How It All Went Down

Everyone knows the process of publishing a book is a long slog. Even I know that and I’m still at the bottom of the hill. Maybe a few steps up from the bottom, but significantly closer to the bottom than I am to the top. I always like to read about how a person goes from hopeful writer to published author—who was a slush-pile standout, who had an awesome connection, who got their agent through a writers’ conference or other face-to-face meeting, who won a contest. Because there may be someone reading this blog who also likes to know the order in which things happened to catapult a hopeful writer into “the publishing world,” I’m going to outline what happened to me. (This is also to have a record for me, so I can look back and remember how all this came about. Because details tend to fly out of my head sometimes.) And first, let me say I always wanted to be one of those slush-pile standouts. I wanted to be able to tell other hopeful writers—“See?! It happened to me, it can happen to you too!” I can still say that (because what happened to me really is sort of random and unorthodox), but it didn’t involve the slush pile. (Although I can’t even count how many query letters I wrote that no doubt languished in slush piles all over New York City. In fact, I still get random rejection emails from agents who are really behind on their query letter reading.)

So, without further ado…

February(ish) 2013—I began writing The Hideaway.

June (ish) 2013—got sort of stuck in the middle and panicked because I loved the story and the characters and I really didn’t want to lose the story, so I enrolled in a Fiction Workshop class at Samford University, taught by the wonderful Denise Trimm. I took two courses of this workshop, which was priceless. Through the workshop (and the writers’ group that came out of this workshop), I was able to hone The Hideaway into something worth sending to agents. I honestly think if it hadn’t been for this group of people, I wouldn’t have had a novel worth anything.

December 2013—finished first draft.

January 2014—began process of editing and revising. Some of this was on my own, but a lot of it was with the workshop/writing group. They gave such valuable feedback at every level. Also sent manuscripts to beta readers—some were other writers, some were just readers.

June 6, 2014—I entered a query critique contest through Writers Digest. I had just barely begun tinkering with a query letter (since I knew I was nearing the end of my revisions). I won the contest and hurriedly went over my query letter, taking out unnecessary words and streamlining it as much as possible, and sent it off to the agent. All she had to do was read the query and send some feedback—that’s all the contest offered—but she said she wanted to see it again once I made her changes. Then she requested the first 50 pages. (Cue mic drop.) I sent them.

June 24—With a burst of excitement due to the first agent’s enthusiasm, I decide to query my TOP CHOICE AGENT! I’d researched her, knew she liked and had repped Southern fiction, and I liked her demeanor and humor on Twitter. I crafted an awesome query personalized just for her (I mentioned something she’d recently said on Twitter), and sent it off. The NEXT MORNING at 6 am, she emailed me back asking me for my full. I ran to the bathroom where my husband was showering, told him she requested the full, and then burst into tears. Happy tears, mind you, but I was elated like nothing I’d experienced in quite a while. (Other than my wedding, the birth of my children, etc.)

After spending a day finetooth-ing the manuscript, I sent it to her. Or I thought I did. I actually sent her a blank email without the manuscript attached. Then I realized it the next day and sent it to her for real. Then I sat back and waited for my ship to come in.

August 6 2014—Top Choice Agent sent a very nice rejection email. She gave helpful feedback that I ultimately, as in several months later, took, but she was kind, and I appreciated that.

August 15 2014—Hadn’t heard anything back from Contest Agent about the requested 50 pages, so I asked if I could send a revised 50 pages (I did this a lot—asking agents if I could send revised partials. Rookie mistake.) She said yes.

Between August and end of the year, 2014—I queried a whole bunch of agents. I started off with the ones I really wanted, as evidenced by my querying my TOP CHOICE AGENT first. I went down the list querying the ones I’d starred as ones I really thought would be a good fit for my type of story. Some people tell you to start with your top choices, others (many others) say to start somewhere in the middle so you can use their feedback to finetune, then query other higher-choice agents. I went with my top choices first because I figured I might as well get them out of the way first, then I could move onto other, more likely agents. I don’t know—I had to pick a route, so I chose that one. Hindsight, and all that, but that’s what I did.

