Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Mini (Work-in-) Progress Reports

It's been a while since I've shared anything about my works-in-progress, so I thought I'd round them up!


Word count (to the nearest thousand): 60,000
Status: Waiting for first pass pages
Attitude: Exhausted (but it's a good exhausted)

This little manuscript has been on a long journey. As I mentioned in a recent post, Steve has undergone a ton of changes in the year since he sold, but I think the end is finally in sight. I reviewed the copyedits several weeks ago, so we're down to first pass pages and, after that, ARCs. In the meantime, the illustrator is busily working on the cover (though I haven't seen even a draft, so don't ask me what it looks like!). Also, you should know that THE REGENERATED MAN isn't going to stick, but I think you'll like Steve's new title even better. More soon!


Word count: 45,000
Status: Working on the first revision
Attitude: Determined

Though Clyde sold almost a year ago, we've had to put him on the back burner while I worked on Steve, so now we're playing catch-up. (In an amusing twist of fate, Clyde's editor's name is also Steve, so that's made for some exciting (read: confusing) e-mails.) It's been a little weird to work on this story again--I haven't even opened up the document in the last sixteen months--but it's also been kind of cool to see how far I've come as a writer. Oh, and DUEL/DUET isn't going to stick, either, but then, we've always known how terrible I am at titles:)


Word count: 71,000
Status: In a holding pattern
Attitude: I haven't even thought about this manuscript in a while, so I guess I can't really say

Like a pair of unruly two-year-olds, Steve and Clyde have been demanding my attention for the last several months, so I haven't even thought about this manuscripts in a while. But I still love this story and hope I get a chance to share it with the world someday.


Word count: 10,000
Status: Sitting in Kate's inbox
Attitude: In love

Call me superstitious, but I've been hesitant to talk about this manuscript online. I had this idea a few months back that simply wouldn't leave me alone, so I scribbled down the first five chapters in about a week. (I also threw together a synopsis so I could get a handle on the plot, and it clocked in at a whopping 5,000 words. Holy synopsis, Batman!) I've passed it off to Kate so we can figure out where to go from here, but I've fallen in love with this concept and these characters and hope I get a chance to write the rest of it someday.

I also have ideas for two more manuscripts that I desperately want to write--one's an MG, one's a YA, though they're both contemporary--but I'm not sure I'll be able to throw another ball into the mix (let alone another two). At least I won't run out of things to write for the foreseeable future:)

How are your works-in-progress coming along?

Monday, May 26, 2014

Team Rock Star Wins "The Writer's Voice"

Congratulations to Elizabeth Briggs and Team Rock Star, who won "The Writer's Voice" with 32 official votes (and 37 unofficial ones)! I had a great time working with Liz and her team, and I'm not at all surprised that they did so well.

As always, I'm so thankful for everyone who entered, everyone who commented, the agents who voted, and especially the coaches. Brenda and Mónica have given so much to this contest for the last three years, and our newcomers, Kim and Liz, did a great job stepping in. I couldn't do this without them.

Monday, May 19, 2014

The Agent Round Starts Now!

“The Writer’s Voice” is a multi-blog, multi-agent contest hosted by Brenda DrakeMónica Bustamante WagnerKimberly P. Chase, and Elizabeth Briggs. We based it on NBC’s singing reality show The Voice, so these ladies served as coaches and selected projects for their teams based on their queries and first pages.

And TODAY they get to post their team members’ finished entries on their blogs!

Sixteen amazing agents are going to read these queries and first pages, then vote for their favorites this Thursday, May 22. Each vote will count as a partial or full request depending on how many votes the entry receives. If an entry receives 1 or 2 votes, those votes will count as partial requests. If an entry receives 3 or more votes, those votes will count as full requests.

Our sixteen amazing agents:

To read the other teams' entries, please use the following links:

Lastly, cheerleading is allowed, but only until Wednesday! We want to leave the comments free for the agents to vote on Thursday. (Also, we will only allow, well, cheerleading and/or positive feedback. Please don’t critique the entries before the agents vote. On the flip side, please don’t try to convince the agents that they want to vote for one of your favorites or, you know, threaten to douse the agents in silly string if they don’t vote for your critique partner. This is a silly-string-free site.)

Happy reading!

Friday, May 16, 2014

Another Success Story for "An Agent's Inbox"

Last week, Suze left a comment that totally made my day:

Hi, Krista.

Just wanted to let you know that John has offered KYLE representation and I've accepted. Thank you so much for hosting this and all of your contests! I wish you all the best.

