Critiquing, Querying, Revising, What I've Learned, Writing

What I’ve Learned in Seven Years of Querying

A few weeks ago one of my writing friends posted a wonderfully inspiring tweet:

And I replied:

Technically, this statement isn’t true. If you’ve seen my posts on tracking my queries, you’ll know that I do keep track of my rejections. However, I’ve never totaled them up for all the manuscripts, and as I thought about this post, I realized it might actually be helpful to share that information. I always figured I’d save these numbers for a dramatic How I Got My Agent post, but since that hasn’t happened yet, let’s do it! But also, as I’m still querying my latest manuscript, I’m not tying any of these numbers to specific manuscripts.

Manuscripts: 6
Queries: 594
Query Rejections: 500
Partial requests: 31
Full requests: 75
R&Rs: 4

So there it is. A nice even 500 rejections. But wait! That’s only query rejections. When you add in the fact that those submissions and R&Rs didn’t turn into offers, I’ve squeaked over 600 (some of those requests were from contests rather than queries). Now, I did include queries and submissions for the manuscript I’m currently querying in these numbers, and I’m still waiting to hear on a number of those. Plus, there are a few agents who haven’t responded on a couple of my older manuscripts. Who knows? Maybe they’ll find it in their inbox and still make an offer :). (I am an eternal optimist.) Which brings me to my first and always lesson:


Basically, I’m not giving up, no matter what. I will keep writing until one of these manuscripts sticks. I mean, this is my What I’ve Learned in Seven Years of Querying Post, and it’s a tradition. I’ve written one for each year, so if you’re new here, that’s already going to tell you something. If you want to go back and read the others, here they are: What I’ve Learned in One, Two, Three, Four, Five, and Six Years of Querying.

But on to the other things I’ve learned this past year.

Being in a major contest like Pitch Wars doesn’t put a magic spell on your manuscript. Now, I want to be clear that I did not assume being in Pitch Wars would result in an agent. It’s more that I thought this manuscript would be more ready than any of the others and I would feel super-confident in my materials. I’d had multiple writing friends participate in the contest before, which is much more than an agent showcase, by the way, and so I understood going in that the main benefit of Pitch Wars was the mentoring. I’d entered Pitch Wars with three other manuscripts in the past and not been selected, with feedback varying from “You should go ahead and query!” to the sort of responses you get from agents: “Not right for me.” So when I was selected by a mentoring team (Hi, Beth and Kristin!), it felt like I’d done something right with this manuscript. I knew it wasn’t ready to query yet, and that’s why the timing of Pitch Wars was so perfect. I would work with my mentors to shine up the manuscript and start querying after the agent showcase. I was thrilled with the final product and happy with the requests I received during the agent round (I never expected to be one of the entries with dozens of requests). Where my expectations have stumbled a bit was in the querying afterward. As with every other project, I’ve questioned pretty much every aspect–query, first pages, the overall manuscript. So being in Pitch Wars didn’t magically erase all those doubts. Oh well. Fingers crossed the right agent is still considering it!

Participating in a mentoring contest brings your revision skills to a whole new level. As I started drafting and am now revising another manuscript, I’ve seen the benefits of working in-depth with two mentors. I have amazing critique partners, and they’re very honest with me when they spot issues in my work, but the difference with mentors is that they go even deeper, suggesting cuts and additions that a CP may not. As I started writing my latest project, I felt like I had two extra voices in my head asking me if I was addressing those weaknesses I’d had in my last manuscript. I believe this latest first draft was stronger because I went through the Pitch Wars revision process.

Seeing your name on the Acknowledgements page of a critique partner’s book for the first time is an amazing high. Several years ago I noticed there was a group of writers whose work I love who always thank each other in the acknowledgements page, and I thought, “Someday I will have a group of friends like that!” My group of critique partners and beta readers isn’t so close-knit that they’re all trading with each other, but several of them do chat with each other and share excitement over releases.