October 2014—I had coffee with Patti Callahan Henry. She is the author of a large handful of lovely Southern novels, and she happens to live in Birmingham. I’d been keeping track of her (in a very non-creepy way) for a while, and finally met her at the Southern Festival of Books in Nashville. We made plans to meet for coffee. We chatted about life and writerly things, then she asked about my book. I gave her the rundown, and she asked me to send her the query and synopsis. I did, and she emailed and asked if she could send the query and synopsis to an editor friend of hers, Ami McConnell, at Thomas Nelson, a division of Harper Collins. Obviously, I said yes.

November 2014—Patti connected me and Ami. Ami read my query and asked for the full manuscript. I sent it.

November 2014—Contest Agent finally sent a rejection email. She gave feedback similar to what my Top Choice Agent gave.

December 2014—participated in PitMad, a pitch contest on twitter where agents request manuscripts based on a short Twitter-sized pitch. I got several requests. I highly recommend these because they give you a chance to hone your pitches, query letters, and manuscript.

February 2015—Participated in SunVsSnow, another Twitter pitch contest. An agent who requested my manuscript during PitMad (and ultimately rejected it) requested it again. I’d made some revisions, so I sent it on with a note saying she’d read an earlier version. She rejected it again but gave me a key piece of advice—she suggested I cut the first two chapters entirely and start with chapter 3, because that was where the action really started. This resonated with what the very first two agents had told me—so I did it. Manuscript now begins with chapter 3. Much tighter and makes a lot of sense.

Early part of 2015—querying, querying, querying. Never heard back from Patti’s editor friend. I read in Publisher’s Lunch that she moved to another publishing house. I assumed my manuscript had gotten lost in the shuffle.

April 2015—I got an email from Karli Jackson, an editor at Thomas Nelson. She told me the editor friend of Patti Henry had gotten had passed my manuscript on to her before she left the company, saying she liked it and wanted another set of eyes on it. Karli said my manuscript was still bouncing around their offices and she wanted to know if I’d have any luck in the agent department. (Cue mic drop #2.) I told her no agent yet but that I had several partials and a couple fulls out and was hopeful. I asked if I could send her my revised manuscript, since what she had still had those first two chapters I’d decided to cut. I sent her the revised ms.

May 2015—Got a rejection from an agent who had been very promising. Emailed Karli to ask if she had any suggestions for agents she knew who might be interested in my type of novel. (Usually I would never ask an editor that, but this was already an unusual situation and Karli had been super helpful and encouraging. I figured I had nothing to lose, but possibly a good deal to gain by asking.)

June 5 2015—Karli emailed to say my novel would be discussed at the next week’s acquisitions meeting. EEEEKKKK! I got on the horn (as an old boyfriend used to say) and emailed all the agents who had a query, partial, or full and let them know of the development. I put *Editor Interest* in the subject line to get their attention. A couple passed right then, and a few thanked me for letting them know and said they’d read what they had asap.

June 6—I looked at some of the Thomas Nelson authors who write women’s fiction and looked up who their agents were. One name, Karen Solem, stood out, and when I looked her up, I was shocked to find that she was looking for the exact type of story I had written. I didn’t know how I hadn’t run across her in my agent search. So I sent her a query and first three chapters, explaining that my story would be in TN’s acquisitions meeting, and that I was still hoping to find an agent who believed in me and my story.

June 8—Karen wrote me back saying she was very interested in the story and would read asap.

June 9—Karen wrote saying she loved what I sent and set up a time for us to talk the next day.

June 10—we spoke on the phone. She told me she loved the synopsis and first three chapters and offered to represent me. (Eeeekk!) I did what I had been advised by every writer’s blog and discussion thread from here to the moon and told her I needed time to let the other agents know and said I’d give her my answer in two weeks. I could tell she wasn’t too pleased with the wait time! (In hindsight, I should have said I’d give them a few days. If they wanted the story bad enough, they could have made their mind up very quickly!) I also told her I was thrilled she loved the first three chapters, and that I was even more excited to know how she felt after reading the whole thing.

In next two weeks, I waited for answers from agents who had queries/partials, particularly one agent who had a full and who I also thought would be a good fit for me. I’d originally queried her back in May but never heard from her. I’d written her again with “Offer of Rep” in subject line.

