the brink of breaking into the U.S. market.  I devoured the book that evening, and the next day I went back to the buyers, insisting they lend me their copies of the earlier books, which they joyfully did.

 

Since that momentous day in May, 1999, I have relished every book and every movie about this amazing boy wizard.  Thus, when the opportunity presented itself to see J.K. Rowling’s world in living color, I jumped at the chance. It was everything I imagined and more.

 

As I walked through the gates at Hogsmeade, I was immediately greeted by the Hogwarts Express, Zonko’s joke shop as well as Honeydukes candy shop. Then as I walked up the street, I was stunned to see Hogwart’s Castle in all its glory.  The attention to detail was amazing in this magical place, right down to the droning voice of Moaning Myrtle, which sounded every time someone flushed the toilet in the public restrooms!

 

My favorite part of the day was the walk through Hogwarts, approaching the Forbidden Journey ride.  As I watched the Sorting Hat talk, I couldn’t help be struck by the fact that all of this was made possible through the imagination of one extraordinary writer.  If Jo Rowling had given up on that first novel, while living on public assistance in Edinburgh, we would have never experienced the true magic that is Harry Potter.  Without her amazing worldbuilding skills, we would have never learned about Quidditch, or wondered what butterbeer (YUM!), or pumpkin juice (Yuck!) tasted like.  We would have never understood the word Muggle, or how a flying car could take on a gargantuan tree affectionately known as the Whomping Willow.

 

All these elements would not be part of the literature vernacular now, if it wasn’t for the brilliant, magical universe this talented writer built for us.

 

So today, I tip my hat to each and every one of my fellow writers who is working on a fantasy novel. Please continue to write, no matter the roadblocks thrown your way.  Use your imaginations to inspire and thrill us. Take readers, both young and old, to some new place where we once again can become children and marvel at a world where magic comes alive.

 

I hope that one of you out there will be the next generation’s J.K. Rowling.  Someone with an extraordinary flair for creating a distinct universe we would all love to be a part of, even if it’s just for one day!

 

 

The Infamous Sorting Hat!

The Monster Book (it moves!)

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday – Stasia Ward Kehoe August 29, 2012

 

 

As writers we’ve heard the same old mantra over and over “write what you know.”  Some of us do this. Many  do not.  I’m a firm believer that  those who write from a place of experience bring a more authentic feel to their premise. The intricacies of something close to our heart always seems to resonate on the page.

 

 

As I read Stasia Ward Kehoe’s novel, AUDITION, I felt her love for the arts come alive on the page.   Her years of performing experience were evident in the exquisite detail given to each and every scene.  I devoured this amazing literary gem, written entirely in verse,  and knew in an instant, I wanted to learn about Stasia’s journey toward becoming a published author.

 

 

Here is her story…

 

Amy: When did you first know you wanted to be a writer?

 

Stasia: I first became seriously interested in writing in eighth grade, thanks to inspiration from a terrific English teacher. However, at that time I was still very involved in dancing and my career focus was definitely more toward the stage. I began to think seriously about BEING a writer, not just loving to read and write, much later. Probably in my early twenties

.

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

 

Stasia: For a long time I wrote without submitting. In my drawer of “learning manuscripts” are an adult mystery, a Redwall-style fantasy novel, several picture books, a couple of middle-grade-length novels about gymnasts, and a couple of contemporary YA’s. That I can think of. So, um, lots. I guess I’m a slow learner.

 

 

Amy: Did you have critique partners that helped you polish AUDITION? If so, how did that affect your writing process?

 

Stasia: I have belonged to critique groups on and off for years and have made great friends and writing colleagues in this way. That said, I was not in a writing group when I wrote AUDITION. I did, however, send the ms to a few trusted beta readers. As noted by my timidity in submitting manuscripts, I tend to feel very vulnerable about works-in-progress and sometimes it’s easier for me to barrel through a first draft without a lot of feedback so I don’t just give up on the whole thing.

 

 

Amy: What was your first query process like?

