a little lesson on being prepared
Thursday, September 30, 2010 at 12:28 PM
Writer's Cramp in book 1, on writing, process, querying, revision, taking the leap, word count, writer's block

I am on a Surprise!Writer’s Retreat. Well, technically it’s not a retreat since I’m at home, but I’ve taken today and tomorrow off work, and my home is pretty fabulous so it could be considered a retreat. The Surprise! part is because I wasn’t actually planning to do it until Monday.

The catalyst was an announcement by agent Kristen Nelson last week that she would be hosting a webinar titled “How to Write and Sell Fantasy and Science Fiction Novels”, a 90 minute pitch and query workshop through Writers’ Digest geared specifically toward science fiction and fantasy novels. Not only is the topic exactly what I need, Agent Kristen is my dream agent. I’ve been following her blog for years and if I were so lucky to get representation by her or her colleague, Sara Megibow, it would seriously be almost as good as getting published. (They focus on women authors! And in more than just the usual “women’s fiction” genres! And they love sf&f! And they’re specifically seeking more sf&f to represent! I mean really.) The kicker of the whole thing? The webinar package includes the opportunity to send my pitch paragraph to Kristen/Sara for critique! (And maybe resulting in a request for sample pages…but I dare not hope….)

The webinar was scheduled for the middle of the morning today, which would require taking some time off work; a no-brainer, but I was thinking maybe I should take the whole day off. And then I started thinking maybe I should take tomorrow off, too, and give myself the kind of time to write I haven’t had in awhile. But there’s a lot on my plate at work and being gone for two days on such short notice isn’t something I could take lightly.

Monday, however, I decided to go ahead. It would mean scrambling to get some things done that I absolutely needed to for work, but I could do it. And so I did.

So I’ve just finished the webinar a little bit ago, and it was so, so worth it. Some of the information was what I’d already learned about how to write a pitch paragraph and the dos and don’ts of queries. Even so, having it presented by an agent in a discussion format helped clarify the ins and outs considerably. And I did learn several new things.

The biggest: that the plot catalyst I’d identified, which is what you use to build your pitch around, wasn’t quite the right plot point. That I had the right sequence identified, but the real catalyst is just a bit later in that sequence than I initially identified. That revelation alone was worth the price of admission.

In other, not so great news: I got confirmation that my worries about the word count are well-founded. I have to really trim to get my foot in the door. I’m at a loss there, but it simply has to be done so I’ll have to figure it out.

Which brings me to my lesson for today: be prepared. I have until the end of the day next Friday to submit my pitch paragraph. My favorite literary agency has just offered their advice on how to nail a query, and I have the opportunity to get their critique. I get to, in essence, pitch my book to them. If it’s good enough, it may prompt them to request further submission of my first 30 pages. This agency has a reputation for representing female authors across many genres. Very successfully. They have specifically said they are looking to expand their sf&f portfolio, an announcement agencies don’t make very often, and certainly not for those genres. I have a finished manuscript for an epic fantasy with a strong female protagonist.


Although my manuscript is finished, the final pass isn’t. (Not for lack of desire, but because life has happened in the 4 months since I was last able to work on it.) It’s been revised many, many times, but this final pass has been incredibly helpful in tightening it up further. And I’ve been aware of the word count issue but stalled on where I can realistically make the big trims that need to happen.

So even though neither of these things will prevent me from submitting my pitch paragraph for critique, I’d be in an even better position than I already am if I had those two things done.

I will be spending the next eight days on my pitch, as well as taking a close, hard look at what I could trim to get the story down by at least 20%. (As I’ve said before, not just for the sake of cutting things out, but to make the story tighter.) I’m excited and determined. Wish me luck.

Article originally appeared on B. Jenne' Hall: writing and other pursuits (http://www.bjennehall.com/).
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