In any case, this spring marked the first time my name was in a friend’s book, and I definitely walked around the house making sure my husband and kids saw my name in there. There are two more coming up in the next year that I will get to celebrate as well. I don’t know how long it will be before my name is on the cover of a book, but for now I will cheer on my friends and continue reading the amazing work of the writers around me. There’s so much more to this writing journey than my work. I feel like breaking into a chorus of “We’re all in this together … ”

Find creative outlets with more immediate returns. I actually do a few creative things, but one creative outlet I’d missed recently was playing the violin, so last fall I joined a community orchestra. It was hard work. I hadn’t played classical music in years (I’d been playing only at church), so I had to practice A LOT, but experiencing the payoff of performing challenging music was very rewarding. Now that I’ve found it, I’m not giving it up. I need that opportunity to express myself creatively and see the end result.

So that’s what I’ve learned this past year, and I’m hard at work revising the next manuscript I plan to query. Because of that lesson I already shared but it doesn’t hurt to mention again …


To those of you who are persevering with me, keep at it! I’m cheering for you.

Critiquing, Revising, Writing

The Benefits of Weekly Chapter Swaps

First of all, there’s still time to enter my fifth blogiversary giveaway for a $25 Amazon gift card, so if you haven’t done so yet, check out my post here (ends at midnight 5/11)!

While I’ve been blogging for five years, I’ve been writing for many more years. The beauty of this journey is that I’m continually learning something new. My process with gathering feedback in the past has always been to carefully revise the full manuscript and then send it to critique partners and beta readers. I’ve never sent first drafts to anyone–probably because I’m too much of a perfectionist :).

However, when I participated in WriteOnCon this year, I was in a unique position timing-wise. I was finishing up a revision of the project I’d been querying and getting ready to revise the first draft of my new project. I met a writer in the forums whose writing appealed to me, and we started a conversation about swapping chapters weekly.

Now, I have to say that this has never appealed to me in the past because it is a sloooow process. And I’ve mentioned before that I am not a patient person, right? Added to that, I’d be sending off chapters when I hadn’t even revised the chapters that came after. This was a bit intimidating to me–the idea of sending off unfinished work. But here are some benefits I discovered from going through this process. I should mention that we didn’t stick with one chapter per week as that would have taken fooorever. My patience only extends so far :).

It prevented me from rushing the draft. I finished my regular pass of revisions through the draft about five weeks before I sent my last chapters, so I started checking the manuscript for repeated words. Normally I don’t do this until a later draft, but it’s mainly because I’m in such a hurry to get feedback. Since I was already getting feedback, I could take the time to do this really well. See my initial post on checking chapter by chapter for repeated words. I’m actually not finished with this (six weeks later!), so I may post more about it.

I received detailed feedback on each chapter/section. I have excellent critique partners and readers who often give me line edits and detailed chapter notes. However, it’s different when someone’s reading a short selection every week. Whereas in an overall manuscript a chapter that flows well might get skimmed, in this setup it still gets special attention and thought because it’s the only thing the reader has to critique for the week. The reader is looking for areas that could be even stronger.

It weeds out all the plot points that don’t make sense. Obviously this type of critique happens when someone does a full read-through, but it’s nice to have someone point out an issue in chapter two and you can fix it before she reads chapter six.

The reader knows your characters almost as well as you do. After so many weeks swapping chapters, I feel like we know each other’s characters really well–because we’ve been going through it so slowly and methodically. It’s different from when you read a manuscript within a couple of weeks and send it back. You’re revisiting them every week, so when they act out of character–as mine did–the reader notices.

Overall, this has been a great process, and I’m glad I went through it. My manuscript is much stronger for it. Have you done weekly chapter/section swaps before? What did you like/dislike about it?

Character, Critiquing, Querying, Revising, Writing

New England SCBWI Conference: So Worth the Trip!

This past weekend I traveled to Springfield, Massachusetts, for the New England Society of Children’s Book Writers & Illustrators Spring Conference. It wasn’t my first SCBWI Conference. I’ve attended the Missouri conference multiple years, and it’s been very valuable. However, the IMG_2576New England conference is significantly larger and offered the draw of my long-time critique partner, Kip Wilson, who I’d never met in person–until now!!!