 

Stasia: The query process for AUDITION was embarrassingly quick and easy. I should say, however, that I had gotten very positive feedback on the ms from an editor at an SCBWI Winter Conference in NYC and some good advice from an agent (not the one who reps me) about how to submit it. And I’d worked on and revised the ms for a year, so I knew I was ready to go. I think a big mistake people make is to send out their NaNoWriMo or other writing workshop pieces without taking the time to understand what it means to revise, rework, hone and prepare material for the tough scrutiny of agents and editors.

 

 

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

 

Stasia: While I did not have a tough time with AUDITION, in the past I’ve had tough critiques from editors at conferences. Years ago an editor liked a ms of mine, asked if I’d try a revision, and I did so too quickly–without taking time to really understand what she was trying to get me to do. She didn’t buy the ms. While a tough day, a great lesson: Revision doesn’t mean checking the boxes an editor asks you to check. Revision means understanding the weaknesses an editor is observing in your manuscript and IMPROVING the piece while still keeping true to your own voice, character and vision for the novel. Rushing is NEVER a good idea. Not for submission. Not for revision. Just don’t rush!

 

 

Amy: How many agents did you query for AUDITION?

 

Stasia: I sent queries to my top eight “wish list” agents.

 

 

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

 

Stasia: The whole process was very quick.

 

 

Amy: Can you tell us what your “call” was like with your agent, Catherine Drayton of Inkwell Management?

 

Stasia: Catherine was very nice. Professional and practical. I really liked her client list and the work she represented.

 

 

Amy: I see every query an author writes as a “mini” audition with a prospective agent. With this in mind, what advice would you give an aspiring writer to clinch that one chance they have to impress an agent?

 

Stasia: Honestly, I think people spend far too much time agonizing about the query letter. When people say they’ve spent weeks honing and polishing a one-page note, all I can think of is the time they’ve spent NOT working on their manuscripts. Agents are looking for great work. If your manuscript is ready, writing a paragraph summary of it and giving some flavor of the main character should be fairly straightforward. I also think that so much of this industry is luck and timing. Was it a “magical” query letter you wrote or did you happen to submit a book about deep-sea diving to an agent who happens to be a total scuba fan? Did your verse novel get rejected because of a weak query or because a given agent had just signed another verse novelist and didn’t feel s/he could fairly represent another one at this point in time? These are things you cannot guess or control. What you can control is the standards you set for your own work and having the patience (and sometimes the thick skin) required to learn from every bit of feedback you receive through the submission and publication process.

 

 

 

 

After growing up dancing and acting on stages along the eastern seaboard, Stasia Ward Kehoe now lives in Western Washington with her husband and four sons where she works as a freelance writer and novelist and choreographs the occasional musical. Visit her online at www.swardkehoe.blogspot.com or on Twitter @swkehoe.

 

W.O.W.- Writer Odyssey Wednesday – Krista Van Dolzer – Mother.Write. (Repeat.) August 22, 2012

 

 

Over time I’ve learned the writing community is a very warm and inviting place.  There are numerous blogs I’ve discovered that encourage camaraderie among aspiring writers.  Many of these teach about the craft as well as providing opportunities to present to agents in the hopes of making publishing dreams come true.

 

 

One of the blogs that encourages this sense of community is Mother.Write. (Repeat.) hosted by Krista Van Dolzer. While providing informative agent interviews, Krista also opens up regularly about the status of her WIP and her ongoing quest to sell her current manuscript.

 

 

Her writing odyssey is filled with many ups and downs, but she continues to remain a positive spirit and a powerful force in the writing community.  If you haven’t checked out her blog, I highly recommend it.  Her regular feature, “The Agent’s Inbox,” is not to be missed.

 

 

Here is Krista’s journey…

 

 

Amy: When did you begin your first novel?

 

Krista: I’ve been writing in one form or another since I was eight years old, but I didn’t start writing for the national market until 2007, a few months after my first baby was born.

 

 

Amy: How long did it take to complete?

 

Krista: I believe I started that first post-college novel in October of 2007 and started querying it in April of 2008, so about six months.

