Monday, September 12, 2011

The result--focus

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.

Other points.

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!

23 comments:

  1. Good for you! I'm so glad everything went so well!!!

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  2. So glad it went well for you!! I find it interesting that some of the agents only read the first line of a query. Hmm...makes me wonder about all the time I've spent writing mine. lol

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  3. I'm glad it went well and you were encouraged by what they had to say. Good luck putting all you learned into practise!

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  4. I'm happy it went so well for you. I've gone to conferences and done Read & Critique workshops. It was hard because we had to read the pages ourselves in front of everyone and I am terrified to speak in front of people. Yet I know it's an important skill to learn. They helped greatly. I'd recommend every writer go to conferences.

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  5. My heart would have been jumping out of my throat too! And glad to read you could walk out with a bounce in your step! And those points are interesting especially that they don't always read the entire query letter.

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  6. Wow! You're so bold. My heart was pounding as I read this! I wouldn't be able to even anonymously share my work - how sad is that! I mean, I have critique partners who tear it a part, but I don't think I could have done what you did!

    What a way to learn though! I'm kind of jealous... even though I would have been beat red, face burning and it would have been obvious it was mine! Congratulations on such a monumental step!

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  7. So make the first part of your query kick ass then they won't read the sucky part because they're already diving into your sample pages. :D

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  8. thanks for sharing your experience- Oh I would have been totally freaking out too but that's so great about the agent you hoped to query saying they liked it! Score!

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  9. Good for you! You are brave! Thanks for sharing this and good luck.

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  10. Good luck with your queries. I haven't gone to any conferences yet but I'd love to.

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  11. Great news about the agent. That has to give you a lift, right?

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  12. Sounds like a great experience! Thanks for sharing it. One of these days I'll get to a conference. =)

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  13. Glad it went well. Good luck on the queries.

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  14. Interesting. I've never gone to anything like that. My chapter's SBCWI meeting is in October. I actually got in this year. Last year, it filled up before I could register.

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  15. See? Knew you were worrying for nothing. That sounded promising.

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  16. Thanks for sharing this and glad you got some good news!! So true about subjectivity (couldn't be more simple, huh?)!!

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  17. Glad you had such an introspective experience, Christine! Wish I could've seen you - I went the second day.

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  18. It sounds like you were sitting on pins and needles. Ay carajo...but you learned so much!

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  19. I would love to go to something like this. I'm glad they were well-mannered about their comments!

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  20. so exciting! I would love to participate in something like that, though i would be on pins and needles waiting for mine to show up.
    I'm glad it went well for you!

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  21. Yay! So glad it went well! Thanks for sharing the advice--I'm working on my query now, and it's great to hear what the agents said!

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  22. I'm not surprised you were nervous, it sounds daunting. Good advice.

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  23. yes, follow your gut. great advice.
    critiques either improve our work or don't. it's our job as writers to determine who gives us good direction. they become our editors.
    saw your comment at katie mills's place.

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