Agents, Querying, Revising, Writing

When Is It Time to Finish Querying?

I touched on this topic once before, as part of a post on timing, and I want to emphasize the distinction between stopping and finishing. I think these are two different things. You can just stop because you’re discouraged or you can finish, leaving no stone unturned.

Here are some things to consider if you’re reaching the end of querying a particular project.

Have you queried all of the agents on your list?

If you’ve gone through every agent you think is even a possible fit for your manuscript, then you’re finished. When I say possible fit, I mean any agent who represents the category and genre of your manuscript. Agents put their wish lists out there, but they’re the first to admit they can be surprised by something they didn’t expect to like.

Here’s how I approach querying. I have a master agent list that includes all of the agents who represent my category and genre. When I’m ready to query a new project, I rank them in the order I plan to query them. I would love to work with any of the agents on my list, but I start with the agents I think are most likely to request my manuscript. I determine that by browsing their web sites, blogs and Publishers Marketplace pages; reading interviews online; searching QueryTracker for what they’ve requested recently, etc. In general, my research is usually right, and as a result I get more requests in the beginning and more rejections as I go down my list.

BUT the internet doesn’t know everything or account for the fact that tastes change. So even though I understand it can get discouraging as you get to the later agents on your list, don’t stop querying because you think an agent is a long shot. The worst that can happen is a rejection, and at least then you won’t have any regrets about leaving off that one agent. I know from experience that sometimes the long shots can surprise you with a request, and it’s worth it to stick it out to get that nice surprise!

Do you still believe in the manuscript?

Querying can be quite a demoralizing prospect. You put your work out there, and you get rejected. A lot. Probably more than you’ve ever been rejected for anything in your life.

Ok, I’ll stop now. But the rejections can beat you down if you’re not getting positive feedback and/or requests. You can get to a point where you feel like stopping just because you’re tired of getting rejected. If you’re at that point, ask yourself: Do I still believe in this manuscript?

If not, maybe it’s time to shelve the manuscript. If you don’t believe in it anymore, you definitely shouldn’t send more queries. I did that with my very first manuscript, the one I don’t claim on this blog. The others are all listed under the Writing tab, and the two I’m no longer querying weren’t shelved until I received the last rejection.

If you do still believe in it, the next question is: Do I need to revise before sending more queries? I answered that one here. If you do still believe in the manuscript and you don’t think it’s time to revise, then you just have to remind yourself why you felt you were ready to query in the first place. Push through until you’ve exhausted every possibility.

Do you have something else almost ready to query?

The general consensus among agents is that you shouldn’t query two projects at the same time. Now, I think the agents who say that tend to be the ones who answer fairly quickly. You probably wouldn’t hear that statement from an agent who takes a year or more to respond. But the gist of it is, if you plan to start querying something new, you should wrap up sending queries for the outstanding project. Personally, I don’t think it’s an issue to have outstanding submissions on one project when you start querying a new one. I do think you should notify the agents with outstanding submissions that you have something new and ask if they’d like to see it, too. Knowing what else you have available could definitely sway the agent. If they are intrigued by the new one, too, hey, you might get an agent who already likes two of your projects! If they aren’t, then they wouldn’t be the best fit for you anyway. Either way, if you think you’re close to querying a new project, you should finish out your agent list for the current one.

Are there any other questions you’ve asked yourself when determining whether to finish querying a project? What has helped you decide?

Querying, Revising, What I've Learned, Writing

What I’ve Learned in Two Years of Querying

I really hoped I wouldn’t have to write this post, but here we are. It’s officially been two years since I sent my first round of queries. During that time, I’ve queried two manuscripts, one of which underwent a major revision before restarting the querying process. I posted last year on what I’d learned in one year of querying, so I won’t repeat any of those points. In any case, I have learned many new things the past year.

Just because an agent requested one of your manuscripts doesn’t mean they’ll request the next one. Agents always say it comes down to the writing, so I assumed if they liked my writing once, they’d like it again. But they still have to be interested in the premise, and it seems I write vastly different things. I went from MG adventure with a boy protagonist to MG magical realism with a girl protagonist (later aged up to YA). Only one agent who requested the first MS requested the second one. My current project is MG science fiction with two girl protagonists, although it’s definitely not girly. So even though I’m up to about 30 agents who have requested my work in the past, there’s no guarantee they’ll be interested in this one. Even if they loved my writing before, maybe they don’t like sci-fi. Or aliens. Or girls who do Tae Kwon Do. Or books about twins. Who knows?

