Help from an expert

It’s been a long time since I posted here. I’ve been so busy rewriting my MS, applying all the lessons I’ve learned from the Writer’s Digest Conference last summer (and a bunch of follow-up seminars that I’ve taken) that I’ve neglected this blog. However, I’ve had an interesting new development.

Although most of the seminars I’ve taken have focused on craft, I couldn’t resist when I read an agent from Toronto was coming to Vancouver to teach authors how to query. I signed up for the all-day Saturday workshop at the downtown university campus, just a few blocks from my home in Vancouver’s West End.

The session required the 10 attendees to pre-craft a query letter (definition: the letter you send to an agent to pitch your novel) and then the instructing agent dissected our letters and explained how to improve them. It was really fun listening to other authors’ pitches, and very educational when it was explained how to improve each of them to grab an agent’s attention.

When it came to my turn, the agent, Sam, said he loved my query and didn’t have much to improve upon! Then, at lunch, he took me aside and asked if I would send him my full manuscript. I was pretty taken aback, as I hadn’t intended to actually pitch him, only to practice querying on him! Plus this is not an agency that was on my radar. They’re in Toronto, not the US (which is my preference, ideally), they’re not that well-known and they don’t really do women’s fiction. Above all, I wasn’t sure yet whether my MS was ready to send.

However, I figured: why not? He wants it, he can read it. So I sent in my revised MS, which at nearly 130K words is still way too long, and Sam gave it to one of his professional readers, a woman in her early 30s named Teri.

Well, Teri was amazingly helpful. She said she loved the novel, and thought it really appealed to the Sliding Doors and Sex and the City fan in her. But she also thought there were a number of things wrong with my execution and the narrative structure. In fact, she Facetimed me and we spent a full hour video-chatting about my book and how to improve it! Teri had so many great suggestions, and we came up with ideas together as we talked through the problems.

So, now I have to do another rewrite! I have to break up my two narrative storylines in order to get to the second one sooner, and switch back and forth between them to keep the reader more up to date and engaged. I plan to introduce a series of journal entries to give the reader more insight into my MC’s innermost thoughts, and I have to switch one of the POVs from first to third person to differentiate the narratives. And even though I’m adding content, I also have to edit the book down much harder to make it shorter and snappier.

It’s a lot of work, but I think it’ll be worth it!