Thursday, March 24, 2016

Too much of a good thing

I have been querying YA agents, ten at a time. Revise, edit, revise, repeat. In the last batch of ten I straight away got a full requests from YA Agent 1. Bingo, right?

I waited and waited, and took a hiatus on sending out queries to concentrate on my wip. Three months later I nudged Agent 1 and got an apology email (it got lost, the dog ate it, the blasted spam filter…), requesting I resend and she’d get right on it. So I did.

Then, feeling frustrated and on a bit of a whim, I sent a query to a (non-YA) big name Agent 2 known for representing literary fiction. In sixty minutes flat I got “your pages really caught my attention, please send the full, even though my reading list is very full.” Holy crap!

Then, next day, in rolls another full request from YA Agent 3, from the batch of queries sent three months before. When it rains it pours. But it gets worse, or at least more confusing.

Two months later Agent 1 emails back, I loved the story, and read it several times. Please revise and resubmit. It’s too literary. We want it to sell well as commercial, not just win literary awards. Not much other guidance. Things started looking a little fuzzy.

Here’s what my brain wanted to say: What literary awards? What manuscript are you talking about? Is my story literary fiction? Seriously? Is that why Agent 2 is interested and why so many YA agents haven’t been? And what the heck!? Aren’t we supposed to want to win literary awards, even if we never aspired to that and think the idea a little ludicrous? And where do Agents 2 and 3 stand on all this?

Here’s what I actually emailed back: Roger that, I’ll revise and resubmit.

So now I’m in a real conundrum. Will revising the manuscript to make it more “commercial fiction like,” and less “literary fiction like,” make the manuscript less attractive to big name non-YA Agent 2? If Agent 2 likes my writing because of it’s “literary fiction” aspects, will revising to make it more “commercial fiction like” make the manuscript less attractive? Would Agent 2 be problematic since she represents literary fiction, not YA?

I’ve been diligently rereading and editing, trying REAL hard to make improvements without messing things up. Time has actually made a difference and I really like many of my edits, but most of them are subtle. I’m also playing a waiting game. Maybe big-name Agent 2 will get back to me soon (even though she said her reading list was very full) with more specific ideas for revision and I’ll have a better idea of where to take the book. But I’m about out of runway. My edits are essentially done.

Seems like I have a lot of alternatives.

1. My gut (going with honesty is the best policy) says send the revision back to YA Agent 1 and nudge Agent 2 and 3 letting them know I am sending in my R&R.

2. I could send in my R&R to Agent 1 and hold my cards on Agents 2 and 3, with a gentle nudge to Agent 2 because it’s now been three months.

3. I could continue to drag it out hoping for a response from Agent 2 without loosing the interest of Agent 1.

4. I could crawl back into my woodland nut hole and keep going with my wip, which is decidedly commercial YA. (At least I think it is. Oh no, what if I’m wrong there too?)

Apropos any of those options, I suppose I could also recast my query and send it to agents specifically looking for literary fiction. Sigh.

Any advice for your devoted blog follower and befuddled woodland creature?

An agent sent you an email that said "revise and resubmit" and didn't give you any guidance on specifically what s/he had in mind?

Oh man, I need to remember that. Talk about a fast way to REALLY make writers crazy!! This is even better than "I'll reply soonishly" which I use now to torment all my clients and few queriers with requested fulls as well.

One of the things that would really help you is to get both projects (finished and WIP) in front of an agent who works in this category. That means a writing conference or a consultation (you can often buy these at charity auctions.)  Get some feedback from someone who's seen both projects.

Right now you don't have enough information from any of these tormentors to actually act on. Thus:

1. Keep querying
2. Keep nudging
3. Keep writing

It sounds like you've got the writing chops to snag an agent's interest.  Now, you just need some actual guidance from someone who says "I love this, now let's change it."


Lisa Bodenheim said...

I think my body finally made it into Daylight Saving Time. The snowstorm must have done it. Goofy weather.

So, when an agent is serious in their request for a revise and resubmit, they usually give us some specific details or guidance. This is good to know.