Just because an agent takes a long time to respond doesn’t mean they aren’t interested. When you see an agent tweeting about signing a client within a week of submission and that agent has had your manuscript for nearly a year, it’s pretty disheartening. Thoughts like, “They must not be that interested in mine,” go through your head. Or my head. Whatever. But as with everything else, there are a lot of factors involved. Some agents don’t read in order, especially if something they have in their to-read pile has another offer on the table. I assumed an agent who’d had my MS that long wasn’t interested, and I was wrong. The agent upgraded me from a partial to a full after nine months. So a long wait doesn’t necessarily equal a lack of interest.

Getting a lot of requests does not mean you’ll get an agent. This one is tough to accept. I didn’t get many requests for my first manuscript and rightly so. But my second one was different. I had a great request rate, and I thought, “Finally! This is it!” Well, it still could be. I have a couple of submissions still out there. But it wasn’t the speedy success story my early requests made me anticipate.

Neither does a revise and resubmit. I was very hopeful when I received the R&R for DUET. I knew there were no guarantees, but here was an agent who really loved my premise and my writing. Unfortunately, that agent had a life of her own, and her writing career took off in spectacular fashion right around the time she requested the R&R. I waited. And waited. And finally heard confirmation last week that she’d decided to no longer agent. I could be upset that I put in so much effort to change DUET from middle grade to young adult, but I’m not. It was the right thing to do for the story, plus I learned I could write YA. That’s a good thing since my next idea is YA. So thank you to that former agent for challenging me to go beyond what I thought I could do.

There’s a lot more competition for YA than MG. When I aged DUET up to YA, I’d already burned through a good number of agents, but there also were a lot of agents still out there who hadn’t seen it. I updated my agent list with statistics from QueryTracker and was excited to see agents requested a lot more YA than MG. After all, I’d had a great request rate for the MG version, so if agents requested more YA, I’d get even more requests for the YA version. Nope. My request rate was way lower. Now some of that may be because I’d already queried the agents I thought were the best fit for my premise, but I think the bigger factor is that there’s so much YA out there. You see a lot more people querying YA than MG, and I think that’s why individual agents request more YA than MG rather than a preference for YA over MG.

Test out your submission materials as many ways as you can. The query letter and opening pages are so important. When I started querying DUET, I focused mainly on the query letter, and I received a lot of requests from agents whose guidelines called for the query letter only. I had a bit less success with agents who wanted pages as well. I didn’t pay enough attention to that. If I had, it would have clued me in earlier that my character should have been older. But maybe not. Sometimes the feedback you get doesn’t click until later. I’m being more cautious this time. One way I plan to test it all out is by targeting agents who request a partial before a full. Assuming they do request, I can get a feel for how well those early pages are performing. If they ask for more, that’s a good sign!

Trust your gut … but recognize things you might have to change later. I used to be one of those writers who incorporated 99 percent of the suggestions from my critique partners. To be honest, with that first manuscript I probably needed to, and even quite a bit of it on the second one. I’ve gotten to the point where I trust my own writing better than I ever have in the past. My CPs still catch a lot of issues, both major and minor, but I have much more confidence in myself if I don’t agree with a comment. This is particularly important in my current manuscript, as I have some risky elements that a couple of readers have been iffy about. It’s another reason I’m being cautious with querying–so I can feel out whether these risks are going to turn off agents or not.

So that’s where I am after two years. I really hope I won’t have to write a “what I’ve learned in three years of querying post” next year, but if I do, I’m sure I’ll have even more knowledge to impart.

How about you? What have you learned? Anything different from what I’ve experienced?

Critiquing, Querying, Writing

How Much Honesty Can You Take?

Yesterday agent Mandy Hubbard tweeted:

Sometimes, wish I could tell an author: You have talent. But this feels like the book before the 1 you get published. #NobodyWantstoHearThat

Well, of course you don’t want to hear that, but maybe you should. Now, if I were just dipping my toes in the querying waters for the first time, that kind of statement could be devastating. But after nearly two years of querying and three years of being critiqued, I’ve developed a pretty thick skin. I barely shrug when I get a query rejection, and even a manuscript rejection merits little more than a wince. I’ve gotten to the point where I tell myself it’s a rejection before I even open it so I don’t get my hopes up. Maybe that’s a little sad, but it’s how I cope. And on the plus side, a “yes” is then a pleasant surprise.

