One thing I always ask in the W.O.W. is how critique partners affect a writer‘s work. I can only count on one hand the number of writers who have told me they do not use CPs. How they do it, I don’t know. CPs and beta readers, I believe, are critical to the writing process and today’s featured writer, Maggie Hall agrees.
Maggie is part of a group blog called the YA Misfits. This group supports one another through the writing, revising, querying and eventual submission process. They are proof that with a great support network, any writer can reach their potential.
Many thanks to Maggie for sharing her writing journey…
Amy: You don’t see a lot of YA International Thrillers in the current marketplace. What inspired you to write The ELITE?
Maggie: Mostly that there weren’t a lot of YA International Thrillers in the marketplace! 🙂 I read a lot of adult International Thrillers and love the genre, and always wished there was more like it in YA, so when the idea for this one came to me, I knew I had to write it. Plus, I love traveling and it was really fun to get to use some of my experience in writing this book.
Amy: How many completed manuscripts did you query before THE ELITE?
Maggie: This is my very first manuscript, so none!
Amy: I know you are part of the blog group, YA Misfits. How did you connect with them, and how has knowing them affected your writing?
Maggie: Twitter, contests, forums…we met all over the place online, essentially. I met the first Misfits I knew through seeing each others’ entries on WriteOnCon then connecting through Twitter, and then met their friends, and they met mine, and soon we had this wonderful group of writers, and thought hey, wouldn’t it be fun if we started a group blog? And so YA Misfits was born.
Most of my critique partners are Misfits, and CPs in general changed my writing life. There’s only so much you can do to your writing on your own, and they have been incredibly helpful. And besides help on my actual MS, I would never have made it through the publishing process without them to lean on and vent to and freak out with…everyone needs a few good CPs!
Amy: Did your query for THE ELITE come easily or did it go through many drafts?
Maggie: It went through quite a few drafts. I started messing with the query well before the MS was done, so I had time to let it evolve naturally, and to get lots of advice! I had friends read it, posted it on forums…I have a tendency to ramble on, and the first couple drafts definitely showed that!
Amy: How many agents did you query for THE ELITE? Did you receive immediate responses or did you have to wait a while for replies?
Maggie: I queried 14 agents. Most of them were actually very quick–I got lucky!
Amy: Can you give a short summary of your call with your agent, Claudia Ballard? How did you know she was the right agent for you?
Maggie: I knew Claudia was the right agent when she told me what was wrong with the book. 🙂 Some agents aren’t very editorial (which is fine!) but I love having an agent who made me confident that she wouldn’t send my book out on sub until she thought it was really ready. And besides the edits, she was incredibly supportive, too. I came out of our first call knowing she loved the book and could see good things happening for it.
The rest of the call with her was pretty standard, I suppose–we talked about what she was looking for out of me, what I wanted out of my future as a writer, etc!
Amy: As most writers know, publishing is a very difficult business. What was the one thing you think you did to garner agent interest?
Maggie: I think the fact that my MS was different from what agents usually see in the slush pile was the most important factor in hooking them initially. Agents see so many queries, anything that makes your story stand out in a good, exciting way is really going to help you.
Amy: Was there ever a time you thought about giving up on your writing dream? If so, what motivated you to keep writing?
Maggie: All the time. I thought I’d never get my draft finished, then I thought I’d never think it was good enough to query, then when I was revising with my agent, I definitely doubted my ability to make it good enough to go on sub. Doubt, doubt, and more doubt. I was ready to throw in the towel a million times.
And what motivated me to go on? First of all, see my answer about CPs, above…my amazing CPs have encouraged me, been a shoulder to cry on, and kicked my butt into gear more times than I can count. If it weren’t for them being there for me through thick and thin, I very well might have quit at some point. And also, the love of writing. It sounds cheesy, but it’s true. Every time I tried to ignore my writing, or thought of giving up, it would be there, nagging at me, and I know there’s no way I could really quit. Maybe writers really are a little crazy!
More on THE ELITE:
Sixteen-year-old Avery West’s newfound family can shut down Prada at the Champs-Elysees when they want to shop in peace, and can just as easily order a bombing when they want to start a war. They are part of a powerful and dangerous secret society called the Elite, and they think Avery is the key to an ancient prophecy. Now some of the Elite want to use her as a pawn. Some want her dead.
To unravel the mystery putting her in danger, Avery must follow a trail of clues from the crypts of Paris to the back alleys of Istanbul and through a web of ancient legends and lies. And even more complicated are the two boys she’s with—beautiful, volatile Stellan and mysterious, magnetic Jack—who might be part of the solution, or who might be her undoing…because the conspiracy goes deeper than anyone could have guessed.
Maggie Hall is a former bookstore events coordinator and world traveler, who has petted tigers in Thailand, eaten her way through Italy, and taken thousands of miles of trains across India. When she’s not on the other side of the world, she likes to watch USC football and blog about young adult literature for YA Misfits. She recently relocated from Albuquerque to New Orleans with her husband and three cats.
Maggie is represented by Claudia Ballard at William Morris Endeavor and the first book in her YA International Thriller trilogy, currently called THE ELITE, will be published by Putnam/Penguin in fall 2014. You can add it to Goodreads here. For more on Maggie, check out her website, blog or follow her on Twitter @MaggieEHall