Here we are, together at last. We had a fantastic time, staying up way too late discussing our various projects, the conference, and the angsty “what should I do about this” kind of conversations that take much longer over the back-and-forth of email :).

I met a ton of other amazing writers and published authors I’ve chatted with over Twitter as well, including several whose books I’ve highlighted here on the blog. I mentioned a few of those in my blogiversary post earlier this week. I made a point of picking up signed copies of MONSTROUS by MarcyKate Connolly and THE SECRETS WE KEEP by Trisha Leaver to give away. There’s still time to get in on that. Just click here. I also met many new writers and illustrators whose careers I will now be following.

So, on to what I learned at the conference. In a nutshell: fantastic presenters with exceptional content. But here are some of the highlights.

  • Editor Aubrey Poole, speaking on killer openings: Your first line should present a question in a way that is unique to your story. Maybe that’s a voice the reader has to hear more of, a spoiler missing critical details, two facts contradictory enough to intrigue, or a statement that sets the stage for the entire story. Most of all, don’t be boring!
  • Author Erin Dionne on critique
    • On receiving critique: You have to know the core of your story before asking for feedback—not what it’s about but the heart of the story and what you consider sacred.
    • On giving critique: Grammar and wordsmithing are important but not your number one job as a critiquer. Also, ask where the person is in the process and what level of critique they want.
  • Agent Ammi-Joan Paquette on taming the synopsis: One of your primary goals in a synopsis is to avoid questions. You want to bring in your internal story arc in addition to the plot; you may have to go out of your way to include it.
  • Author AC Gaughen on antagonists: The antagonist is not necessarily the villain. It is something that gets in your character’s way; it doesn’t have to be a person but anything, even themselves. Stories are most satisfying when we can see the character arc of the antagonist.
  • Author Jo Knowles on characters: Dig deeper for what your character really wants. Try to go five stages deep. Also, secondary and tertiary characters give complexity to your main character and help establish the world.
  • Author Padma Venkatraman on voice: Go with your heart and your unique pair of ears—or eyes, because most of the time we’re reading. As you begin to write, listen to your voice. We all have one voice. Give yourself that space so only you can write that novel.

I’ve already started applying many of these tips in the manuscript I’m revising (that one that won’t let me go). I shared a few others on the #NESCBWI16 hashtag. I gained so much insight from talking one-on-one with other writers, listening to the keynote speakers, and participating in the more intensive sessions. I highly recommend this conference if you’re in the New England area or have the resources to travel. If not, find an SCBWI conference near you. It’s worth the investment of your time and money!


Critiquing, Revising, Writing

6 Reasons You Should Critique for Others While Revising

Did you miss me? I know I threw that four years of querying post out there and then deserted the blog for a couple of weeks. My family went to the Lake of the Ozarks, and then I had a week of craziness catching up with some deadlines. But I’m back!

So, I’m in the midst of revisions yet again, and I’ve also been doing quite a bit of critiquing. I’ve always felt the best time to critique for others is when you’re revising your own work, and I really thought I’d posted on that before, but I couldn’t find it, so here are six reasons you should critique for others while revising yourself.

1. It helps you think more critically.

As one of my current characters would say: Duh! But here’s the thing: when I go a long stretch without reading anyone else’s work for the purpose of offering feedback (reading for fun doesn’t count), I get out of the habit of looking at it objectively. Yes, as I’m reading that published book, I’ll notice a typo and I might notice if I would have commented on a particular plot point or characterization if I’d been that author’s critique partner, but I’m not reading each page looking for ways to improve the book. When I read for someone else, I’m trying to help him/her make that manuscript shine, and that triggers something in my brain that spills over into my own revisions. No matter how much I put myself in a revision mindset–and I love revising!–I always have better ideas when I’ve been critiquing recently.