On the other hand, when I get actual feedback, I perk up. Those rejections give me hope that I’m getting closer, and I can see that it’s true in my own journey.

With my first serious manuscript, CAVEBOY, I had less than ten requests, and the rejections were pretty much forms, with a couple of agents who asked me to send them other work. I’ve had a lot more success with DUET. I still received some form rejections on requests, but quite a few of the rejections gave me feedback, and one was even an R&R. (For those who have been following me a while, no, I haven’t heard back on that one yet. I’m still waiting on a few submissions, actually.) No matter what DUET’s eventual fate is, I can see that I’ve improved by the number of requests and number of agents who gave me actual feedback. That’s especially encouraging when I’m almost ready to send out a new project.

I can definitely understand agents’ hesitancy to give you the level of honesty Mandy mentioned. Obviously there are crazies out there who harass agents after a rejection, but I think another reason is they have no idea where you are in the process. How do they know whether the writer is seasoned and professional enough to take that feedback and accept it for what it is–their opinion–instead of throwing their laptop across the room and vowing never to write again? Ok, that’s extreme, but some people are more sensitive than others or just haven’t developed that thick skin yet.

I’m always cognizant of that when I critique for someone new. I try not to hold back if I really think something’s an issue because I’d want them to tell me if they saw a problem in my MS. At the same time, until I’ve formed a relationship with them, I don’t know how they’ll take it. If I don’t hear back from a new CP within a day or two, I start thinking, “Was I too harsh? Do they hate me now?” But then I remind myself that they asked for my opinion and that I wouldn’t really be helping them if I held something back. And when it comes down to it, it’s still just my opinion. They might not agree with it or think it’s right for their manuscript, just as I might not agree with something an agent or CP says about my manuscript. I don’t always agree with the critiques I receive, but I still appreciate them. Even if I decide to leave something the way it is, at least I know it could be perceived that way. That’s important knowledge because we all come from different backgrounds and bring different perspectives when we read. No one comes away with the exact same reading experience. That’s the beauty of the written word.

How about you? How much honesty can you take?

Querying, Writing

The Stages of Waiting

I sent my work-in-progress, THE DEXELON TWINCIDENT, out to my first round of readers two weeks ago. I received comments from one of the readers on Friday, and I’ve been anxiously waiting for feedback from the other (don’t rush, if you’re reading this!). It’s made me muse on the different kinds of waiting we have to do as writers and the emotions associated with them. I’ve been through so many different stages of waiting over the almost two years I’ve been seriously seeking representation.

There’s the excitement of querying a new project. That moment when you send out your first batch of queries and then anxiously wait for your phone to ding a new email or, if you’re more obsessive, keep refreshing your email. I can’t do that. Before my smart phone, I would only let myself check my query email three times a day. Now I know as soon as an email comes in, so I don’t need to obsessively check. Of course, there are those phantom dings 🙂 …

If you get requests, there’s the agonizing wait for the agent’s response. I used to check QueryTracker every day for new comments about whatever agent requested my work, but I’ve discovered that’s just another way to drive myself crazy. I do have an agent column in my Tweetdeck that I monitor, but I limit myself to checking QT once a week. It’s not like I can speed up the process anyway.

How about this one? That heart-stopping moment when you have a response and don’t yet know what it is. You can see who the sender is and the first few words. Even though I’ve trained myself to assume it’s a rejection (better to be pleasantly surprised than get my hopes up too much), I still get short of breath in the moments it takes the email to load. There’s slightly less anticipation if the email starts with “Thank you,” but I’ve been wrong about that a couple of times.

My favorite kind of waiting is for feedback from my critique partners and beta readers. It’s so much easier than waiting on an agent because I expect them to find things that need work. I go into it with anticipation of what I can do to make the novel better. And as soon as I hear from them, I want to jump into revisions. That’s the hard part–waiting until I hear back from ALL of them. Because as I posted in January, even if different readers comment on the same issue, they come at it with their own view of the world, and those distinctions are helpful in knowing how to fix the issue.

What emotions do you go through while you’re waiting? How do you pass the time?