 

 

Amy: Did you use critique partners for THE REGENERATED MAN AND ME? If so, how did that affect your writing?

 

Krista: Yes, I used critique partners! I didn’t use critique partners for my first two manuscripts, but one of the main reasons I picked up blogging was to find other like-minded writers who might be interested in exchanging. I’d figured out that I could only take my stories so far:)

 

My writing ability improved by leaps and bounds after I started exchanging feedback with my critique partners, both from the critiques I gave and the ones I received. My CPs didn’t let me get away with inconsistent plot points, flaky characters, or even awkward-sounding sentences. I’d always known I was a good writer, thanks in large measure to the kind compliments my English teachers had paid me over the years, but I didn’t realize how much better I could be until I started incorporating my critique partners’ advice.

 

 

Amy: When you wrote your first query for THE REGENERATED MAN AND ME did it come easily or did it go through many drafts?

 

Krista: THE REGENERATED MAN AND ME was the fourth manuscript I queried, so I considered myself to be a seasoned veteran by then:) That said, I did have to go through quite a few drafts before I found one I felt confident querying with.

 

I highly recommend getting feedback on your query from fellow writers who’ve never read your manuscript. Forums like QueryTracker and Absolute Write are great places to go to get those unbiased critiques.

 

 

Amy: How many queries did you send out for THE REGENERATED MAN AND ME?

 

Krista: I sent 77 queries for this manuscript.

 

 

Amy: Did you receive immediate response or did you have to twist your hands and wait a while?

 

Krista: Looking back at my records, I started querying on November 14, 2011, and received my first offer on March 16, 2012, so I queried this manuscript for almost exactly four months. Some agents responded to my query quickly (like, within a day or two), and some never responded at all. But in the end, the very first query I sent also turned into the first offer I received–and the offer I accepted–so good things can take time.

 

 

Amy: As many writers know, it is very hard to break into the publishing world. What was the one thing you did to help garner agent attention?

 

Krista: I was lucky enough to find a way to build my platform and boost my visibility among agents at the same time by launching the “Interview with an Agent” series on my blog. Kate was actually one of the first agents I interviewed back in 2010, and that started a dialogue that persisted off and on through our blogs and Twitter feeds for the next two years.

 

But you don’t have to launch an interview series to have meaningful conversations with agents. Talk to them at conferences. Comment regularly on their blogs. Let them see that you’re an interesting, confident human being who lets his or her writing speak for itself. I think that goes a long way.

 

 

Amy: What was your “call” like with your agent, Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary?

 

Krista: It was jump-up-and-down exciting, but it was also unexpected. I’d known she was reading my manuscript that week, but I’d convinced myself she wasn’t going to offer. Then she e-mailed me a few hours before she left for the Bologna Book Fair to tell me she wanted to discuss representation. I e-mailed her right back, of course, and said I could talk anytime, then spent the next thirty minutes walking the floor with my two-month-old and hoping, hoping, hoping he wouldn’t erupt into baby screams. (I shouldn’t have worried. Monster–NOT his real name–is a champ.) It was a little weird to actually talk to her that first time, but I distinctly remember I couldn’t stop smiling:)

 

 

Amy: You have done many agent interviews on your blog, “Mother. Write. (Repeat.)” What is the one critical thing you have learned about writing after interviewing so many agents?

 

Krista:  That everything about writing is one-hundred-percent subjective. That no two agents are looking for exactly the same thing. That one agent’s junk is another agent’s treasure. I received dozens of form rejections for THE REGENERATED MAN AND ME, and yet two agents ended up loving it enough to offer. And that’s true of every book that eventually finds its way to a bookshelf.

 

 

Krista is a stay-at-home mom by day and a writer by naptime. She holds degrees in Mathematics Education and Economics from Brigham Young University but tries not to talk–or write–like a mathematician. If she’s not typing away on the computer, she’s probably watching college football or wiping someone’s nose. She lives with her husband and three young kids in Mesquite, Nevada, and is represented by Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary.