Opie, I'm assuming you've kept your original ms from before your revise and resubmit? That way if Agent 2 (the literary agent) gets back to you with "love it" or a different set of revise and resubmits, you can have at it because Agent 1 is not a sure thing yet. Another question: Have you had a professional edit, as in someone who knows the distinctions between commercial and literary? Although it sounds like you know, sort of, what the difference is and how to revise to those genres. And, ta-da, you've received requests! That's great news. So good luck as you continue to move forward.

nightsmusic said...

This puts me in mind of a question: If TKAM was queried today, would it be literary? YA? Middle grade?

Write the book of your heart. Follow Janet's advice to pay if necessary to get it seen by someone who reps the genres you've been asked to submit to. Someone who knows can point you in the right direction.

I wish I had these problems!

Adib Khorram said...

I heard YA author A.S. King speak last year, and she talked about this very thing—how publishers have "literary" tracks (though she called it the school/library track) and "commercial" tracks for their YA books.

Literary is where a lot of the books that are winning Printz Awards and Morris Awards and National Book Awards are coming from.

Commercial is where a lot of NYT Bestsellers get placed. It has a big impact on where the thrust of marketing is.

There truly isn't a lot of overlap—John Green being the notable exception, though his "breakout", THE FAULT IN OUR STARS, didn't win a ton of awards despite being hugely successful.

If you look at the winner/honors list for the Printz Award at, you can see what I mean. How many of these hit the bestsellers list?

OP, I don't know that this helps your conundrum much, except perhaps to offer a rubric within which to look at your own book and see where it falls and where it can viably go.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Hey nightsmusic, I'm with you. My first thought, I should have such problems.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

My R&R was also not heavy on the guidance, but a couple of broad stroke suggestions. One one hand I kind of want more and on the other hand, I'm glad I didn't get more. I also haven't begun to even make gestures at that revision. That manuscript is "to bed" right now, so far as my creative brain has been concerned.

Is anybody planning on doing April's CampNaNoWriMo? I'm dithering about with what I want to write then, and how much. I might just up my "one short story a month" goal, or aim for more of a novella or novelette or something.

Susan said...

This sort of situation worries me for the OP and is what I really hate to see from writers/artists--people changing their work to fit a mold. There are edits and rewrites based on feedback, which is essential to the writing process, and then there's completely changing the story because of one person (or, in this case, because an agent said so). This kind of situation not only messes with the mind, but it makes you question your work.

Last year, I had a beta-reader read my work about a girl struggling with a chronic illness. Her main suggestion was that I move a plot point regarding the 9/11 attacks to the very beginning of the book and start there, whereas it's intended to be at the halfway point for a reason--it's a minor plot point and a thematic turning point for the character, but she wanted it to be the central focus.

I agonized over this and ended up rewriting the entire book to add a new character and increase the tension from the get-go, but I was adamant about keeping these scenes where they were. What I realized later, however, was that this beta-reader is also a YA writer--in YA fiction, the books generally start with some kind of action, whereas in literary fiction, it's more of a slow build and character study. I'm happy for the rewrites because it added another layer to the story, but if I had listened to the advice of this beta-reader, it would have completely changed the story I really want to tell.

That's what I would suggest to the OP--do some research on commercial fiction and literary fiction (and what specific changes the agent wants to see and why) and then figure out what story it is you're really wanting to tell. It sounds like you have some options (which, congrats on the fills!), so it's up to you now. You can rewrite your book in either direction, but don't lose sight of your story.

Susan said...

This is what I get for writing a reply on my phone early in the morning: congrats on the *fulls, OP.

Also, just to clarify, I mean YA commercial fiction.

Caffeinate me!

Anonymous said...

I think the thing the OP needs to consider before making any changes is how they see the story. What sort of people do they see reading it? If they have other works in progress, are they more commercial or literary? After all, you're going to want an agent who will be excited for all your works.

Dena Pawling said...

>>We want it to sell well as commercial, not just win literary awards

Who is this illustrious “we”? The agent and the agency? The agent and YOU?

What do YOU want? From this message, it sounds like you like the idea of literary awards.

And - what do you want to write for books 2,3,4,5? If you want to write similar to what you wrote the first time out, and that's more literary, then Agent 1 probably won't be a good fit.

Read some books that have “won literary awards”. Is that how and what you want to write? Or do you really want to be more commercial?