June 22—spoke on the phone to the other agent I’d been waiting for. She offered rep. We spoke for an hour and clicked really well. She liked my book a lot, had some suggestions, and hoped to work with me.

(FYI, I was at the beach with my family at this time. Totally freaking out.)

2:00—phone call with Karli and two others at Thomas Nelson. Discussed how my book would fit into their audience and vision. Told them I was trying to decide between Karen and the other agent who had offered me rep. Great conversation that left me super excited. They had not yet made the decision to offer me a contract, but things were looking good.

After a LOT of pacing and thinking and making an actual pro/con list, I decided to work with Karen—she’s been in the business a long time, she’s worked extensively with Thomas Nelson and knows the editors, and everyone I talked to about her (other writers) thought it was a BIG deal that she offered me representation. Called her and gave her the news—she was super pumped. Called the other agent and told her the news—she was disappointed, but said good luck. I decided I did not like being on the other side—the one actually giving the rejection.

July 9 2015—Karli emailed me and Karen telling us the team at Thomas Nelson had decided to move forward with The Hideaway. The next step was to talk to the sales team.

July 29—Karli emailed saying they received all the feedback they needed and everyone was in full support of my little novel! (Eeeeekkk!) They would begin circulating all the necessary paperwork and hoped to send an offer soon.

August 11—morning of both of my kids’ meet the teacher orientations at school and I got a phone call from Karen saying she’d gotten the offer from Thomas Nelson—a two-book deal with the first book coming out spring of 2017, next book a year after that. My brain was fried for the rest of the day.

August 12—spoke to Karli on the phone and had a great conversation. She’s super easy to talk to, very excited about my book(s), and we totally clicked. Couldn’t be more excited! (Thinking back on this conversation even now makes me smile.)

Between August and November I tried to be very patient. Emailed Karen once a month to check in (which means I tried not to sound like a bothersome nag but I really wanted to get my signature on the proverbial dotted line!)

November 9 2015—finally got the actual contract. Read through it, talked to Karen about it, then signed four copies and mailed them back to Nashville. Woohoo.

So where am I now? I am not writing! To be more specific, I’m taking time off from writing—time to enjoy the holidays, read, watch Friday Night Lights, notice Christmas before it passes by and is gone for another year. Just before Thanksgiving, I finished a supremely rough draft of what I’d originally thought would be book two, but now I’m thinking I will work on something else in January—a story I previously started but paused because I thought it was too heavy for a second book. Now though, in light of the pain and grief I’ve seen people go through over the last little while (including my own family as my sweet mom has been diagnosed with the beast of cancer), I’m thinking a book with teeth and meat on its bones is what’s in order. It’s tentatively titled Hurricane Season, and I love the idea of it. (And I’m experienced enough with this sort of thing to know that part of the reason I love it is because I haven’t yet really gotten into it, and any book seems bright and shiny and full of hope and promise before you actually begin writing it.)

Until next time, folks.

 

On dejection and preserving the light

I'm writing to admit something. I am in the middle of a significant writing slump. Although slump probably isn't the right word. It's a writing brick wall--but not writer's block persay, because I'm not writing much. You'd have to be writing to be blocked. Maybe it's more writer's dejection. You see, I got The Hideaway to a place where I was really happy with it. I'd edited and revised it to the point that I didn't think I could do any more--or I didn't want to do any more--without some professional intervention. (I mean an agent, although a professional for my mindset might be helpful too!) I didn't want to blindly take advice from well-meaning folks who had subjective suggestions about what I might want to think about changing. Like I said, it's all been well-meaning, and earlier in the process it was *crucial*, but I got to a point where I didn't think it was wise to make changes at whim, not knowing if it was a change that would further my chances at a "publishable" novel and securing an agent. I queried a lot between the end of the year and February. I think at this point, I'm at about 45 queries. So that means about 43 rejections. (I think I may still have a couple partial or fulls out right now, I can't remember without looking at my color-coded spreadsheet!)

I've had many partial and full requests, several personalized rejections which are great, and a couple of agents who said they'd like to see more of my writing down the line. But no takers, and honestly, I thought by this time, I'd have an agent. Maybe it was naïve of me to think like that, but there it is.