2. It convicts you when you have the same issue in your own manuscript.

For some reason, seeing your issue in someone else’s manuscript makes it so much clearer in your own, like a spotlight shining on that particular scene or character weakness. For example, I remember reading for someone and spotting a believability issue that suddenly made me realize I had the same problem in my own MS. It wasn’t even something any of my readers had pointed out yet, but I knew I had to fix because eventually someone would notice and I’d have a hole to repair. Something along the lines of: Why didn’t Character A just ask Character C about this? Ha! We all have one of those at some point, don’t we?

3. It reminds you if you’ve skipped a step in your revision process.

If I’m reading someone else’s manuscript and I notice one of my crutch words/phrases or see an issue with inconsistencies, it reminds me to go through my own manuscript to look for those. Or sometimes to read certain sections aloud again to ensure the voice matches the character. These are all steps I take in my own revision process, but often critiquing reminds me I should do them again for my own.

4. It inspires you to new heights.

I mentioned this in my post on What I’ve Learned in Four Years of Querying, but I have the privilege of working with some pretty amazing CPs and writers at this point in my journey. Several of them are agented, a few have book deals, and I’ve even read for other writers who are published. (Not the books that are published but their other projects that hopefully will be!) So when I read for them, I’m often inspired to take my revisions to a whole other level. I’ll see how Writer A used a particular metaphor that was so perfect for her character and think how I need to apply that to my character or read a particular description and realize I should beef up my own descriptions. So, thank you, friends, for inspiring me!

5. It opens you up to other worlds.

I don’t know about you, but I live in my own little world much of the time. Even with the books I read to keep up with the market, I still lean toward a certain kind of story, so critiquing often leads me to read something I might not have otherwise. That’s a good thing! I need to have my world shaken up every once in a while, to experience some other types of characters who might need to enter my characters’ worlds at some point (maybe not if they’re aliens or dragons, although you never know). It’s broadening to get inside another writer’s head for a while.

6. It keeps you from getting too tied up in your own story.

Perhaps others will disagree with me on this one, but then I did work for a PR agency for ten years, where I jumped between a dozen clients in the same day. I think it’s helpful to escape my characters for a bit each day and see what some others are doing. What are those other voices like? It helps me to ensure mine are still unique and staying true to their story.

So, if you’re in the midst of revising and you’re stuck or even if you aren’t, go ask someone else if you can read for them. It’s a great way to focus your own revisions. At least, it works for me!

Anyone else have thoughts on how critiquing helps you revise?

Critiquing, Querying, Writing

Why Subjectivity Is Your Friend

Like many writers, I have a love/hate relationship with the concept of subjectivity. It’s the indefinable reason for countless rejections in the publishing world, many of them even quite complimentary. It’s also the source of invaluable opinions from other writers who provide feedback on your work. (I’ve blogged on the benefits of multiple subjective opinions before.) And someday, subjectivity may result in both an agent and an editor who love a manuscript so much they champion it all the way to a finished, physical book you can hold in your hands. Without subjectivity, you never get there. So, all in all, subjectivity is your friend.

It’s like the children’s story we all know: “Goldilocks and the Three Bears.” Goldilocks wasn’t comfortable in Mama or Papa Bear’s bed or chair. She didn’t like the porridge too warm or too cold. It had to be just right. And I, for one, don’t want a representative who’s lukewarm. (Wait, did Goldilocks pick the lukewarm porridge??)

But …

That doesn’t mean I don’t get frustrated sometimes and need to give myself a pep talk, so I figured I could pass one along to my readers as well. I’ve been thinking about this lately in a couple of different contexts.


It’s always hard to know when to query, when to revise, and when to finish querying a project. I’ve gotten better about having faith in the work I’ve put out in the world, and you know what? I can spot a subjective response more easily than I could a few years ago. I used to jump on any agent feedback I received. Now I’m better able to let it simmer, weigh it against what feels right for my manuscript, and sit on it if it doesn’t ring true to me. It’s not always easy, but then when someone else comes along a month or two later with opposite feedback? Justification! (Of course there are times the feedback does ring true, and I absolutely act on that.)

Receiving Critiques

I don’t know about anyone else, but when I receive those first comments from a critique partner, I want to dive right in.

And that would be a mistake.