>>Time has actually made a difference and I really like many of my edits, but most of them are subtle.

If you like many of your edits, then that's a good thing. But don't you like ALL of the edits? And subtle edits, at least in my relatively-novice opinion, are not going to change a “mostly literary” novel into a “commercial” novel. Maybe you now just have a better-but-still-literary novel.

I like Janet's idea of finding someone to read and give you input. You can even hire someone to do that, altho this will likely be a more expensive option.

But I think the bottom line is you have to figure out what type of book YOU want to write. It wouldn't be good to have ANY of these agents if you don't want to write that agent's type of book in the future.

Good luck.

Mister Furkles said...

Agent 1's advice is spot on. Too bad she wasn't around to advise Sam Clemens because, Lord knows, hardly nobody read Tom Sawyer.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

This is a good place to be, OP, if not frustrating. You are able to attract agents. I did not get a lot on my R&R either. Might be common. Jennifer said the same thing.

Once I got going with it though, I saw things I could do to make the book better and not just shorter. Honestly, the flash fiction contests here helped more than the limited R&R feedback- great story- just needs tightening and cut word count- so that.

You are close. Don't butcher your story to make it "commercial". Trust your gut. Then do as Janet directs and keep on querying, nudging, and writing. Maybe a full poke here and there.

Well, I have a funeral to attend. Good luck, OP. You are close. Keep at it.

Colin Smith said...

I had a nice lie-in this morning, and when I came into my office-library and opened the blinds, the birds were singing to me. "Happy birthday!" they said. "Oh Colin, what a wonderful writer you are!" they tunefully added, "And this is going to be the year you get an agent!" Don't you love birds?

Which brings me to the topic. Opie, you didn't need an agent to tell you you're a writer capable of producing publishable work. All you needed to do was write the right novel for the right agent at the right time. And it looks like you've done that. However, the question for you (it seems to me) is how much do you believe in the novel you wrote? Others have already alluded to this, but it comes back to what we were talking about yesterday: knowing who you are as a writer, and writing what YOU believe in. If you change your literary novel to be commercial to make an agent happy, will YOU be happy with the novel? Sure, you'll be delighted to finally get an agent. But when NPR interviews you, will you be as enthused about this work of commercial fiction as you would have been with your literary work? Are you making a career move to commercial fiction? Would you prefer to be a writer of literary fiction? What do YOU want from your writing career?

What is it Janet says about not being a beggar at the publishing banquet? Huge congratulations for writing a novel that has captured the attention of multiple agents. Now you have to choose the agent/advice that best fits YOUR vision for the novel.

Remember: It's your name on the cover. :)

And because I'm old, I'm going to take issue with something Janet said. I think there are a number of unagented writers in here who have the writing chops to snag an agent's interest (and we all know who you are). They just haven't yet written the right book for the right agent at the right time. Snagging an agent's interest isn't proof alone that you have the writing chops to snag an agent's interest. Indeed, as I said above, it's about writing the right book for the right agent at the right time.

JulieWeathers said...

Boy, howdy. This makes me appreciate the R&R's I got from the shark even more now. General advice like make it less literary when you didn't even know it was literary to begin with is cause for insanity.

It's a universal truth writers are crazy, but they don't all start out that way.

I would certainly find a trusted and knowledgeable reader or consultant. You need some guidance. There's a reason snipers have spotters to help them hone in on their targets.

Good luck. It sounds like you certainly are well on your way and I expect to hear good things.

DLM said...

Colin, are you trying to tell us your birthday is for the birds? May it be a happy one, you whippersnapper!

Mister Furkles: prezackly.

I have nothing to add, except this problem strikes me as a lovely one to have, really. I mean, it's annoying when your diamond gets caught on your cashmere sweater when you put it on, but you have a diamond and a cashmere sweater, right?

Unknown said...

I think this line really puts everything into perspective well.

"Right now you don't have enough information from any of these tormentors to actually act on."

The toughest thing I think we writers struggle with is our capacity to hear 10 things out of 1 thing. We're strung out on hope and aspirations, so when we catch a whiff of one, we drag it out. I've received encouraging query rejections that I've highlighted and tacked up on my wall, knowing full well this is likely a form rejection with some optional phrasing. Still. The particular words matter. It gives us fuel.