 

 

For more on Krista check out her blog, Mother. Write. (Repeat.) or follow her on twitter.

 

Taking Control of Your Publishing Future August 20, 2012

Today, I am thrilled to have a guest post by my good friend and critique partner, Katie French.  I was fortunate to meet Katie last year at a pitch conference in New York. After spending a few short hours together, I quickly learned we had the same passion for writing and a commitment to the craft.

 

 

We have worked together the last year trading pages and critiquing each others work with hopes of finding an agent.  While I eventually shelved my MS and began working on a new project, Katie made the momentous decision to e-publish her work – THE BREEDERS.

 

 

While daunting, she made the fearless decision to take control of her own publishing fate and wade out into the digital world on her own. This decision not only took guts but a lot of research and hard work.

 

 

I have asked Katie to share her thoughts on e-publishing and why, in the end, it was the right choice for her. I hope her story will provide inspiration for those of you who are considering taking control of your own publishing future.

 

 

Taking Publishing in my Own Hands

 

By Katie French

 

There has never been a more interesting time to be a writer. As I sit and write those words, there are very few things I believe more strongly. We are on the cusp of a revolution. It is a moment akin to the invention of the typewriter or MTV. The publishing industry is not just changing; it is transforming more than Rue Paul on a Saturday night. So many authors, like myself, are wondering what does this mean for me? I put many long nights into that same question. What does the evolution of the publishing industry mean to me, a struggling writer who has been rejected more than I’d like to admit? But I’ve decided. I’ve decided it means freedom, acceptance and hard work. It means self-publishing.

 

 

For years self-publishing has been synonymous with bad. Many authors have it in their heads that to be lumped with the $2.99 crew on Kindle means you suck. Isn’t the traditional process of getting an agent, getting an editor and printing lots of copies the only way to prove you’re any good? I’m not so sure anymore. Dozens of success stories like J.A. Konrath, Amanda Hocking and John Locke prove otherwise. And I started thinking, what if I stopped taking no for an answer? What if I took my life into my own hands? What a scary and exhilarating thought.

 

 

I must confess I am a control freak. I love having every aspect of my life in my own hands. So, you can imagine how picking my own cover, writing my own blurb and keeping my own title appealed to me. I could also release when I felt like it, market how I wanted and leave my prose alone. I didn’t have to please anyone but myself. Then came the research. There are some fantastic resources for self-publishers out there. I picked a book called Let’s Get Digital by David Gaughran. That book helped me through the process of formatting, which was harder than I ever imagined. I hired a top-notch editor, cringing at the price, but knowing it might make or break my work. I hired a friend to do my cover art and was pleased with his work. I built a website, a Facebook page and updated my blog. Then I released THE BREEDERS and held my breath.

 

 

Since then, the most amazing thing has happened. Friends, family and even high school classmates I haven’t seen in fifteen years came out of the woodwork to support me. I sold almost 80 books in the first day (and outsold some James Patterson titles for a day!). I’ve been getting five star reviews from people I don’t even know. One friend has organized her book club to feature my book as their next selection. And my drive to write has skyrocketed. All it takes is a couple people saying, “When’s the sequel coming out? I can’t wait” to drive you to your computer day after day.

 

 

So, in the realm of self-publishing, I feel like a success story. True, I’m not on the top one hundred and I certainly can’t quit my day job, but I’ve never been happier. My writing is in my own hands and I’m not taking no for an answer.

 

 

My sincere thanks goes to Katie for sharing her story.  Her novel THE BREEDERS is available now at Amazon.

 

 

If you enjoy a fast-paced story, with unique world-building, and a strong female lead, I highly recommend you download it today!

 

 

Here’s a short blurb:

 

“When the Breeders come for ya, there ain’t no escape. They strap ya to a bed and all ya hear is the thud of your heart and the cries of your friends as they wheel ya down to hell. Then the doctors come. You squeeze your eyes shut and pray you can forget. But ya never do.”