Because I need to see comments from everyone who is reading for me before I start revising. The light bulb moments happen when I synthesize feedback from all of my readers, even recalling what readers from a previous round have said if I’m on round two, three or four. It all comes back to my word of the day: subjectivity. I ask a variety of people to read for me because they have different backgrounds and experiences and world views. They approach my story from different places–much as my eventual readers would, I expect–so their subjective responses are necessary to whip the manuscript into shape.

Sure, there is such a thing as too subjective. I know I have my buttons, and when I’m reading for someone and they push on a sensitive area, I note it. But you know what? As writers, we need to know about those, too, and decide if we want to address them or not. And just as with agents, it’s important to check the comments against your gut to determine what’s right for the manuscript. I incorporate much of what my CPs and readers suggest but definitely not all.

So, I’m all for subjectivity … except for that brief moment when I open an email and it makes my heart skip in disappointment. But hey, it’s temporary. And it’s never the final word on my publishing journey. I’m still waiting on that email that will make me break into a spontaneous chair dance. Plus, I’m also working on my next project. Speaking of which, I just posted a description, so you can read about it here!

And in the meantime, I’ll repeat this mantra, and you can, too:

Subjectivity is your friend. Subjectivity is your friend.

If you say it enough, you really will believe it :).

What are your thoughts on subjectivity? How well do you keep it in perspective?

Contests, Critiquing, Querying, Revising, Writing

Revising from Public Critiques: Baker’s Dozen Edition

Hi everyone! I took Monday off from the blog due to Thanksgiving (which also happened to be my birthday), followed by Black Friday shopping and Christmas decorating. It was a crazy but fun-filled weekend. Oh, and I participated in a little contest called Baker’s Dozen. If you’re not familiar with this annual contest, it’s hosted by Authoress and is a frenzied auction in which agents bid on entries for the privilege of a one-week exclusive for the highest bid. I found myself in the exciting position of having agents fight over my entry (!!!!). You can see it here. This was, of course, awesome, but I’m a realist. It doesn’t guarantee an offer of rep is forthcoming. But no matter what happens, I will be holding onto that glow a bit longer :).

As with all of Authoress’s contests, a key component leading up to the agent round was critiques by other writers. You may recall that late this summer I participated in a blog hop–also hosted by Authoress–after which I posted thoughts on revising from public critiques. For Baker’s Dozen, Authoress specifically stated in the rules that entrants could not respond to comments, which I fully support. First of all, the entrant joining the conversation could taint the opinions of future commenters. Second, if it’s not working, trying to explain it could confuse things even further. And finally, agents wouldn’t normally see your explanation, so why should they now?

You might be looking at the title of this post and wondering why I would bother revising at all when I had agents fighting over my entry. Here are a couple of points to consider:

  • Not every agent bid on my entry. Maybe they just had another favorite and didn’t make it over to mine in time, or maybe they didn’t care for my premise. But maybe it was my first page that put them off, and if there are tweaks I can make to fix that first impression, I should.
  • Sure, I had a great showing in this particular sample of entries. On a different day, with a different set of agents and a different set of entries, mine might not have been as popular. So much of this business is dependent on catching the right agent at the right time in the right frame of mind. As a result, I will never ignore feedback but always consider it carefully.

Now that I have that out of the way, when I posted before, I said there are four questions to consider when deciding whether to revise:

  • Are they questioning something that will be answered within a page or two?
  • Did multiple people mention the same issue?
  • Did people disagree on the same issue?
  • Does the comment resonate with you?

My thoughts on these questions remain the same, but I do have some additional thoughts after this contest.

Are your words accomplishing what you intend them to accomplish?

I mention this because in the case of my entry, almost all of the comments centered on one paragraph. A few people liked it, but most said it distracted them for various reasons. Now, I had a specific reason for including it, and I could explain that, but the point is it wasn’t carrying the weight I intended it to carry. So, that means I need to take another look at it.

Do you agree with other comments a particular commenter has made?