Until an agent tells you "I love it, change these things and let's talk" I would only revise it if you personally think it could use a good revision. I'd also take my list and just keep subbing right on down the list until I hit the end. I like the "batch" theory because it can help you to look at queries in a different way or even your first few pages and analyze why it is or isn't getting requests, but I'd only do a few batches and then just start querying the list at a relaxed pace (for me it was 3-5 queries per day with research).

As for your R&R, if you feel like it truly improved the book, send it to everyone, but know that you'll probably have to wait longer. If you feel it tailored the book to one agent, just send it to that agent. Generally a new manuscript (or a revised one) gets you sent to the bottom of the reading list.

Bethany Elizabeth said...

Happy birthday, Colin! I'm glad the birds sang just for you. The weather reverted back to snow and frozen rain over here (and thundersnow this morning!), so I'm pretty sure all our birds are dead. Or, you know, hiding.

And I know for a fact there are a ton of unagented writers here who definitely have the chops to get agented! I mean, for goodness' sake, look at the flash fiction contests. Serious skill going on there.

This whole quandary reminds me of two geology professors I had. The first would read our work, mark up all the incorrect parts, make suggestions on where to elaborate, and let us resubmit the papers as many times as we needed to. For each submission, he would give detailed feedback (def. one of my favorite professors).

Another professor returned a project proposal to my group with a giant question mark on the top of the paper and nothing else.

Did my geomorphology professor become Agent 1? We may never know!

JulieWeathers said...


I hope you have a wonderful day with lots of cake. Hopefully, it's red velvet cake, though my favorite is rodeo cake.

With luck, you won't have to act like an adult.

Surely, you can get together with friends.

Run like someone left the gate open.

We'll talk softly tomorrow if you party too hearty.

nightsmusic said...


(sung to the William Tell Overture)

Happy, Happy Birthday
Happy, Happy Birthday
Happy, Happy Birthday
Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy Birthday
Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy, Happy Birthday
Happy, Happy Birthday, Happy Birthday - TO YOU!
Happy, Happy Birthday
Happy, Happy Birthday
Happy, Happy Birthday

Unknown said...

Perhaps a stupid question, but if the commercial-minded agent wants the more literary elements toned down, then I'm assuming this is what she intended for the Revisions + Resend. What about maintaining 2 manuscripts? The original and more literary to which the writer would query to literary YA agents; and the revised, commercial manuscript to agents with a commercial focus?

Colin Smith said...

Julie: Mmm... that Rodeo Cake sounds delish! I'll have to get FirstBorn to try that out sometime. She has already made my chocolate cake (with chocolate frosting) for today. We'll be eating it with chocolate milk (fresh from a local creamery) and chocolate ice cream. No, I don't believe there's such a thing as too much chocolate. :)

NM: Thanks!! :D

Sorry, Janet. I didn't mean to lead others off-topic. That would be SO unlike me. :D

Colin Smith said...

Diane: I'm only a couple of years your junior, so you're a whippersnapper too! :)

Karen McCoy said...

A.S. King is a great person to listen to for this market, and yes, the divide is real. I'm on committees that are considering work that needs both teen appeal and literary merit, but with a lot of librarians, literary wins out. I'm finding that I'm reading commercial fiction on my own, because I often enjoy it just as much, if not more.

I'm hoping Donald Maass's idea will catch on--that someday, there will be a melding of both.

Be glad, Opie, for your literary chops, and know that this situation will settle, and you'll land with a great agent.

Karen McCoy said...

And happy birthday, Colin! Chocolate cake with chocolate frosting sounds delish.

Michael Seese said...

Agent One's advice reminds me of the scene in "Amadeus" where the Emperor tells Mozart to fix his opera.

"Just take out a few notes."

"Which notes did His Majesty have in mind?"

Jenz said...

Dena said: "And subtle edits, at least in my relatively-novice opinion, are not going to change a “mostly literary” novel into a “commercial” novel. Maybe you now just have a better-but-still-literary novel."

I think Dena hit a really important point. I also think subtle edits aren't likely to transform this into the novel Agent1 wants it to be. And if that's true, then odds are high that Agent1 is going to reject the revised version. You definitely don't want to pin your hopes on this one person.