I found another reader through WFWA to read my manuscript. I thought someone with fresh eyes who knew nothing about the story would be helpful--and it was. It just wasn't what I wanted to hear! She was so detailed in her analysis of my story--really, exactly what you want in a beta reader. I think part of it was that we discussed her concerns and suggestions for the story in the middle of a week where almost everyone at my house was sick, including me, and I was already at a fairly low place. After our conversation, I was like a balloon with a hole, all the air leaking out. (And this was in NO way her fault! I'm still glad for her analysis!)

So those couple of sick weeks coupled with the disappointing story comments really put the brakes on my writing. You usually hear writers talking about contemplating stopping writing because of all the rejection. That's not my problem. I knew there would be a lot of rejection from the get go. I was prepared for it. I know I still have dozens and dozens of agents left who rep what I write and who I could potentially query. I haven't exhausted the list yet. No, the rejection isn't the problem. The lack of confidence in my writing skills is the problem. It's a new problem for me, and frankly, it puts me in a pretty scary place. I worry I don't have the storytelling ability to create a story that will appeal "to the masses." I know I'm a good writer. And no, I don't think I'm being egotistical to say that. I can write, but am I a good storyteller? There's a difference, and these days, there are so many books that zoom to the top of lists, books that *everyone* is talking about (at least on Twitter) that (in my humble opinion) aren't very well-written, but have the *hook* everyone wants. So the story trumps the writing.

Now, obviously there are books out there with both the great writing and the great storytelling. I crave those books. In fact, I tend to lose patience with (and be snarky about) books I read that are full of cliches and stereotyped characters and poor writing but that have those jump-off-the-page hooks or jaw-dropping cliffhangers, etc etc.

And I know you need both. I don't want to read 300 pages of beautiful sentences about nothing, just like the average reader doesn't.

I think I'm rambling now. And I'm on a soapbox, so I'll step down. Suffice it to say, I've lost confidence in my ability to write a compelling story. I feel like I've lost that drive I had at one point to write the kind of stories I like to read. I love reading Southern fiction, stories about families, friendships, marriages, humor, the Southern world that is so familiar to me. I used to think I could add to what's already out there, but now I'm not so sure. Part of it is the fault of Twitter, I think. I use Twitter to follow writers and agents so I'll know what's going on in the industry, and it's been very helpful. It's introduced me to agents I otherwise wouldn't have known of or cared about. But it's also worn me down. All the posts about books that zip up the charts, the cover reveals, posts about writers getting "the call," agents railing about this type of story or that type of query. Helpful stuff, but somehow, it's gotten tangled up in my mind so much that it's buried my original desire to write. I don't know what I want to say anymore or how to move forward with writing another story.

I started my next novel during the querying process of The Hideaway. I got about 60 pages in then got stuck. My damn indecision (and this is a recurring problem for me that shows up in many areas of my life) has glued my feet to the ground. Or glued my brain. I have about ten different directions the story can go and instead of being able to just pick the one that sits well with me, that feels right, I'm stuck worrying about whether it has the hook agents (and readers) want. When I was writing The Hideaway (and the bad novel before that), I didn't yet know enough to worry about the hook. I think that was very freeing. I wish I could clear my mind of all the clutter and just write the story I want to read. That's what I did with The Hideaway--I wrote the story I wanted to read. And I still love the story. But my ability to choose a direction with this next story (or the other one I started when this one stalled) has me glued down and it is so frustrating. I just don't trust myself or my writing. And I wonder about all the time I've spent working toward something that truly may never come to fruition. Yes, I write because I love it (or I did before all this started) and it feels like a part of me, like another arm or something, but my goal isn't just to put words on the page and feel good about it. It's to have my books on a bookshelf. To be a writer of books. To add, in some small, insignificant way, to the world of literature. To scratch out my own little corner of The Library of Congress!