Here are two other posts I’ve written on waiting:

Yes, No, Wait

The Questions We Ask While We Wait

Querying, Writing

Yes, No, Wait

I’ve often had discussions with my friends about how when you pray for something, God has three possible answers–yes, no, or wait. If it’s “yes,” obviously I celebrate! And if it’s “no,” at least I can figure out how to move on. But that “wait” answer … I hate that one, especially since I can’t predict whether it will turn into a “yes” or a “no” later.

It occurred to me yesterday as I sent out my last round of queries for DUET that I’m dealing with the same scenario as I query. (Not that I’m comparing agents to God. They’re not that powerful.)

  1. I query, asking them to consider my novel.
  2. They say, “yes, send it to me!” Or, “no, it’s not for me.” Or…
  3. I wait. Maybe they have a query backlog. Maybe they’ve put me in a maybe pile. There are a whole host of questions that go along with waiting. Maybe you’ve asked some of these.

If the answer is yes:

  1. I submit, asking them to love my novel.
  2. They say, “yes, I want to represent you!” (Haven’t gotten that one yet :).) Or, “no, it’s not for me,” and maybe tell me why. Or…
  3. A different kind of waiting, with some hope thrown in. “I like so much about this, but it’s not quite there. If you do x and y, I’d love to see it again.” I’ve blogged before about that magical word–IF.

If it’s either scenario in No. 2, then the waiting is over. But if it’s No. 3–otherwise known as an R&R–you have to repeat the last few steps all over again.

Sometimes it feels like a never-ending process, but for now, I’m done with the querying/submitting, and I’m back to waiting. There’s a lot of advice out there about what to do while you wait. In my case, I’ve picked up some extra freelance work, and I’m focusing on my WIP, which I really should give some kind of title :). And I’ve decided not to torture myself by stalking QueryTracker stats and trying to figure out if I’m in a maybe pile or when an agent will get to my query or submission. That way lies craziness. I know.

I’m still praying that my dream of traditional publication–starting with an agent–will come true. And for now, God says, “Wait.” So I will.

How do you cope with waiting?

Querying, Revising, Writing

Should You Re-Query Agents with Your Revised Manuscript?

If you came to this post hoping for an absolute answer to this question, you’ll be disappointed.

I’ve been on a querying blitz this past week, sending the YA version of DUET out into the world. Because I already queried a number of agents with the MG version, this question of re-querying has come up a lot. Note that this is specifically pertaining to agents who’ve already rejected–not those who still have an earlier version as that’s an entirely different topic.

I should also note that before even considering this, make sure your manuscript has been significantly revised and that a considerable amount of time has passed. In my case, I rewrote DUET from a middle grade to a young adult, which translated into a significant word count increase as well as adding new subplots and making changes to the main plot. And as far as timing, I won’t even consider re-querying if it’s been less than six months. Below are my internal checklist questions depending on whether the agent requested or not.

Agents Who Rejected the Partial/Full Manuscript

Earlier this week, I asked my Twitter friends: Is it totally taboo to re-query agents who requested the MG version of DUET with the YA version? I received answers varying from “yes!” to “the worst they can say is no.” My internal argument goes something like this:

Reckless Michelle: You know they love the concept, and you’ve changed so much of the story. The worst they can say is no. Go for it!

Cautious Michelle: But they already said no once. I don’t want to annoy them or waste their time if they’ll end up thinking the same thing. What if I don’t get an agent with this manuscript? I might have wasted some serious capital when I’m ready to query my next project.

Cautious Michelle generally wins, but here’s how I evaluated, trying to find a balance.

  • Was it a form rejection? If so, I’m not resending because I have no idea what didn’t work for that agent.
  • What did the agent say in the rejection? Have I addressed his/her issue(s) fully enough or is it possible they’ll still see the same issues?
  • Did the agent have some really positive comments that imply they’d be open to seeing a revision?
  • Is the agent at an agency where there are other agents I could query? If so, will it be awkward to do that or should I at least give that agent the first right of refusal?
  • Does the agent have a stated policy about re-querying something they’ve rejected? Some agents will share this information on their blog or website.

Agents Who Rejected the Query

This can be tricky, too. If it was a query only, I assume they weren’t interested in the concept, so that’s an easy no. If they saw pages, though, it’s possible it was the sample that turned them off and not the concept. Here’s what I considered in that case.