I'd try asking my beta readers what they think about literary versus commercial appeal, just to get some other opinions and a chance to talk it out. Though I have a bad feeling that the lack of mention of betas means the OP doesn't have any, which a whole nother problem (that's right, I typed out a whole nother).

Craig F said...

I thought Colin's birthday was a couple of days ago when his firstborn baked that apple custard thing.

This year I switched my fishing techniques. For the last few years I had fly fishing with a dry fly. Dry flies float so it is a type of top water fishing. It is fun because when a fish hits it you have to set the hook right then.

The season to do that is short though. This winter I felt a desire to fish but the dry fly would not work. I went to a spin caster and a small slow sinking plastic thing.

Fish attack bait differently when something passes through their domain. They knock it around a few times. It was a mother for me to learn how to wait again. Finally learned how to tell when the fish is committed and makes a run for.

Moral of the story:

A full request from a query is just that initial knocking around. Feed the agents a little more line and ask them to clarify what they want. Keep a line in the water though. You can never be sure if you have them hooked until they are in the boat.

S.P. Bowers said...

I received an R&R from an agent saying only that it needed more world building. World building is an exhaustively huge area and I had no idea what aspect of it wasn't working. I'm still waiting to hear back since I resubmitted. Sometimes you just have to do what you think is best and hope it checks the box the agent wanted. Good luck opie.

Brigid said...

Happy birthday, Colin! Don't let it by your last by getting sharkbit for disagreeing with QOTKU in her own combox.

Some stories need to be told in a literary way. Some stories need the more accessible/commercial telling. OP, please do what your story is telling you it needs. You can shove it under the bed for a couple months and work on the WIP to figure out what your career path is likely to be, if that helps you come back with fresh eyes later.

Adib Khorram said...

Happy birthday, Colin!

John Frain said...

Ah, first-world problems, Opie. You're in a beautiful mess.

Any advice from me would surely lead you further astray, so I'll offer none. But I will remind you that the worst place you're going to end up is holding a better manuscript when you're finished with revisions. Also, a whole lotta folks would love to be in your position.

Happy Birthday, Colin. No cake, but I'll drink a Mountain Dew and turn toward North Carolina in your honor. I'd bow, but then I'd spill it on my keyboard.

Unknown said...

Happy Birthday to the ground, Colin!

Colin Smith said...

Thanks, y'all. Brian, I'm not throwing anything on the ground, least of all birthday cake! :)

Christina Seine said...

Happy Birthday Colin! It seems March is a most excellent month for birthdays. =D

Opie's question reminds me of a thing they used to do on one of those game shows. I think it was The Price Is Right. You had to guess the correct price of a car or something, and you'd get a certain number of tries. So you'd start with your best guess, and they'd tell you how many numbers you got correct. So the first guess you might have two numbers out of five correct, but then you change three numbers and lo and behold, now you've get only one right. So you are blindly changing things just to change things. I never did see anybody actually win the car that way.

I'm just going to throw out there that reading Larry Brooks' STORY FIX helped me IMMENSELY with my rewrites. I'd gotten a bunch of fulls and a couple R&Rs, all of course with conflicting advice. His book helped me see things from the macro level on in, and I finally had a huge epiphany. Now I think I know what the agents were trying to tell me. Time will tell, I guess, but in any case, at least I have a MUCH clearer vision as I finish up revising. Just can't recommend that book enough.

Good luck OP! I know a lot of people who'd give their right arm to be in your shoes. =)

BJ Muntain said...

Robert Heinlein once said, "Refrain from rewriting, except to editorial order". Robert J Sawyer amends that to "Don't tinker endlessly with your story."

Heinlein's Rules on Robert J. Sawyer's website. There's some good advice there.

I'm not saying "don't revise", and neither is Mr. Sawyer. But there does come a time when an author needs to stop working on one story and move on to the next.

Just read your comment, Robert Ceres. I'm glad you're happy with your revision. As for "I should have gotten my MS into shape way earlier" - live and learn, right? Sometimes you grow as a writer while your work is being submitted, so even if you send out your best work at the beginning, your best becomes better over time.