I'm coming off about a three-week break of writing. It started when the kids got sick, then I got sick, then the slump/brick wall hit. It just wasn't fun, I needed the sleep instead of the 5am wake up call, and I felt like the writing was a pointless endeavor. Truly. So I didn't open my computer for a little while. Then I went to the Southern Voices festival at the Hoover Library. I heard six or seven authors talk about their books and their writing journeys. It was inspiring, as usual, to be around so many book people. One writer in particular said he was rejected by 100 agents. He finally found success with a small press. The festival renewed me a bit. Enough to crack open my computer again this week. I still felt like I was pushing against that brick wall, but I suppose it may feel like that for a while. If I submit to the brick wall and quit writing, what will that prove? Only that I let the voice of the world around me silence my own inner light. (That's what my desire to write stories feels like sometimes--like a candle burning deep inside me somewhere.) And that applies to other parts of my life too. Our impermanent, flighty, short-attention-span world tries to snuff out all kinds of lights. "You're too fat, too thin, your breasts aren't big enough, you don't wear that quite right, you have wrinkles, your books are too "quiet," I don't want to keep turning your pages, I'm uninterested in you and your quiet self, you don't have enough friends, you should join this group or that group, you're in the wrong group..." If I submit to that brick wall, it'll just be one more way of giving in to the loud voices of the world around me. Instead, I should fight to keep that inner candle glowing and try as much as I can to transcribe that light onto the page.

So that is what I'll try to do. It may be a while before I get back to a place where I'm willingly up every morning at 5 to write. (That actually was a glorious place and it's what helped me crank out The Hideaway and stick with it through the editing and revising.) But I cannot ignore the siren call of the blank page. I'll try to meet it when I can and get down the words and fictional worlds that roll around in my head. Maybe it'll all come together sometime into a cohesive story, maybe not. But I can't submit. It feels too much like a failure on my part. That I'm failing me--the Lauren who years ago stuck her stake in the ground and said she wanted to be a writer of books.

Put it to bed (better late than never)

I've started querying again. But the difference is, this time around, I'm not running to the phone every time my email dings and I'm not waiting with suspended breath for those responses to come in. The first time around was exhilarating. When I got my first request for a full, I ran into the bathroom where my husband was taking a shower, blurted it out to him, then promptly started crying! I don't think that will happen again! (The crying, not the full request--I do hope that comes again.) I think I was so raw the first time around, it being the first time I'd send my little "baby" out into the world--kind of like the first time you send your child off to school, hoping she is happy and makes friends and people like her. SoI sent the original batch of queries (10-12 in all, over a period of about 4 weeks) and waited. It didn't take as long to get responses back as I thought it would. That's part of why I went ahead and sent a big handful out--I'd heard over and over how it can take months to hear anything back. My novel was finished, but I admit, there was still a bit of fine-tuning to be done. I was counting on those agents taking forever to get to my little query in the slush pile! When the first agent asked for the full less than 48 hours after I sent it, I was so elated, I didn't pause to think about the fine-tuning in the back of my mind. I was satisfied with my story as a whole.

But the feedback she gave me was so valuable. Among the good things she said, she pointed out that she thought there was too much backstory at the beginning. My first thought was, "Man, if she thought this had a lot of backstory, she should have read my first (under the bed) novel!" That thing had pages and pages of unnecessary backstory, and I used that novel as a lesson to myself to not include as much in The Hideaway. Except that once I started thinking about what she said, and browsing through my ms, I realized, "Sh*t! It's here too!"

So I did a revision. I printed the whole thing out, highlighted blocks of unnecessary backstory, and cut chunks of explanation and character histories. Nothing about the plot changed, but I ended up CUTTING OUT the first two chapters of the novel. Now, the novel starts with what was chapter 3, and it has *6,000* fewer words! It is mean, lean, and ready for action. I thought the novel was in a finished state before, but now I truly know it is. I do think you can edit a thing to death, so I have stacked up my two-and-a-half-inch thick stacks of paper, added a title page with the completed word count, and resumed querying. This time, I am more confident in my story's potential. I sent a revised 50 pages to the agent who had originally requested them, and another agent has a partial as well.

I will say this though--it was HARD to cut out most of those 6,000 words. Probably 2,000 were easy to lose, but cutting the rest really taught me the meaning of "murder your darlings." I thought I knew what it meant, but cutting some of  my favorite parts of text was super hard. I saved them all in an "unused stuff" file, so if I ever want to reread it, it's there, but it was hard to take it out of the story. But I do think the book as a whole is better for it.