  • First, what’s the agent’s policy on re-querying? Some agents are totally fine with trying again. As stated above, I only consider it if it’s been at least six months, and I mention that I previously queried them with an MG version.
  • Did they give any feedback? Most query rejections are forms, but some agents will give  something extra. If that’s the case, I consider whether I’ve addressed their concerns about it fully enough for it to show in the query and sample pages.
  • Did they think about it? You can’t know for sure unless they told you they deliberated over it, but there are some agents who state that they have a maybe pile, and you might be able to tell if your original query sat there by tracking statistics on QueryTracker or Absolute Write. It’s not a sure science, but it could give you hope that they’d seriously consider a re-query.
  • Do they tend to request more YA than MG? Since I made a category change, this is an extra consideration. Some agents accept MG but specialize more in YA, so it’s worth trying them again. The same could be true if you’ve revised from YA to adult, etc.
  • Do I love the agent enough to risk trying again? It’s a bit easier to answer this question with a rejected query versus a rejected submission. If they haven’t read more than a sample, I expect they’re less likely to be annoyed that I’m trying again. But I still think carefully about it.

Overall, I’d advise serious caution if you decide to re-query agents who have already passed. I’ve done it with a few, but I agonized over it first. It’s that struggle between not wanting to waste their time if it’s just going to be another “no” and whether I really think they’ll be interested this time around.

What are your thoughts? Have you re-queried agents with a revised manuscript? How did it work out?

Revising, Writing

So Apparently I Write YA …

Or at least I’ve written one YA. I hesitated whether to put this out there since a few agents still have DUET, but I’ll go ahead and say the revision I did was to make it YA.

I had no idea if I could pull it off. For one thing, I had to add at least 25,000 words. Considering it was 43,000 words before that, I added more than another half of the book. For another, I’ve spent all this time building my blog platform on middle grade, so when the agent said, “I think this would work better as YA,” I went, “Ahhhh!”

But here’s the thing. She was right. And I think the disconnect came because the last book I queried was MG. I put a lot of time into reading and learning MG so I could master that age group. So when I had the idea for DUET, I never even considered if it was right for MG. I just jumped into that category because it was what I knew. However, once I started working on the revision, I realized making it YA allows me to go deeper with the music, darker with the plot, and add a romance instead of just a crush. And if you’ve been reading my blog a while, you’ll know I love my romance.

So, you might ask, why didn’t anyone else tell me this sooner? I think because aside from the musical aspect, I had focused the plot points on the MG audience–friendship, a crush, etc. I’d had comments here and there about the voice being on the edge of upper middle grade. I wasn’t averse to aging it up, but I was getting requests, so I figured it must be ok. Plus, I had no idea where I’d get those extra words. In this case, it helped that right after the revision request I received a rejection with some detailed feedback that made a light bulb go off in my head. It also helped that the agent who suggested the revision gave me some specific reasons why it should be YA. As I’ve said before on the topic of revision, I think sometimes you just don’t know what to do with the feedback when you first receive it. It’s not that you don’t value it, you just don’t get it. Then, one day it finally clicks.

This revision is really more of a rewrite, but I feel like DUET has become the book it should have been all along. It’s not ready yet. I have it out to readers and expect I still have work to do before I send it out to agents, but I know I’m on the right track.

Of course this brings me back to timing again. Because other agents still have the MG version, I revised as quickly as possible, intending to notify them about the revision once it’s ready. At the same time, I don’t want to rush the process and send out something that isn’t at its best. It’s a tough line to follow. I alternate between thinking I should notify them in case they get to it before I send the revision and waiting it out. I appreciate any suggestions. Ultimately, I don’t want to waste their time.

Ah well, I wish there were a magic formula to this querying business. How’s everyone else doing?

Querying, Revising, Writing

If: A Word That Gives Hope

So, last month I did a post about when it’s time to revise. Then, two weeks ago, I talked about timing and how that plays into querying strategy. I had this whole plan for finishing out my querying for DUET, not because I want to give up on it but because I’ve been working on something else that excites me, too.

And then I got an email that changed my plans. Not an offer of representation but the next best thing–an email that said “if.”

You know the one I mean. It’s the one that says, “I love the idea of this and I want to love it enough, but I don’t quite. However, if you do xxxx, I’d like to see it again.”