I hope that makes sense. My brain isn't speaking clearly to me today. Even after 2 coffees.

Happy birthday, Colin!

Unknown said...

As the OP, and at the risk of being a little too out there, I thought I’d give a perhaps insightful update. I’d submitted this question some time ago, so it gives me a relatively long time-base to assess what I did and how well it worked.

Nudged Agent 2 (the literary, non-YA) at the three month point. She told me she read through the first half of the novel in one night (seriously??? OMG) then left it on her nightstand (at page xxx, just prior to an avalanche of misfortune, built up from previous mistakes my lovelies had made, the central climax. ARE YOU KIDDING?) In the end, reading between the lines on her comments, she really like the style of the novel, but gave up because the pacing/buildup seemed too slow. She was unwilling to pick it up because her workload precluded reworking with a newbie to the extent she thought the novel structure needed. This was incredible feedback, you never know the good that you do.

Simultaneous to waiting for Agent 2, I revised and resubmitted to Agent 1, the commercial one, concentrating on improving the pacing and filling in the protagonists inner thoughts, almost completely excluded from the earlier version (perhaps the literary aspect that Agent 2 liked.) She ultimately rejected the manuscript saying (I’m paraphrasing) it was too much story crammed into one novel. She also said the novel was “awesome show fodder,” (a totally cool expression that I love, but think means too much like a TV script?) but a show that she would totally love to watch. Then she laid out a definition of commercial which I kind of like – needs to have one major hook instead of several intermingled conflicts that revolve around this guy who has two friends who kind of love him, each in their own way. She didn’t know how to market the book, so not for her.

Agent 3 fizzed out.

Me, being the neurotic woodland creature that I am, crawled back into my hole under the leaves and hibernated. The end. So close. Too far.

Enter agent 4 responding from an older query. I woke up enough to send along what I had. Two months later, R&R? Wake up. Holy shit. Some positive comments, and an email dialog with two responses to questions I had. Write, write, write. Revise some more. Double down on the pacing, tie the plot better all along, more hints, more foreshadowing, a bit more inner dialog (again, almost completely absent from the original manuscript.) Doubled down on the literary, with huge stylistics differences incorporated into the climatic sections. Read Jenny Manzer’s newly released Save Me Kurt Corbain (great read, go buy it) and had an epiphany on the opening. Finally had the courage to let my daughter (at 13, a harsh critic) read the first 50. She loved it. And, hopeful again, I resubmitted the first 50. Initial positive comments and a full request. Now down to the last ten or twelve agents, I sent out another round of queries, and got two partials.

The odds still seem pretty low. I should have gotten my MS into shape way earlier, but oh well. I can tell you one thing. I love my novel now. Frankly, at this point I’m not sure I give a damn if anybody reads it. I feel like I’ve finally found my chops. And I’m back to picking up my wip.

So anyway, sorry for the way overly long, and probably TMI post, but maybe helpful to some. Is there a lesson here? Maybe. We need tough skin. That’s for sure. Hold out hope. Keep writing. Keep writing from your heart. I guess in that sense this post ties into yesterday's post.

BJ Muntain said...

I iz telepathetic. I knew Mr Ceres was going to post that comment before he did!

Donnaeve said...

That was weird, BJ, fer sher! :)

Happy Birthday, Colin! I think I noticed the sun shining a little brighter over on the Eastern side of the state this morning.

Captain BS? That video was downright WEIRD.

Congrats Rob Ceres on what you've achieved thus far! Keep on keeping on - don't stop now!

Late thoughts out to E.M. on the loss of her special aunt.

Unknown said...

Sorry, had to correct an oddity in my first post! Much easier to find mistakes after hitting post (or send for that matter.) One of the basic forces in the universe. I'd hoped to beat any comments on my post.

Happy Birthday Colin. I hope that like me, you are still around 22 years of age. I just turned 23, in my heart.

Brian M. Biggs said...

I think too much of a good thing is good thing. Congratulations OP. And I agree you should not alter your good work without knowing what agent 1 meant by the R & R. I switched Writing groups a few years ago and lost my "voice" from the changes that were suggested. Took me awhile to get it back. Happy BD Colin

Mark Ellis said...