Now, Suze probably thought that that would be the end of it, but I managed to convince her to answer a few questions. I like to stick my nose in other people's business, and I figured you'd want to hear the rest of the story, too:)

Check out Suze's winning entry, then hop back over to find out exactly how she came to sign with John Cusick of Greenhouse Literary Agency.

KV: What did you think when you saw that Mr. Cusick was interested in your manuscript?

SG: I was actually doing one of those squinting out of one eye dealios when I checked to see what his response to my post on your blog was, Krista. When I saw that he asked for fifty pages, I felt this flood of optimism. Think I actually laughed out loud.

KV: How long did you wait to hear back on the partial? What did Mr. Cusick say when he got back in touch?

SG: John got back to me in about a week asking for the full, which buoyed my spirits immensely. A few days after that, just before Thanksgiving, I got a full request from a pretty cultured, big-shot agent over at Writers House and about three weeks later, a full request from an agent at Andrea Brown came in. I think you could safely say I went into the end-of-the-year seasonal wait feeling solid and calm.

KV: How long did you wait to hear back on the full? What did you do to keep yourself busy?

SG: After the holidaze cleared up and January rolled into February, I'd gotten a form from Writers House after what I now believe to be an ill-advised nudge. At that point, there was still nothing from the other agency or John. I'd sent out five more queries and was getting forms. Winter was beginning to wear on me. 

This wasn't the first novel I'd queried. A year before I'd been shopping around a Contemporary Women's Fiction piece when the agent of a colleague told her, 'Oh, editors aren't touching Women's Fic, these days.' (Ouch.) With Kyle, a humorous contemporary Middle Grade effort, I allowed myself to hope for better things. To keep myself busy, I actually revised another WF piece I'd written before I shopped around the other one. It's one of my favorite novels and I love just existing in that world so I was able to stay happy hanging out with those characters for a while.

KV: When Mr. Cusick contacted you, did he e-mail you first or just skip straight to the Call?

SG: I read in an interview that John never minded being nudged. I think he'd said something like, 'If you haven't heard from me in a month, by all means, get in touch.' For me, it'd been three months, so I zipped off an e-mail. That same day, he thanked me for my patience and let me know he was still considering the story. About a week later, he wrote saying he absolutely loved Kyle and wanted to chat about plot over the phone. We scheduled the call for my birthday. I was totally cloud nining it.

KV: Tell us a little bit about that first conversation. Were you more excited or nervous (or both)? If you had some time to prepare, did you put together some notes, or did you just let the conversation develop? And what kinds of things did you two talk about?

SG: I had a list of questions a couple of writer friends had helped me prepare for the moment an agent offers rep. I was feeling really good because it seemed like things were coming together in a cosmic sort of way. Then, the day of the call--a Friday--came, and he started talking to me about a revision. I was having a hard time concentrating because all I kept thinking was, 'What about the offer of rep?!' Well, it didn't come that day. But John was very specific about changes he felt would strengthen the story. I thought I might be spacing so I asked him for a follow-up e-mail with some bullet points summing up the conversation. I told my husband what I remembered John asking for and it turns out I hadn't forgotten. When I got his e-mail the following Monday, it was all there in black and white. 

What really tipped the scales for me, though, was what appeared to me to be a very intuitive grasp of not only what my characters needed but what I as an author was trying both to accomplish and avoid. It could be that John's just an empath, that wouldn't surprise me. But I think, really, it boils down to the fact that he's not only a passionate, very positive agent but also a writer.

KV: What made you decide to go for the revision, and how much time did you spend on it?

SG: It was a combination of things because, for a while there, I really was feeling end-of-my-ropeish; like I wanted to take a significant breather from the process. My family had just made a major cross-country move about which I'd felt ambivalent all along and I was actually thinking about what it might feel like to shelve writing, revising and seeking representation for about a year. After John's request, I did go ahead and start to work on the revision and it was coming together. But then I ran into a snag with one scene--I felt like I was just writing gibberish to force the narrative in the direction of John's feedback--and I even contacted him about it. It had to do with a supporting character and I just wasn't feelin' it. 

I'd done massive, indiscriminate revisions based on far less substantive feedback from other agents in the past and they hadn't resulted in offers, just heartbreak. I was really wanting to take a laser-surgery approach to this one. I didn't want to go off on unproductive tangents, was resolved not to, actually. At that point, I just stopped. It'd been two weeks since he'd asked for the revisions and I had slogged through the easier-to-address stuff spaced over many days--which is not my style--but then just got to a point where I halted altogether.