I feel a bit like Cinderella. If I can make these revisions work, I can go to the ball. Not that I’m comparing the agent to the wicked stepmother. It’s just that I know I have a lot of work to do and then maybe I’ll get an agent. (Here’s where I sing “Someday My Agent Will Call” to the tune of “Someday My Prince Will Come.” I must be in a Disney princess mood :).)

I’m not going to share the nature of the revisions, but right now the manuscript looks a bit like this picture:

Back when I was writing the first draft of my new WIP, I said it would be nice to have a pattern to follow, like the patterns I follow for my cross stitch projects. The same week I posted it, I realized I’d been doing the stitches vertically when the pattern was actually horizontal. Ahhhh! I decided to take out the stitches–about a thousand of them–instead of starting with a new piece of cloth. I took this picture to show how it looked when I started over. You can still see the residue from the threads I pulled. I had no idea how appropriate that analogy would be later. Because the revisions I’m doing make sense so far. It’s looking more and more like I wrote DUET vertically when it should have been horizontal.

And here’s where timing continues to play a crucial part. Several agents still have the current version of DUET, but until I know I can make it work the new way, I’m not ready to ask them to hold off on the version they have. I’ve also entered a couple of contests that if I advance to the next round, I have to decide whether to withdraw or ask them to accept an updated entry. So, for now, I’m revising as quickly as I can, and I feel pretty confident about the changes I’m making. In the meantime, you may not see as many blog posts from me as usual.

Anyone else been where I am?

Querying, Revising, Writing

When Is It Time to Revise?

There’s a time to query.

There’s a time to wait.

There’s a time to … revise?

I started querying DUET WITH THE DEVIL’S VIOLIN in April, entered a little contest called The Writers Voice in May, queried a bit more for the first two weeks in June, then decided to wait. You see, I had quite a few submissions out at that point, and honestly I was afraid to keep sending out queries without knowing if my manuscript was really ready. I thought it was, or I wouldn’t have been sending queries out in the first place, but after the mistakes I’d made querying my earlier novel–too many too soon–I’d much rather err on the side of caution with this one and give it the best possible chance.

Over the next two months, a bit of feedback trickled in, but none of it lined up. And that’s when I came to the question of whether to revise or not. The agents didn’t mention the same issues, so were their comments just a matter of taste or something I needed to fix? I decided not to do anything for the moment.

Enter WriteOnCon. I came away with the basic idea that if an agent loves your work enough, it’s ok if it isn’t perfect. They’ll work with you to get it where it needs to be. So I started querying again. I also had a couple more people read DUET, and reader feedback confirmed for me again that it was ready for agents.

But. A couple of comments I’d gotten in the forums at WriteOnCon kept niggling in the back of my mind, so I revised my first page–of course after I’d already sent out some queries. The comments weren’t necessarily new, but it was the right time for me to hear them and figure out what to do with them.

I think that’s a big part of knowing when to revise. Sometimes a valid comment doesn’t make any sense to you, but when it’s said in the right way at the right time, boom! You know what to do. This really came into focus for me a couple of weeks ago. I entered #GUTGAA and received three votes to go on to the agent round. However, one of the judges said she’d had reservations about voting for me because DUET sounded too old and because of a Bugs Bunny mention in the first 150 words. I’d heard both of these comments before, but two months ago I wouldn’t have known what to do about it or even if I should do anything about it.

From the beginning, my query worked. I received a number of requests off of it. But just because it was good didn’t mean it couldn’t be better. Thanks to WriteOnCon, I now had this idea that friendship has to be a major focus of MG. One agent even said he wouldn’t consider an MG if friendship wasn’t mentioned in the query. Well, friendship is a huge part of DUET, but I’d never figured out how to put it into the query. But now, because someone in a position of power told me it gave them pause, I figured it out, and the query has much more of an MG feel than it did before. I know it’s stronger as a result.

The same goes for the Bugs Bunny mention. There’s a scene in my novel where the main character goes into an old Looney Tunes cartoon. I’m confident I’ve handled it well in the actual manuscript as none of my readers have had an issue with it. However, this judge brought it home to me that it was an issue in the first page. All the times someone said before that MG readers wouldn’t know Bugs Bunny and I ignored it because I knew it was fine in the manuscript, it didn’t occur to me that the first page was the problem. It was a simple enough solution to take out that reference and leave it for later. I don’t know why I didn’t figure this out sooner. I guess we writers have hard heads.