Happy Birthday, Colin. Somehow I always suspected you were an Aries. According to one horoscope, you are "naturally creative and sympathetic." Listen, if you think fifty-eight is tough, wait till you hit sixty-three. Sixty is a milestone, sixty-two you can get early Social Security, sixty-five you retire in earnest. Sixty-three: zilch.

On the OP, to have written something aimed at young readers and have it come back as too literary is indicative of real talent, and I think OP should reach for the literary stars.

Lennon Faris said...

Great post. Robert - I loved reading your response/ update, too. It's always encouraging to hear others' process through the trenches.

I know I'm late to the game, but does anyone have any recommendations for good conferences to improve a YA wip as Janet mentioned in the post? I've been looking around recently, but there are so many.

Happy birthday, Colin!

BJ Muntain said...

Lennon: Someone mentioned SCBWI. I think you'll find a lot of resources - including conferences to attend - through them. I've heard nothing but great things about that huge organization. See if you can find a branch in your area (they have them everywhere, even in Canada).

John Frain said...


Bravo! That was great stuff to read your follow-up. And most impressive by the telepathic BJ to know it was coming. (Kind of you to pretend she's as human as the rest of us by acting like you revised your note -- she almost blew her cover there.)

Loved reading your updated story. So now I have advice: Follow Janet's three rules, but in a different order...

1. Keep writing
2. Start querying
3. Think about nudging if you have to

YOU KNOW you're so much better now than when you created that story that garnered so much interest from agents. We all know it. (Especially BJ, but that's another story.) It's right there in your words. Write the next one, and I bet we'll be reading your success story.

S.P. Bowers said...

I didn't have time to read comments earlier so had to jump back on to say Happy Birthday Colin!

Lisa Bodenheim said...

Happyhappy birthday, Colin. And chocolate cake? Yum.

Robert, thank you for sharing the rest of the story. It is helpful to hear how the process works for other folks.

Hm, I wonder if I have any good chocolate around here?

Janice Grinyer said...

Wow. Thank you, Robert, for your follow-up! So much information you shared and with Janet's post, we are going to file this away for the future. This blog and comments of the Shark's are a gold mine of information. And congrats for waking up and moving along; so difficult to do at times. Looking forward to seeing your name in the bookstore soon because you will be on my list to read :D

Don't know about you Reiders, but today's post and Robert Ceres followup comment motivated me to grasp time by the hands and take her for a swing down my writer's path. It's been pretty brambly lately, and I'm tired of hacking away (editing). I'm going to use my time like a chainsaw... :o !

Happy Birthday Colin; may you make it such a good one that you will remember it for years to come. Those are the best birthdays, and we wish you the same!

And I have hot water. Amazing when Maslow's theory is put to the test, and it passes muster!

Anonymous said...

Okay sorry it takes quite awhile to get a telegram from Carkoon to earth so sorry about the tardiness.

Colin Happy Birthday brother!

OP I am now officially paranoid about the whole query,agent, editing process.

What to do when you have three people say lets see what ya got. I can only ope that I get that kind of response from my books.

Is the writing good if I tear up even though I wrote the scene myself? Or is that just me being attached to my characters?

S.D.King said...

OK -I apologize in advance for the rant.

Just querired an agency that asked for a cover lettering containing synopsis and contact into, attach 50 pages. So I did.

Got an auto reply that says "we don't accept queries, only a synopsis and 50 pages, so if you send a query, we will ignore it."

I am so confused. My query contained a brief synopsis of course (whole thing under the recommended 250 word limit).

I started today strong, but this makes me want to bang my head on something hard- like the sidewalk in front of their agency.

Unknown said...

Ha! I guess eating the cake is also acceptable.

Unknown said...

The strange thing is, I can't even figure out what made that song get stuck in my head... Oh yeah! It was the link Julie Weathers had about not acting like an adult... That sent me down a bad path Julie... I listened to parody songs for a good two hours because of that comment and picture. :)

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Chocolate cake? Did someone say cake? Happy Birthday, Colin!

Unknown said...

Great rundown, Robert, thanks. It worked perfectly to be able to read and reflect on your initial post and Janet's advice, and then to see your follow-up several hours later. I'm certain the Shark has some telepathy going too.

