On Friday, I went to a first pages session for my SCBWI chapter. I was scared. Why? You know how it is. It was anonymous so I'm not sure why I was so worried. I've been to SCBWI conferences before and even had a one on one with an editor so this should've been cake. But I was scared. I think because it would determine which manuscript I was going to focus on. I sent in the first page of my first manuscript that I've been working on for 2 1/2 years and it has been through tons of re-writes and revisions.
So here's how it went down. On the panel, four agents and two editors. They have a reader who reads each first page a loud. After each piece is read, each person on the panel comments on it. Easy, right? Let me just tell you, when my piece was read my heart pounded in my throat. It was weird because no one knew it was mine. Anyway, the comments started and some were what I expected and some were nice. I knew some areas needed to be fixed. What surprised me is how subjective this whole thing can be. Okay, I know it's subjective, like totally, crazy subjective, but when it's done right in front of you, it's weird. Once, they started going down the line my page went from bleak to I really like it. And the agent who said they really liked it is one of the agents' I plan to query. Yes, I'm a happy camper. I even introduced myself to her in the end so maybe she will remember me. Hopefully, I will stay out of her slush pile.
What's my point? The main lesson is the whole business is subjective so for the most part you need to follow your gut. There are some things that were consistent, but the most important-- make sure your writing is strong.
1.Make sure your grammar and spelling is correct. This is one lesson that all of the panel agreed on. Take time to develop and strengthen your writing. Along with voice. Make sure you have voice.
2. Have an unusual hook and strong plot.
3.Research the agent you are looking for. Know what they want.
4.Create a strong query, but don't kill yourself. The panel admitted it must be written well and catch their eye, but they don't always read the whole thing. Some only read the first line, some read only part of it then skip to read the pages you attach. Most agents ask for the first few pages of your mauscript, and I've been told to send them anyway, whether they ask or not.
I'm really excited to now have focus. I can't wait to get started.
Have you gone to any conferences?
What have you learned?
Have a great day!