One of Authoress’s requirements for entrants was that we comment on at least five other entries. I always read through the previous comments to make sure I’m adding value with my own comments. As I was doing so, there were some comments I found I disagreed with. If they were people who had also commented on my entry, I made a mental note. It doesn’t mean I will disregard their opinion entirely, just that we see things differently, so their opinion on my work is going to understandably hold less weight than someone who generally had the same taste as me on other entries.

I guess those are the only two additions, but I really wanted to get them out there!

To my fellow Baker’s Dozen participants and everyone else who stopped by: thank you for the critiques! They were valuable, and I am considering them carefully. And thank you, Authoress, for such a thrilling experience. No matter what happens next, I enjoyed being a part of the contest and the new connections I made through it.

Agents, Conferences, Critiquing, Querying, Writing

WriteOnCon! With Advice If You’re Posting in the Forums

It’s WriteOnCon time! WriteOnCon is a free, online conference for picture book, middle grade, young adult, and (this year) new adult writers. If you fit into any (or all!) of these categories, you should definitely check it out! The information I’ve gleaned from this conference over the past few years is beyond measurement.

One of the most popular features of the conference is the forums, which allow you to post your query, first page, and first five pages in separate forums. As an added bonus, Ninja Agents–so called because although a list of agents is given they have code names–slink through the forums and leave feedback on the posts. Sometimes they even request additional pages or full manuscripts through private messages. If you want to receive one of these coveted requests, it is in your best interest to post in all three areas (query, first page, first five pages) as an individual Ninja Agent may only stay in a single forum. One of my most popular posts last year was on How to Stalk WriteOnCon Ninja Agents. It gives detailed instructions on how to find them, so if you want to be sneaky …

If you are posting in the forums, I would like to give some unsolicited advice. Maybe you already know this, and maybe you read my Thoughts on Revising from Public Critiques Post, but here it is anyway:

  1. Don’t try to explain everything, especially with a query. If someone asks you a straight clarification question, by all means, answer it, but if you try to get into too many details, you’re likely to end up making your query even more confusing or adding more details than you need. Often it’s easier to just revise and say, “Does that clear things up?”
  2. Remember your intended audience. If critiquers don’t recognize a reference to something–whether it’s a comp title or something the character is watching or technology they’re using in your first pages–maybe that’s ok. Will an agent know the comp title? Will the 11-year-old know that show? Will the 16-year-old know that gadget? Possibly you have to explain it, but possibly you don’t. Trust your instincts.
  3. When it comes to the first page, if a commenter is questioning something that will be answered later, don’t move it up just to answer his/her question. If that information shouldn’t be revealed until page three–or page fifty, for that matter–save it for the right moment. If an agent is intrigued enough by your writing and voice, they’ll stick with the story to get those answers when the time is right.
  4. Unless a comment automatically resonates with you, wait until you have several to revise. That’s the value of this kind of event. You’re going to receive feedback from multiple writers, so wait to hear from more than one before you jump on that gut reaction. They might not all agree. If they do, it’s easy to know what to fix. If they don’t, that’s when you have to sit back and figure out what’s not working. Because if everyone’s commenting on the same section but not agreeing on the solution, probably something needs to happen there.

I think that’s it. So go forth and post in the forums! If you do, let me know where you are and I’ll stop by. I haven’t posted my own yet, but I will soon!

Blogging, Critiquing, Pitching, Revising, Writing

Thoughts on Revising from Public Critiques

Two weeks ago I was privileged to participate in #BLOGPITCH, a blog hop hosted by Authoress for the purpose of gathering critiques for my Twitter pitch and first 250 words. First of all, I want to say how much I appreciate everyone who stopped by to comment on my post. I really appreciated the critiques. They were very constructive and supportive!

While critiques are a part of Authoress’s popular Secret Agent contests, this was different because people were visiting my blog and so I wasn’t anonymous. To be honest, that’s one of the things I’ve always liked about those contests. The comments pile up, you collect them, and make your changes afterward without anyone–except your critique partners–knowing who you are. So when this opportunity came up, I debated whether or not I should reply to people as they commented. I tend to feel like if I reply to one person, I should reply to all, and I might just end up with a lot of, “Thanks for stopping by!”