Also, this post and the discussion inspired me to send out two more queries today. With one project out on query and another with beta readers, I have been waffling about what to tackle next.

Happy Birthday, Colin! Estas son las mañanitas, que cantaba el Rey David...

Adib Khorram said...

Jason, you're forgetting one of the Rules for Writers: Be Confident.

And it's okay to be paranoid about the process (though it helps to have something else to focus that anxious energy on—like writing the next book). Putting our work out there is terrifying and exhilarating and anxiety-inducing and it seems like there are both no rules and too many rules to follow.

Accept that there'll be mistakes and stumbles along the way. Learn from them and keep going, keep querying, keep writing.

Joseph S. said...

Robert Ceres

Thanks for the update. It was cathartic.

I feel your pain. I’m revising after chunking my first revised manuscript. Like you I’m adding more inner dialogue and more description, knocking out whole chapters, adding more tension and conflict where I can, and who knows what else gets thrown in the mix. I don’t know if I’m underdoing it, overdoing it, missing the point altogether, or hitting a homerun.

I also worry I’ll add 50,000 words to the story and have to delete a third of my finished product.

I will finish the current revision and hope the world wants to read it. But, like you, there are times I say who cares if anyone else appreciates it. My obsession now is to do my best to take good writing and make it good enough to publish.

Best of luck to you.

JulieWeathers said...


I think you're off to a pretty strong start. Don't give up. I will return to Far Rider someday with the advice the last agent gave me. Only you know what is right.

nightsmusic said...

This is totally off topic, but Publisher's Lunch just posted a job, Literary Assistant to Two Agents. The listing is blank. What does that say?


Lilac Shoshani said...

Happy Birthday, Colin! I'm so happy that you were born, dear friend. May all your dreams come true! :D

Robert, it was fascinating as well as educational to read about your process. Crossing my fingers for you!

Kae Ridwyn said...

Robert, you're an inspiration. I've just read through Janet's post and all comments in its entirety (was a little confused by the timing of a couple of the posts there, but thanks for clearing up that one for me!) and have to say that I agree entirely with all those comments that said 'Congratulations, OP!' Seeing where you were, what's happened in the interim, and where you're at now, is exciting; and I'm one of those who'll be looking forward to seeing your name on the front cover of the book when I buy it in my local bookstore in the future! It's just a matter of time, now...

Oh, and I'm thinking of you, EM, and Happy Birthday, Colin!

Anonymous said...

Robert, this reminds me of that old cartoon (in The New Yorker, I think?) that shows a writer standing in front of the desk of someone holding out a manuscript and saying, "We love all the words in your book! Now can you just put them in a different order?" I'm sure this has been horribly frustrating for you, but I really do get the sense that you're SO close to finding representation. Hang in there, and please let us know what happens. Adding your name to those I'll be looking for on new releases in the near future.

Happy Birthday, Colin! Hope you're consuming all the chocolate you can stand.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Wow, Opie Robert. Thanks for following up in the comments. If you're the Opie of the day, never apologise for being way overly long and telling us how things turned out. Honestly, we really want to know.

I had a Notepad window open and making all my notes for comments while I read what others had to say. I had a comment worthy of being banished to Carkoon due to length, then you came along, answered all my questions and provided the answers I had hoped you would find.

The most important one was that you might have discovered what kind of author you are.

Her Grace, Heidi, the Duchess of Kneale said...

Happy Birthday Colin. As you are born in March and I was born in May, you shall always be older than I.

It's interesting to wake up in the morning to read about twelve hours' worth of "I've just woken up, caffeinate me!" and thinking I'm behind.

But then I remember, I just woke up in tomorrow, whereas y'all are still in yesterday.

Happy Good Friday. I'm lying here in bed listening to the rest of Australia having a quiet sleep in.

Listening to the absence of sound is still listening.

Joseph S. said...


it means they really do need an assistant or two

Colin Smith said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Colin Smith said...

Thanks for the birthday well-wishes everyone. It's been a lovely day. SixthBorn made me lunch, SecondBorn made supper (rice balls stuffed with veggies--for me, pork for the others--vegetable miso salad, cabbage and peas), and FirstBorn made chocolate cake. There will be pictures on the blog next week. :D