So, onward. I sat down at the computer this morning and wasn't sure exactly what to do. In the waiting period after sending my first batch of queries and before I did the revision, I'd started writing something else, but I'm finding it hard to get back to that. My past experience is that once I start a story, I have to keep rolling with it every day or I lose steam. Hopefully I can find some tendril of steam to pick up on and get back to that story. My fingers itch to write, not just edit and revise.

Good writing vibes to everyone!

Lauren

"Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor..."

I've just spent a whole precious hour of early morning writing time typing a few words and deleting them. Type, delete. Type, delete. Nothing is coming out the way I want it to. These days, it seems the only time I can get any clarity on what I want to write about is when I'm outside walking. If I can get away for a walk by myself, without pushing the stroller and my two daughters, my brain starts clicking along and ideas come rapid fire. It happened a few days ago. My husband got home early, so I escaped for a solo walk. I wasn't too far down the street before I started seeing my story a little clearer. That's the thing--I think I know what I want to write about--I even have some scenes worked out in my head--but as soon a I sit down to start writing, nothing works! If I could just hook a voice recorder up in my head to catch the brain waves, I'd have my novel written in just a few days worth of walks.

I've been reading through Bird by Bird again. Yesterday, I read about the sh*tty first drafts. (On a side note, I wrote "First Drafts are Sh*tty" at the top of the first page of the first novel I wrote.) This morning I read about perfectionism and how it keeps us writing in "tight, worried ways." That so describes me. I write in worried ways--I worry that I don't know the entire story yet. I worry that if I start this page in this way, what if I get to the next page and realize I should have started it a different way? I worry about a million different things related to the story, when what I should be doing is mindless writing--especially here at the beginning. After all, who knows where, in all that mindless writing, something great will come out and that'll be the nugget that actually starts the story.

That's much easier said than done though, especially for someone who likes structure and order. Messy bits of writing here and there, fits and starts, twenty opening paragraphs--that all makes me feel tight and worried.

Update on THE HIDEAWAY: You can't be a real writer and not experience rejection, right? I have three rejections under my belt--one form rejection from my query, one nice rejection that came from a full request, and one extremely nice rejection (also from a full) that made me feel like the story had a chance. I have about 12 or 13 queries out there floating around in various agents' email in-boxes. And one 50-page partial. I think I've decided to hold off on sending any more queries until more responses roll in. I wasn't even going to send out this many--I was going to start with 6 or 8 then see how they responded to the query. The early 50-page partial and the full request from the one of my top-choice agents (that came less than 48 hours after I sent the query) told me at least my query was good, which gave me confidence to send it to more agents. But I think it's time to hold off now. I feel antsy about it, but I just read yesterday that impatience is one of the biggest hindrances to a writer, and I think that goes for the querying process too.

Good writing vibes for everyone out there sitting in the same place as me, staring hard at the screen, trying to pull the words out of the air. May we all ditch the perfectionism and find the words, even if they're imperfect.

Querying

I've finally starting sending some query letters out! It's exciting and nerve-wracking at the same time. My goal was to have my queries sent by the end of the summer, so come fall I can concentrate on my new WIP. At least I'm on track for that. I think I'm going to send them out in batches. I'd hate to send out 50 queries at once, only to make a big change to my query or something and shoot myself in the foot with all 50 agents. If I start with 10 or so, I can wait a little while, see how those go over, then send out some more. And speaking of my new WIP, I'm pretty pumped about it. Pieces of it are coming to me all the time. I have notes all over the place--in my car, my purse, on my phone, in notebooks here and there. I know it's a good story idea when scenes are coming together in my head and I start to get a feel for who the characters are. I'm thankful another story has found its way to me. I was starting to worry, "What if I can't do it [write a complete novel] again? What if the story just doesn't come??" Thankfully, it has.

I have a full few days ahead of me with freelance editing, my parents coming into town, and my baby's second birthday party this weekend. I hope I can give myself the freedom to not obsess about how much I need to get done on the computer and just enjoy myself.

Take care!