 

Sixteen-year-old Riley Meemick is one of the world’s last free girls. When Riley was born, her mother escaped the Breeders, the group of doctors using cruel experiments to bolster the dwindling human race. Her parents do everything possible to keep her from their clutches– moving from one desolate farm after another to escape the Breeders’ long reach. The Breeders control everything- the local war lords, the remaining factories, the fuel. They have unchecked power in this lawless society. And they’re hunting Riley.

 

 

 

 

Katie French imagined herself an author when her poem caught the eye of her second grade teacher. In middle school she spent her free time locked in her room, writing her first young adult novel. Though her social life suffered, her love for literature thrived. She studied English at Eastern Michigan University, where she veered from writing and earned an education degree. She spent nine years teaching high school English. Currently she is a school counselor, doing a job that is both one of the hardest things she’s ever done and the most rewarding. In her free time she writes, reads great books and takes care of her two beautiful and crazy children. She is a contributor and co-creator of Underground Book Reviews, a website dedicated to erasing the boundaries between traditional and non-traditional publishing. She lives in Michigan with her husband and two children.For more information about Katie you can check her out on Goodreads, Facebook or on her website, Katie French Books.

 

W.O.W. – Writer Odyssey Wednesday – Mindee Arnett August 15, 2012

 

 

When I first started researching queries, I looked all over the internet for a great example of how to formulate the perfect pitch.  I went to many sites: Writer’s Digest, Agent Query Connect, etc… looking for one that really stood out and spoke to me on many levels.  Basically, I just wanted to be inspired to write something brilliant.  I searched endlessly and then I came upon the following:

 

16-year-old Dusty Everhart might make a regular habit of breaking into houses late at night, but she’s no criminal. She is a Nightmare, a magical being who must feed on the dreams of others, and in doing so experience those dreams, too. But when her latest dreamer, Eli Booker, the hot guy from her old high school, turns out to be dreaming about a murder which shortly comes true, she goes from non-criminal to reluctant crime fighter.

 

Dusty learns that together she and Eli posses the rare ability to predict the future through dreams. They are soon enlisted by the magickind government to help identify the person killing students at Dusty’s high school, Arkwell Academy, a secret school for magickind. Now Dusty and Eli must follow the clues both within Eli’s dreams and out of them to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what they’re up to and marks them as the next target.

 

This was Mindee Arnett’s pitch for The NIGHTMARE AFFAIR, which garnered her attention from super agent, Suzie Townsend.  Now back then, I didn’t know who Mindee was, I just knew I admired her writing style.  I dug back through my archives and found her name and tracked her down, because I knew I wanted to hear about her writing journey.  Her story taught me that you can have many amazing ideas and manuscripts and the writing to back them up but sometimes they don’t take.  Eventually though, you hit upon a stellar idea and it all just clicks.  Again, I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again, – it’s all about perseverance and the drive to make your dream a reality.

 

I learned a lot from reading Mindee’s odyssey and I hope you will too!

 

Amy: When did you first begin writing?

 

Mindee: I wrote my very first short story in the sixth grade. My teacher presented the class with a writing prompt, and we had one week to write a story from it. I had always been an avid reader, but I’d never before realized I could write my own stories. It was as if she had opened a door for me to this secret, magical world. And once I stepped through, I never turned back. I’ve been writing ever since.

 

 

Amy: Have you always written YA fiction?

 

Mindee: No, not consciously, although many of my stories and early novels could easily be considered YA. The Nightmare Affair is definitely the first time I knew when I started that I was going to be writing a young adult novel. But this wasn’t a calculated decision on my part by any means. For me, the story is always boss, and Nightmare wanted to be set in a magical high school. The rest just fell into place.

 

 

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

 

Mindee: Before signing with my agent, I completed four novels. And by complete I mean they had a beginning, middle, and end, but weren’t necessarily polished and ready to be out in the world. Like most writers just getting started, I submitted material way too soon.