Even in forum situations I tend to err on the side of less is more. I’ve realized it doesn’t do much good to try and explain a short sample–whether that’s a pitch, query, first page, or even first five pages–in a public forum. If something isn’t working, I’m better off fixing it than trying to explain why I did it that way in the first place.

I didn’t always have this philosophy. It’s something I’ve learned over the last few years. I quickly realized that by trying to explain my reasoning, I usually just went deeper down a rabbit hole that made things even more confusing for the people I was trying to explain it all to.

Ok, so that was all a lot of background on why I didn’t respond individually to the critiques I received during the blog hop. But the real purpose of this post are my thoughts on how I applied the critiques to revising my pitch and first page. Once again, thank you all!

The Pitch

This particular opportunity focused on a Twitter pitch, which meant there was a character limit. In the past, I’ve found the best success juxtaposing two comparison titles and then specifying how my story diverges. Doing so maximizes the limited space because it immediately gives the audience an idea of the story by drawing on an already familiar premise. It was interesting to me that several of the critiques I received said they didn’t recognize the comp titles, and that’s a fair point. However, when it really comes down to it, other writers are not my audience for a pitch, and I think the odds are agents would recognize them. Even if they don’t, the positive thing about most Twitter pitch opportunities are that you get to use more than one pitch! So, I’ll keep my comp title pitch but also create a separate pitch without them. Comments noted and filed :).

The First Page

Overall, the comments I received on my first page were very complimentary, so thank you! I really appreciated the specific details commenters left telling me what worked for them. Here are a few questions I asked to determine what I needed to tweak:

Are they questioning something that will be answered within a page or two?

Something to remember about a first page is it’s only one page! Sounds obvious, right? And yet I think sometimes we get hung up on trying to cram too much into it, particularly for the purpose of shining in contests and forums where we’re trying to catch the eye of an agent. Yes, these can be great opportunities to get a foot in the door with an agent, but the pages that follow have to widen that opening. So, what’s my point with that? You don’t have to answer every question commenters ask about that first 250 words. There’s a reason you’re writing a novel. There are things readers can wait to find out. It’s called tension :). Now, I’m not talking about something that’s downright confusing. Anything like that you should fix. But if the person’s just asking something out of curiosity, you don’t have to work that into your first page to appease them. If that information shouldn’t be revealed until page three–or page fifty, for that matter–save it for the right moment. If an agent is intrigued enough by your writing and voice, they’ll stick with the story to get those answers when the time is right.

Did multiple people mention the same issue?

Did anyone hear a doorbell ring? If you didn’t read my sample, this won’t make any sense. Suffice it to say, I heard you! I had a similar issue with my pitch and the name Gid (short for Gideon) confusing several people. If it’s a stumbling block for more than one person, it needs to be fixed.

Did people disagree on the same issue?

Here’s where things get tricky. If you receive differing opinions, you have to determine whether you really have an issue. Maybe one person loves it and another hates it. If you’re ambivalent, you should probably nix it. Either way, take a closer look because it’s a point of contention.

Does the comment resonate with you?

Sometimes, even if only one person says it, a comment will hit you in such a way where you say, “Yes, you’re right!” But even if you feel the complete opposite, don’t reject it out of hand. Every comment has merit. If one person thinks it, chances are there’s another person out there who will, too. Maybe you don’t care about that person :), but keep it in mind and reject it with caution.

What’s your philosophy on public critiques? Do you try to hash it out with critiquers? Are there other questions you ask yourself before revising?

Thanks again to Authoress for hosting this blog hop and to everyone who commented! It was a great experience. If you commented and you had a question about my pitch or sample you really wanted answered, ask it in the comments on this post and I will answer.

Blogging, Critiquing, Writing

A BOY COULD #BLOGPITCH Logline and First 250 Words

Last week I participated in a Twitter pitch contest through the popular Miss Snark’s First Victim blog ( and was selected as one of ten blogs to participate in a blog hop to receive critiques on the first 25o words of my manuscript. It’s a win for me because I’m at the perfect stage to be getting critiques on my opening page, but it’s a win for you, too, because for every critique you leave for me or one of the other participants, you receive an entry for a 15-page line-edit from Authoress Edits. Thank you for selecting my pitch, Authoress!

