I didn’t mean to wait so long to write the final installment of my quest to get an agent. (Sorry about that.) The good news is that I’m revising my tactics and actively pursuing ways to become a new and improved, more competent blogger. More to come on that later, but for now it’s back to the world of agenting. If you’re coming late to the party, grab a snack and catch up…
It’s time to enter the Land of Revision BWWWAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!
Revision is an epic journey, especially the very first time you tackle something that is novel length. I’ve broken my journey down into four steps. I hope it helps you walk that lonely road. The first step is…
SIMPLE: You can start your giggling now…I thought REVISION was going to be simple. The first reason I believed that was–well– because I wanted to. I’d just completed the unthinkable–I’d written a novel from first page to last. I wanted to celebrate. I knew it wasn’t "done"–but I wanted it to be. I’d expended every ounce of my brain power to get that far on my journey and I didn’t really have a next level to take it to.
This is that perfect time to put your work in the drawer and start something new, feed the muse, read some books or do that mountain of laundry. I sort of did that, but I did it with training wheels and a pull-up on. I hired the lovely and talented K.L. Going to critique my manuscript. She was amazing, the experience was fantastic. I had everything I needed to move forward but…
STUPID: I was stupid. I received a wonderful, multipage critique letter from Kelly and I had no earthly idea what to do with it. I was not "developmentally ready" to revise. I hadn’t learned enough. Now that bit of information should not mislead you into thinking that I didn’t try. I really did. But the truth was–I didn’t know I was stupid at the time. *grin* So I made some surface changes and fixes, called it a day and started to send it out to agents.
The good news is that stupid doesn’t have to last forever. Somehow, while submitting to agents and beginning work on book two, I made the decision to always be reading at least one book on the craft of writing. It was a darn good thing I did, because it was the best thing I could’ve done. I took the time to learn what I did not know.
Here are some books that you might find helpful in the daily fight against stupid…
*THE FIRST FIVE PAGES: A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile-Noah Lukeman
-I also recommend his other books…(I’ve currently read two more)
*THE PLOT THICKENS: 8 Ways to Bring Fiction to Life
*A DASH OF STYLE: The Art and Mastery of Punctuation
*HOOKED: Writing Fiction that Grabs Readers at Page One an Never Lets Them Go-Les Edgerton
-Just finished this last night, the quest to avoid stupid never stops.
*WRITING & SELLING THE YA NOVEL-K.L. Going
*NOVEL METAMORPHOSIS: Uncommon Ways to Revise-Darcy Pattison
*THE COMPLETE IDIOT’S GUIDE TO PUBLISHING CHILDREN’S BOOKS-Harold D. Underdown
*WRITING IT RIGHT! How Successful Children’s Authors Revise and Sell Their Stories-Sandy Asher
-This book includes advice on PB to YA.
*SELF-EDITING FOR FICTION WRITERS: How to Edit Yourself Into Print-Renni Browne & Dave King
*THE FOREST FOR THE TREES: An Editor’s Advice to Writers-Betsy Lerner
*ON WRITING: A Memoir of the Craft-Stephen King
*BIRD BY BIRD: Some Instructions on Writing and Life-Anne Lamott
I learned valuable things and found inspiration in every one of these books. I urge you read and re-read these and other books on the craft of writing.
So, now that I did some reading, I was no longer quite as stupid as a I was before, but now I was…
SCARED: I was really scared. Now I knew the truth–revision is a whole lot of work. At about this time I had submitted a query and/or sample chapters to 33 different agents. That number is a grand total, not a mass emailing. I sent a handful of well thought out submissions that were personalized. Sometimes I would get a request for a partial, other times I would get a rejection. Whenever I got a rejection, I would research another agent I thought would be a match. Sometimes there were agents where a lack of reply by a certain date was also considered a no.
I had two agent requests that seemed promising… In August 2009, Michelle Wolfson requested 50 pages. Of course I accidentally sent the document in the wrong format. *head thunk* She was really cool about it and from our brief emails and banter, I felt that this could be promising. The second agent, after reading a partial, requested a full in January 2010. I heard from this agent in March. She was terrific and gave me praise for what I’d done right with my manuscript and then proceeded to give me some advice on what would make it better. She offered to look at it again if I decided to make the changes. I was first and foremost appreciative that an agent had taken the time to point me in the right direction. I was also scared. I pulled out the critique notes that I’d been given by K. L. Going and almost had a panic attack–they were very, very similar. I hadn’t been able to fix it before, so what made me think I could do it now?