That weekend, I was in a Barnes and Noble with my husband and daughter and caught sight of the gorgeous hardcover of a new release from one of John's clients, Sharon Biggs Waller's A MAD, WICKED FOLLY. I literally stared that satiny-smooth image down and then went home and called my mom. I told her, 'Ma, I'm just not feelin' it.' And she said, 'I did a lot of things I didn't feel like doing, today. But they had to be done. It's time to get to work, my princess. You've come too far.' (Those were her exact words, burned on my brain.) 

Later that week, I went to lunch with a friend, a new friend in a new city, and told her I had encountered some speed bumps. Across the table in this very tasty South Indian buffet, she goes, 'Just do it.' Just like that. And I stared at her like I'd stared at Sharon's book and just went, 'Okay.' 

So I drove home that day and worked for like five days straight (with a weekend in between, I don't like to do that to my husband and daughter--shut them out for work, I mean--when I can help it) and then emerged after my manic nine- to twelve-hour revising shifts with a done deal. I shipped it off to John and he loved it. He said the manuscript had taken a nice leap forward and that he was really pleased. He was out of the States but he e-mailed me an offer of rep because he didn't want to make me wait until his return. We spoke on the phone once he got back and I had my chance to ask my little list of questions and all was right with the world. These last ten or so days have been like watching the current in my bones downshift into joy. I'm seriously relishing it. There's nothing like it in the world, success--no matter how incremental. I'm grateful for this happiness, this victory. It's permeated everything.

KV: Popping in to say that Suze blogged about this R&R when she first received it, and I thought her introspective post touched on a lot of the same themes my own journey underscored. It's definitely worth a look-see. Okay, back to the interview!

Obviously, you decided to accept Mr. Cusick's offer of representation:) What about him impressed you?

SG: I think I alluded to that a bit in my above response. I'd received offers to revise and resubmit in the past. In fact, every agent who actually went beyond the automatic form response stage--there were plenty of those, lemme tell ya--did ask for a revision. Some were vague, some deal breakers, some earnest while also betraying a fundamental lack of understanding on the basics of how to elevate a narrative. John's thoughts fell into none of those categories. He was thorough, backed up his ideas with things that made sense to me and seemed to have an airtight capacity for singling out weaknesses, shedding light on them and making respectful suggestions. Top of all that, his star is climbing in Children's. Hard combination to beat.

KV: Any last words of advice or encouragement you’d like to share with us?

SG: Yep. Don't ever pay a blog administrator--no matter how cute or celebrated their online persona--for a chance to have your work read. Make friends with other writers: the right alliances will save your spirit--not to mention your career--during the dark nights of the soul. Spend some time getting to know what you want. It's a shifting-sands industry, so you've gotta take responsibility for being familiar with your own priorities. And never, never, ever let the word 'rejection' apply to you. It's not a rejection, it's a pass, and they happen every day. But so do offers.


Friday, May 9, 2014

Interview with an Agent: Renee Nyen

I've got another great interview for you, this one with Renee Nyen of kt literary! As you're about to see, she started out as Kate's assistant and has recently started taking on clients of her own. I think you're going to find a lot to like about Ms. Nyen.

KV: How long have you been agenting, and how did you get into it?

RN: I have been with kt literary since January of 2013. I worked in publishing for a few years, but most importantly, I stalked Kate Testerman (@DaphneUn) on Twitter for about eighteen months before I e-mailed her begging for any reading she could throw my way. Apparently, she liked something about me and hired me. Agenting has completely surprised me. I didn't expect to love it as much as I do.

KV: How would you summarize your personal agenting philosophy? What do you expect from an agent-author relationship?

RN: My agenting and life philosophies are the same: be passionate. I want to represent a story that started as an unquenchable fire in someone's belly. I want to read the story you can't shake. The voice that follows you around. If you're excited about your manuscript, I'm more likely to be enthusiastic, too.

KV: I know you're just starting out, so you probably don't have any client work coming out soon, but what about kt literary caught your attention? Was there a specific client or book you were especially excited to work with?

RN: I've been a huge fan of Maureen Johnson for years. She's so unique. She doesn't apologize for who she is and what she writes. I have so much respect for her. As a person and a writer.

One of our more recent agency acquisitions is Marisa Reichardt's work. It takes a lot to reduce Kate and I to tears, but she managed to do so. I think she has a long, wonderful career in front of her.

KV: What genres do you represent? What genres do you definitely NOT represent?