But wait, I have an even better example. The first day of the #GUTGAA agent round, I received a rejection from an agent who’d been considering my full. Her reason was exactly the same as the very first agent who rejected DUET. Now, I have to back up a bit to say that this first rejection completely baffled me. Her issue with the manuscript was what I thought was the very best part of it. We’re not talking about a single chapter here but a major chunk that makes up the premise. I dismissed it pretty much out of hand because I just didn’t get it. But when this most recent agent said it, I’d had four months with that other one swirling around in my head, and suddenly a light bulb went off.

All this time I’d assumed the section she mentioned was the best part and worried about the rest living up to it. But that was just me being blind. Those parts had come so easily to me I didn’t work very hard on them when I revised, instead focusing on the other subplots. Looking back at my first draft, those sections didn’t change much. While I ignored those easy parts and felt insecure about the rest, the opposite actually happened. And when I looked at it that way, yet another agent’s comment came into focus. So I now had three agent comments in line.

Well, you can guess that this is when I figured out I did need to revise. I spent the week of #GUTGAA going through those parts of the novel and beefing them up. I know the manuscript as a whole is the better for it. It would have been nice if I’d figured this out when that first agent mentioned it, but I wasn’t ready to apply it then. And I truly believe that if any of the agents who read that version had loved my writing and premise enough, they would have worked with me on it. Instead, I’m grateful they gave me feedback that has helped me get the manuscript to the next level.

I received an agent request the last day of #GUTGAA, and that agent has the shiny new version. I also followed up with an agent from that first contest and got the opportunity to send her a revised version, so I’m feeling pretty good about it right now.

So am I done revising? Probably not. If I do get an agent with this version, I’m sure they’ll have changes. If I don’t, I’ll probably get feedback as to why not. It might not make sense to me at first, but I’ll keep chugging along until it clicks.

So where are you in the journey? What has made you decide to revise?

Querying

The Questions We Ask While We Wait

Yesterday Susan Adrian wrote a great post on what to do while you’re waiting, with tips like work, read and observe, as well as what NOT to do. After I retweeted it, a fellow writer emailed me to check in on my agent search. It’s nice to have other writers who are in the same stage, especially someone who’s read your work and knows what you’re submitting. We can encourage each other and commiserate about the wait. The interminable wait. The wait that seems as unending as the ocean (I had to find a reason to slip in a cruise photo). Anyway, here’s a view inside the questions writers ask while waiting.

  1. Is my manuscript really ready?
  2. I got a few comments back. Should I revise? Unless you’ve received a detailed revision request from an agent, I suggest you wait until you’ve heard from all agents, then synthesize the responses.
  3. Why hasn’t Agent X replied to me yet? QueryTracker says she’s answered five queries/submissions she received after mine!
  4. What does it mean that Agent X replied to everyone else’s contest submission but not mine? Likely he hasn’t replied to everyone else yet. It just seems like it.
  5. Is it a good or bad sign that I haven’t heard anything yet? (This question typically is followed by a list of maybes: Maybe she forgot about it. Maybe he’s having someone else read it. Maybe she’s thinking about it. Maybe he hasn’t gotten to it yet. …)
  6. Is that Twitter comment about my manuscript (or query)?
  7. Why isn’t Agent X online? I can’t stalk her Twitter feed or blog to figure out what she’s up to!
  8. Is this a form letter or actual feedback?
  9. Why am I getting rejections? Is it my query letter? My opening pages? A problem with my main character, plot, etc.?
  10. What does it mean that he didn’t connect with the voice?
  11. Why can’t Agent X tell me what kept her from falling in love? I know the answer to this one. Obviously agents don’t have time to give specific feedback for each rejection, but that doesn’t stop me from asking the question.
  12. Should I follow up? It’s been seven months … I actually have one out that long for CAVEBOY. Assuming it’s a pass :).
  13. How long will I have to wait?
  14. Everyone else is getting an agent. When will it be my turn? Everyone else is NOT getting an agent. It might seem that way, though, especially if you’ve connected with a group of experienced writers online.
  15. Should I give up?

The answer to that last question is obviously “No!” Go back to that handy list I linked to above for some ideas on how to make the wait bearable.

Any questions I’ve missed? If you’re waiting, how do you pass the time?