Hello on this Sunday morning here in Missouri—a morning that reminds me of autumn in Minnesota. The hot-tempered weather has cooled off: a good day for writing.
Many of you wished me abundant sales at the fair last Sunday. So you may be as disappointed as I was to have sold only two books. But that fact has a flip side: I met several vendors who gave me ideas for other local fairs, like those held in hospitals and schools. So now I have some research to do.
In 2011, the trade paperback publisher of A Cat’s Life: Dulcy’s Story sent me the final 600 copies of the out-of-print book for the price of shipping. I still have 400 copies in the garage. That’s a lot of fairs, folks!
Now to the present.
I spent the past week critiquing a manuscript for a first-time novelist. Back in July, I’d done the same. After that reading I encouraged her “to situate” her scenes by providing details so that readers could visualize where something was happening. I also recommended the use of detail when writing dialogue so that “talking heads” would not confuse readers.
The author sent the manuscript back to me for review in early September. As often happens, in an attempt to show facial expressions and body language, she had added too many details. Moreover, the timeline was confusing, and in at least one crucial scene she missed the opportunity to create drama.
I completed my reading, critiquing, and slight copyediting on Thursday. The next day, she and I went through the manuscript on the phone for 3 ½ hours. I explained what still needed to be done—most of which could be accomplished by the deletion of words and the condensing of some scenes. Having words to cut is always easier than having to add words.
Because this is a young adult novel, it is supposed to be only about 75,000 words. The present manuscript has over 100,000. So the author welcomed the cutting I suggested.
As we’ve worked together in July and again this month, I’ve come to admire her dedication and maturity as a writer. She’s committed, open to advice, and professional enough to take those recommendations that work for her and to discard the rest.
She also has a reserve of fortitude and tenacity—necessary virtues when seeking publication. In recent weeks, she’s persevered and sent out eighty-five query letters to agents. Yes—85. Two have asked to see her manuscript.
I don’t know how you are responding to that ratio, but I’m impressed. Getting an agent is so difficult today and two of those eighty-five intermediaries between author and editor have asked to see her completed novel. That’s great news.
She plans to do the cutting and have the manuscript ready to send out by early October. I’m so hoping that one of those two agents will want to represent her writing.
Having completed that project, I’m now going to return to my own query letters to agents. The book 2013 Guide to Literary Agents lists 104 agents who represent historical novels. I have my query letter ready; I’ve visited agent websites; I’ve selected the first few to whom to send a query. Now the journey begins.
This week I hope to contact several agents to seek their representation of The Reluctant Spy. Start visualizing!