Always welcome when you’re struggling or unsure.
I sent the first five pages of my revised first novel to an agent after participating in a Writers Digest webinar. I finally heard back from her late yesterday. Here are her comments:
“Overall, really fantastic writing. It’s beautifully composed –and also subtle. So despite the rather brash setup of an ex-convict, this leaves me feeling very intrigued about the rest of the plot. Nice job! I don’t have any overarching notes for you, other than to continue working on loosening your dialogue. You’ve got a good start to it, but there are some scenes that come across as just a touch stiff. (Dialogue is hard; it will come with some revision, I’m sure.) Best of luck with your query process; I have no doubt you will find an agent!”
So that’s pretty cool, right? If you’re wondering why she didn’t ask for the full manuscript herself, she doesn’t usually represent this genre. However, having good feedback from professional agent is certainly encouraging. I have already made revisions to the opening chapter of Three Empty Frames and will post the final edition later this week. Thank you all for reading along!
Every time I think I’ve finished my editing and revising of Three Empty Frames, I find more mistakes! The first chapter has undergone a major revision and other sections have been trimmed and reduced. Anytime you perform literary surgery like that, there is bound to be bleeding.
For a writer/author hoping to catch the attention of readers and literary agents, the importance of the opening chapter and especially the first few lines, cannot be stressed enough. Those lines need to introduce character and conflict to the extent that a reader is hooked and they need to find out what happens next. They also should set the time and the place of the story, at least in general terms –for example, modern America, in the early spring for Three Empty Frames. The specifics can be added in later in the narrative.
Even though it appears that querying for this book in the series is off the table, thanks to its self-published status, I am proceeding on the assumption that any agent that takes a look at the manuscript I do query with (still to be determined), the other books will come to their attention and thusly need to be the very best they can be. All the first chapters are getting major revisions while I wait on my editor to finish up the fifth book of the series –the one I will most likely pitch to an agent.
I’m having a final read through of Three Empty Frames before posting the first chapter for you to read. This is the story that introduces you to Bucks County and the cast of characters that inhabit my series. My plan is finish within the month of September.
How slowly time moves when you are waiting…
In the last few months of concentrating on novel writing/editing/revising, I have also been trying to educate myself on the best way to attract the attention of an agent. In that regard, I have re-subscribed to Writer’s Digest (after having let it lapse) and taken advantage of a couple of the webinars they offered on the subject. Along with the price of the webinar, the participants were guaranteed answers to all of their submitted questions and feedback on the first five pages of our manuscripts from the agents moderating the session. I have submitted the first fives pages of Three Empty Frames to both the agents and now I’m awaiting their response. I also asked the question I had about my self published novels being off the table for submission because of their being previously published. So now I wait… It could be a month or more before I hear back.
Another venue I’ve taken advantage of is a Facebook Writers’ forum I had joined and largely ignored over the last year. I posed my question about self publishing and got several less than encouraging responses. Most everyone agrees that self published books are unacceptable to agents for query. The self published authors that have moved to the traditional publishing world have done so mostly after being discovered BECAUSE their self published work was already successful.
Another ‘lovely’ discovery I had thrown in my face is this: just because you get an agent doesn’t mean you’re off the hook for self promotion. To summarize: authors are expected to do their own marketing whether or not they have an agent. So the days of writers just working on their next book while their marketing team does all their publicity are gone. (Of course everything changes when you are a best seller, but until then…) My desire is to write, to direct my energy and creativity into crafting stories. To be a success at it seems to mean diverting some of that energy into crafting a marketing strategy. I’m trying to work out how I feel about that.
And speaking of feelings… Honestly, I have been all over the place mentally/emotionally with all the uncertainty of publishing/self publishing. Some days I am optimistic and determined and other days I am ready to throw in the towel. If one learns the best by learning from making mistakes then I should be the valedictorian of my class.