Without further ado, here is the Twitter logline I used to catch Authoress’s attention, along with the first 250 words of A BOY COULD. I look forward to your comments!

Twitter Logline:

YA C: LIAR SOCIETY meets 12th NIGHT when 16yo Hannah becomes Gid at summer camp to catch the boy who put her brother in a coma.

(Note: Gid is short for Gideon–a casualty of 140 characters! Since so many have asked :).)

First 250 words:

Mattie Matt,

1.4 seconds. I looked up a velocity formula online, so I know that’s how long it took you to hit the dumpster. 1.4 seconds. Less time than it takes the average person to be thrown from a mechanical bull–which would have been a smarter stunt.

You do these stupid things without considering the consequences. You think you’re invincible. Well, you’re not. You might never wake up, and it’ll be all your fault.

And mine. Because I should have been there on time to pick you up.

Maybe then you’d be sitting here next to me instead of

Ding. Dong.

“Hannah! Could you come down here, please?” Mom’s voice was muffled through my bedroom door.

Probably another church member with a foil-covered casserole dish. Except Mom didn’t need me for that. Maybe it was Lena. She’d been bugging me to go out with her this weekend.

I snapped my notebook closed and flicked a glance in the mirror to make sure I was decent–not a sure thing lately. I’d greeted the youth minister the other day in skimpy pajama shorts and a cami with no bra. He’d stared over my shoulder while he asked how I was holding up. Talk about awkward.

Satisfied I was fully dressed, I slipped out of my room. Multiple voices mingled in the foyer, including, I realized with a start, Dad’s. He usually only left Matt’s room in the trauma ward for work or sleep.

I peered around the corner down the stairs. Two strangers, a man and a woman, stood just inside the door.

Ok, that’s it for now! Be sure to check out the other participating blogs at!

Critiquing, Revising, Writing

A Call for a Few Good Readers

Hello, lovely readers!

I’ve never done this before on the blog, but I’m at the point in my writing journey where I don’t want to leave any stone unturned before I send out a manuscript. I’ve been through 2 1/2 rounds of critiques (I had one person read the first 90 pages before the first official round), and I’m ready for a third round. I’ve worked out a lot of kinks, but as we all know, when you fix one issue, you sometimes open up others, so I’m looking for a few good readers :). Specifically:

  • I have one reader lined up for the third round but would love at least one more person who could read the full manuscript.
  • I’m hoping this will be my last round (although it’s completely fine if I still need to go another), and if that’s the case, I’ll be ready to query around the end of June, when there won’t be any convenient contests to test my first pages. So, I would also love to have a few people to critique my first five pages.
  • Or, if there’s anyone out there who can’t do a full MS critique but would be up for the ten to twenty pages that accompany a query, that would be great, too.
  • Finally, I feel pretty solid with my query as I’ve already vetted it, but I’ve yet to put my synopsis out there.

I appreciate any and all assistance as I put the finishing touches on this manuscript! Here is the query to give you a sense of what you would be getting yourself into:

One point four seconds. That’s how long it took sixteen-year-old Hannah Davies’ younger brother to hit the dumpster.

Will Elliot says Matt jumped.

Hannah doesn’t believe the fourteen-year-old trouble maker, and her search for the truth leads to a chilling discovery: Will didn’t just witness Matt’s fall; he caused it. Which means Matt’s still in danger even if he wakes up.

Hannah needs proof, and that requires getting close to Will, so she follows him to summer camp in a disguise so un-Hannah he’ll never link her to Matt. Besides, a girl can’t infiltrate Will’s inner circle.

But a boy could.

It’s the perfect way to expose Will—as long as he doesn’t expose her first. Because if she gives away her identity, Matt won’t be the only Davies taking a fall.

“Revenge” meets “Twelfth Night” in A BOY COULD, a 72,000-word contemporary young adult novel.

And, of course, I am happy to return the favor and read for any of you! Thanks!