RN: I represent primarily YA and MG. I've always read these genres so it is what I'm most comfortable representing.

Honestly, I'm never going to represent erotica. No matter how things go in my life, I don't see myself loving an erotica story so much that I try to sell it. And I've read a few. I. Have. Tried.

KV: What query pet peeves and/or pitfalls should writers avoid when querying you?

RN: I'll share two. May I share two?

I'm really not into prologues. They detract from the story's momentum. I want to instantly connect with your main character. Prologues tend to feel like throw-away words--especially if the main character doesn't make an appearance. I know some genres (high fantasy, specifically) use them often, and if you can't part with your prologue, I understand, but it is a hang-up for me.

The other immediate turn-off for me is too much general language in your query letter. Judith's story is one of insurmountable odds, the meaning of life, the search for acceptance. It is an ode to overwhelming hope, devastating loss, friendship and self-discovery. This tells me nothing unique about your book or your characters.

KV: What are you looking for in a manuscript right now? What are you tired of seeing at the moment?

RN: More than any specific genre, I love manuscripts that immediately capture me. For me, writing and characters transcend genre.

That said, I'd love to see historical YA about a lesser-known time in history. And if anyone out there has a space pirate story, it would jump to the front of my reading queue. Immediately. I mean, who doesn't love the Mal Reynolds kind of hero? I need more Mal in my life.

KV: What’s the best way to query you?

RN: Feel free to e-mail me at reneequery(at)ktliterary(dot)com. For more detailed information, here's a link to our submissions page.

Thanks again, Ms. Nyen, for these answers. And if you ever find that space pirate story, do let me know:)

Have a great weekend, all!

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Battles in "The Writer's Voice"

The coaches have started leaving invitations on the entries this morning and will continue to do so through Thursday, May 8. If you've already received an invitation, congratulations! If you haven't, there's still time.

If you receive more than one invitation by Thursday evening, you'll need to decide which coach you want to work with by Friday morning and MAKE THAT ANNOUNCEMENT NO LATER THAN 10:00 A.M. EDT ON THE TWITTER HASHTAG (#THEWVOICE) OR IN THE COMMENTS OF YOUR POST.

Once the coaches know how many slots they need to fill, they'll use the rest of Friday to extend more invitations. Here again, if you receive more than one invitation by Friday evening, you'll need to decide which coach you want to work with by Saturday morning and make that announcement no later than 10:00 a.m. EDT on the Twitter hashtag (#TheWVoice) or in the comments of your post.

If the coaches still have slots to fill on Saturday morning, they'll use the rest of Saturday to extend more invitations. Since we'll need to wrap up the selection process as quickly as possible, any invitations extended on Saturday will be final. (In other words, if one coach extends an invitation on Saturday, the other coaches may not extend an invitation to the same writer.)

Let the battles begin!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

"The Writer's Voice" Blogfest, 2014 Edition

“The Writer’s Voice” Blogfest is live! Over the next week, the coaches will review your queries and first pages on the blogs listed below, and if one of the coaches wants you on her team, she’ll leave a comment on your post that says something like, “I want you!” (Please note that the coaches won’t post any comments for the first few days, so if you don’t get an instant “I want you!” don’t fret!) If more than one coach wants you, you’ll have to pick which coach you want to work with. (We’ll give you more instructions on this next week, depending on how things pan out…)

For more information, including a timeline of events and a list of this year’s participating agents, check out this post. In the meantime, feel free to hop around and play along with these not-quite-blind auditions!

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Thursday, May 1, 2014

Enter "The Writer's Voice" NOW!

Welcome to “The Writer’s Voice” 2014! To enter, your manuscript must meet two conditions: First, it must be COMPLETE, POLISHED, AND READY TO QUERY, and second, it must be in one of the following genres:

Adult Historical
Adult Fantasy
Adult Science Fiction
Adult Romance (excluding erotica)
YA fiction (all genres)
MG fiction (all genres)

Also, YOU MUST HAVE A BLOG TO PARTICIPATE IN THIS CONTEST, as the coaches will be building their teams via “The Writer’s Voice” Blogfest (which starts tomorrow). You don’t have to have a blog at this moment to enter, but you will need to create one ASAP if you win a spot in the blogfest (which is what today’s Rafflecopter lottery will determine).

For more information, including a timeline of events and a list of this year’s participating agents, check out this post. Then feel free to enter the Rafflecopter lottery anytime between now and 9:00 p.m. EDT!

a Rafflecopter giveaway