SKILL: I had acquired new skills. I’d been reading, writing and thinking like a writer. I’d been learning and growing and as I looked over all the notes and suggestions, something amazing happened–I knew what to do. It wasn’t going to be SIMPLE, but that’s okay, I wasn’t as STUPID as I used to be. I was still a little SCARED, but I think you should always have a little fear in your life to keep you on your toes. Besides I knew I had two things going for me, I had gained new SKILLS and I’d learned that there were always new skills to gain. I began to revise and a funny thing happened–I learned to LOVE the Land of Revision.
It took me about a week of mulling-it-over time, to figure out what I was going to do, then I began to write. About halfway through the revision I heard from Michelle Wolfson. It had been awhile and she apologized for the delay, but she was interested in seeing the full manuscript of TOUCHING THE SURFACE. I explained to her that I was in the middle of a revision and didn’t want to send it out until it was complete. She asked me to keep her in mind. I did. She was on my radar daily because she was on Twitter LOL! As I was writing, I was following and the more I saw of her, the more I liked her.
In October 2010 I finished my revision and sent it out to both agents. A month later Michelle Wolfson loved the story and wanted to have a phone conversation. I honestly didn’t have any idea what to expect. All I knew for sure was that I was so darn excited I could barely sleep. I finally had to do the Jedi mind trick on myself. I convinced myself that she wasn’t really interested and then took it down a notch and waited for the day of the call. We had a fantastic phone conversation. I was nervous, but it went well and she *drum roll* gave me revision suggestions. The recommendations were framed in a very positive way, stressing that she was still very interested and I only felt the tiniest bit of disappointment that she hadn’t made an offer.
In retrospect, I will always be grateful that she never made the offer that day. I know it sounds strange, but sometimes life is like pot roast–if you cook it too fast–you may not enjoy it as much as if you’re patient. I think if she had signed me, and then asked for the revisions, I might have ended up with a stomach ulcer LOL! The people-pleasing component of my personality would have kicked into high-gear and likely undermined the success of the revision. Instead, I mulled-it-over and did what I’ve learned to do–my best–for me. A beautiful thing happened–I knew what to write and just how to do it. I quickly made the improvements and then sent it back to Michelle. She was leaving on vacation and was taking it with her, but she wasn’t sure if she would get to it over the holidays. That left me only one thing to do…stalk her on Twitter.
In the meantime the other agent contacted me and said she still had me on her radar and would be reading after the holidays. I sent her the updated manuscript and then settled into wait.
I learned a lot from my time on Twitter. In light of all the debate about the importance of cyber interactions, I recommend you join the conversation. Not only did I discover a million things about Michelle on twitter, (she has young kids like me and adores Pop-tarts) I also saw first hand, the type of relationships she has with her authors (AWESOME! Kiersten White, Tawna Fenske and Linda Grimes to name a few) It was also evident that she has amazing connections with her followers: other agents, editors, writers, readers and book lovers for starters. As time went on and we bantered back and forth, I came to realize that she was the agent that I wanted. The other agent was wonderful, but I had a relationship with this one. It was so hard to wait for her to read the revisions, but I knew that if this did work out, I was going to be right where I belonged.
Then this happened…she signed another YA client. *head thunk*
I heard the news directly from Michelle and she assured me she was reading and loving SURFACE. She wanted me to know that this had no impact on her interest. Oh, the stress…LOL! I did the only thing I could do…I cyber stalked the new girl! I was fully prepared to dislike Monica Bustamante Wagner, but you can’t. She seemed sweet, her story ideas sounded amazing, she’s the mom of three boys too. To top it all off, she lives in Chile and english is her second language. I started "writer crushing" on her immediately and twittered over to her page and wished her luck with her awesome new agent. Of course, she WAS sweet and she thanked me for the good wishes and we struck up a friendship on the spot. (You may want to read her saga of signing with Michelle Wolfson of Wolfson Literary–it’s on her blog and involves a trampoline!)
On January 6th, I…ME…THE GIRL WHO IS WRITING THIS…signed with Michelle Wolfson!!!!!!! (The excessive punctuation is deliberate!!!!!!!) I did a lot of jumping that day and there wasn’t even a trampoline in sight LOL!
When I stopped jumping I realized, six years had passed since I’d lost my dad. His death at 57 was unexpected and I’d never imagined, at that point in my life, needing to rethink what I thought was written in the stars.
We can’t always win, sometimes we lose–everyone does. But we need to keep in mind, that if we’re lucky, we learn that we write our own story and if it isn’t going as planned–then we revise.