 

The first book was a high fantasy. I submitted it to a single publisher that accepted unsolicited and unagented manuscripts. It was rejected, of course, but by the time I received it, I was already halfway through the next book, an adult horror. This one I submitted to around twenty agents. I received a couple of partials and one full request, all of which were rejected. Again, by the time these came in, I had already moved on to the next book, an adult sci-fi. The sci-fi never went on submission. I took the book to my first and only writing conference where I received feedback from an editor. It was an incredibly disheartening experience, one awful enough that I abandoned the book completely. The next novel was an adult paranormal. This one I queried to approximately 50 agents with some partial and full manuscript request, all ultimately rejected.

 

 

Amy: If one manuscript was continuing to get rejected, how did you know it was time to move onto a new project?

 

Mindee: For me, the answer was to always start the next project as soon as the old was finished. This was the only way for me to deal with the stress of being on submission to agents (and later to editors). And of course with five novels under my belt, writing has become a daily habit and something I do compulsively. As far as determining when to stop querying, I just went with my gut feeling. With the book prior to Nightmare, the adult paranormal, I stopped querying once the heartbreak grew to be too much and when my desire and motivation to continue to revise/rewrite had fizzled out. Sometimes you just know when the tale has gone sour.

 

 

Amy: Did your query for THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR come easily or did it go through many drafts?

 

Mindee: Writing a query letter is never easy. And personally, I would be suspicious of any query that I was able to write without days and days of agonizing and restarts and general flailing. A query letter and a synopsis are by far the hardest piece of writing an author will ever do. The query for Nightmare, which you can read here [http://www.mindeearnett.com/query-letter-example-and-tips-2/], went through multiple variations. By the time I finished writing it, I had fifteen pages of rejected content. Fifteen! That’s a lot of writing.

 

 

Amy: Did you have critique partners for THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR? If you did, how critical were they to your writing process?

 

Mindee: Yes, I most definitely have critique partners and they were/are absolutely critical to the writing process. Prior to Nightmare, the majority of my feedback had come from family members and friends. They were all readers, but most were not writers. This is the key difference. Readers tend to be far less critical and forgiving than reader-writers. It took me a long time to learn this (ahem, 4 books). But with Nightmare, I actively started searching for critique partners online, and I was fortunate enough to find them. One in particular—Lori M. Lee [http://lorimlee.blogspot.com/ ] —has been invaluable to my success. She is both encouraging but critical and as sharp as they come. If you’re writing a book, you need a Lori. Trust me. You do. And once your find yours, your world will change.

 

 

Amy: How many agents did you query for THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR? Did you receive immediate responses or did you have to wait a while for replies?

 

Mindee: I queried less than ten agents before signing with Suzie, and it happened very quickly. Within seven days of submitting my query, she offered representation. But honestly, quickness of response is not really an indicator of success. So much of it depends on luck. For me, Suzie had an assistant working for her at the time, and so the query received notice very quickly. But this is not always the case. A lot of the time an agent won’t see your query at all for days and even weeks.

 

 

Amy: What can you tell me about “the call” with your agent, Suzie Townsend?

 

Mindee: It was amazing. I was incredibly nervous about it, and I talked way too fast, but really, it was probably the best phone call of my life. Fortunately, Suzie did most of the talking. She was very professional. She had prepared a list of why she loved the book as well as a couple of questions she had about it and minor areas where she would like to see it revised. I took notes and did a lot of pacing.

 

 

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

 

Mindee: No. There were times when I despaired about no longer submitting my work to agents, but I knew in my heart I could never give up writing. Writing, and more specifically story-telling, is an integral part of who I am. I could no sooner turn away from writing stories then I could make myself stop reading books or watching movies and TV shows.

 

Many thanks to Mindee for taking the time to share her story.

 

Mindee’s book, THE NIGHTMARE AFFAIR, will be released March, 2013. She currently lives on a horse farm in Ohio with her husband, two kids, a couple of dogs, and an inappropriate number of cats.  She’s addicted to jumping horses and telling tales of magic, the macabre, and outer space.  Her short stories have appeared in various magazines, and she has a Master of Arts in English literature with an emphasis in Creative Writing. She also blogs and tweets.  Find her online at http://www.mindeearnett.com/

 

 

 

 
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