Synopsis

I mistakenly thought I was *this* close to being ready to start the querying process (other than the two agents mentioned in the previous post), but it seems I have forgotten one teensy little thing. The synopsis. (Cue scary music. Or crickets.) I've bookmarked a ton of websites and blog posts about writing the synopsis, but once I got rolling on writing and polishing my query, I just plain forgot the thing. So...onto the synopsis. It's basically just a 1-2 page summary of the entire book, right? Shouldn't be hard at all, wink, wink. I did find a very helpful post about writing synopses on literary agent Carly Watters's blog. It's impossible to follow everyone's advice on everything about the querying process, but her tips for the synopsis was perhaps the clearest and most helpful that I've found.

Once I write and polish the synopsis (and have another reader or two read it for me), I think I'll be set. I'm really happy with my novel, and I truly believe it is as good as I can make it on my own. I'm also happy with the query (and since it got positive responses from two agents, I'm thinking that's a good sign.) Now, it's just holding myself back from jumping the gun before that dreaded synopsis shines and is ready to go.

Until next time!

Lauren

Anchors Away!

My manuscript for THE HIDEAWAY is finished and the agent search process has begun! I set a clear goal before me: have my writing group--or cartel, as we call ourselves--finish reading my novel by the end of the summer so I can add last minute edits and tweaks, and in the meantime, concoct super-duper agent spreadsheet so I can start sending queries to agents by end of August/beginning of September. I like lists and end dates, and this was a good ending date for me to shoot for. I started the Excel spreadsheet everyone talks about and started researching agents (mainly using Querytracker, Agent Query, Twitter, and a lot of Googling). Everything was going swimmingly until I won an query critique contest on Twitter.

Yep, you read that right, winning the contest sort of threw a wrench in my plans. Because, you see, the agent liked my query. She made some suggestions and asked me to resend it when I finished. Which I did. At which point, she asked me to send her the first 50 pages of the manuscript.

Yeah, I freaked out a little, then took a few deep breaths, quickly read through the 50 pages (even though I can almost quote them word for word now) and sent them off to her with a wish and a prayer. Needless to say, I wasn't expecting her to actually want to read the manuscript. Was I hoping? Sure, of course. But when she actually asked for pages, I was still stunned. And delighted. And I really like this agent, so bonus.

So I go out of town, riding pretty high on cloud nine, jumping every time my phone buzzed, alerting me to a new email, even though I told myself it logically could be weeks before I hear from her. I get myself to the beach, stretch out on a lounge chair while my kids napped inside, and get another surprise email. This time, it was from an author friend with a lovely agent. This friend said she had been chatting with her agent and just happened to mention my novel, and the agent just happened to say she was interested and wanted to read it. Again, I was caught totally off guard and flustered (and jumping up and down excited, I must say.) See, you remember that little Excel spreadsheet I mentioned? And the fact that I like lists and doing things in order as they're supposed to be done? Having my manuscript--all or part of it--in the hands of not one but two very reputable agents wasn't supposed to happen this fast!

It seems like every time I methodically lay out my plans, God throws me a curve ball and says, "See all your little plans? Mine are more important." So I took another deep breath and fired my query off to agent #2. (I figured it wouldn't hurt to let her read the query and have her actually tell me she wanted me to read the manuscript, rather than sending the whole kit and kaboodle to her when I hadn't made any sort of contact with her myself.) She emailed back and said to please send the MS to her.

So, whew. As a writer friend said, The Hideaway is "out there" now. I keep telling myself it'll take some serious time before I hear from them--I say this mainly to keep myself from tossing aside furniture and small children in my attempt to get to my phone every time an email comes through. And I'm telling myself that even if my novel isn't their cup of tea, any feedback I get will help direct me and get me where I want to be. (And if they actually like it, then all the better.) What's the saying--prepare for the worse, but hope for the best? That's pretty much where I am.

And as I'm waiting, I'm continuing that agent list. If neither of these work out, there are so many out there who could be a good fit for The Hideaway. I really love this story, I believe in it, and I just need to get it in the hands of the right person with whom it clicks and settles down in their bones and makes them feel good.

I've also decided what my next writing project will be. I going to try to rework my first novel, the one that currently resides in a fat folder under my bed (and on a flashdrive, of course.) The general story idea had--and still as--a lot of potential, but I need to start the plot over from scratch. Writing my second novel taught me SO much, and I cringe at the novice mistakes I made in that first book. But we have to make those mistakes in order to not make them later on, right?

All the best, and hopefully I'll have more agent updates next time!

Love, Lauren