Aug 11, 2011

How I snagged my agent, Part 1 AND Hook Your Book contest

This week's spotlight is on Lisa Regan, an aspiring crime/thriller author who's represented by Jeanie Pantelakis of Sullivan Maxx Literary Agency. Her blog is filled with her own writing journey so check it out.

And while you're there, be SURE to enter the Hook Your Book contest sponsored by Ms. Pantelakis. You've got 50-words to catch her interest; when you've buffed them to a shine, throw them in Lisa's contest sometime this next week. The contest ends next Friday. All the details are on Lisa's blog.

How many manuscripts did you write before the one that hooked your agent?

I wrote one full manuscript before I wrote Finding Claire Fletcher. I had written several YA novels when I was a young adult myself and I had started a bunch of novels that I didn't finish as an adult but I only finished one manuscript before I wrote the novel that got me an agent.

How did you know this MS was the one?

Well unlike the novel that I had written before, FCF was not trying to do too many things. It had a very simple premise. It took me several drafts to really make that simple premise shine--I still had to cut a lot of extraneous elements--but on the whole I just felt it was a much better book than my last one. More than anything though, the main character's voice was so strong and so compelling to me that I really wanted to see her story through to publication.

Will you share your revision techniques?

The first thing I do is make an outline of what the book looks like as it stands. I go chapter by chapter and list the main events so that I have an overview. That way if I have to cut things out or rearrange things to make the pacing better, I know where everything fits. It's like having an aerial view. Then if there is major cutting to be done, I do that first. I go right through selecting and cutting. I make a separate Microsoft Word File called cuts and anything I cut, I keep there in case I need something from it later. Then I go through from the beginning and make any major changes that need to be made, including writing any new scenes. Then I go back through and smooth out all the transitions. Finally I walk away and come back a couple of weeks later and read it without making any changes to it. I pretend I just pulled it off a shelf and see how it reads, making notes on what I want to change as I go along. And I always, always use critique partners.

How long did you query?

I queried for four and a half years. I sent out 155 queries for Finding Claire Fletcher. I got 16 requests. I queried for my next novel for a year and a half while I was still querying for Finding Claire Fletcher. I sent out 85 queries on that one and got 4 requests. After I signed my contract with my agent she asked to read my next book and offered me a contract for that book as well (after I made revisions).

You'll see Lisa's query letter tomorrow!

Most difficult part of querying?
The most difficult part is the waiting. For me it was especially excruciating as I had three different agents make me wait a very long time before rejecting me. One agent rejected me after four years, another after about two and a half and another after a year and a half.

Or best rejection, if you had one with lots of advice?

My best rejection was one where the agent said, "This novel is a home run" and then went on to list twenty-three things in my book that needed major work! Fortunately the twenty-three suggestions were great ones which I used to make the book better. But that agent passed on the book anyway--even after reading the revised version based on all of his fabulous suggestions.

Was there ever a point where you gave up? What made you keep trying?

Oh yeah! There were many times I almost gave up. I think I probably would have given up very early on if those three agents in particular hadn't been holding onto my book for so long! Once I felt my next book was suitable for querying, that kept me going for awhile--it felt good and gave me hope to have another iron in the fire, so to speak. There was a point a few months before I got my agent where I was ready to throw in the towel and give up on writing completely. It was definitely rock bottom. It was my daughter who made me keep trying. I didn't want her to grow up and have family members say to her, "Oh your mom was quite the writer back in the day. She wrote all the time. She could have really done something with that." I don't want the example that I set for her to be one in which you give up on your greatest dreams. I decided I'd rather be twenty years older and still trying than be someone who almost did something with my writing.

Wow - talk about stubborness
perseverance and grit! My jaw is still on the floor at the 4.5 years you spent querying the same MS. Holy toledo, batman. We've had presidents in office for less time than that.

Be sure to check in tomorrow for Part Deux of Lisa's journey, including her successful query and the music to which she butt-kicks.


Lisa L. Regan said...

Thanks, Melodie! Hah hah, I never made the connection between presidential terms and the length of time it took me to get an agent. That's pretty funny.

Nancy Thompson said...

Great interview! Very inspiring for those of us still querying & waiting for our big break. Having been one of Lisa's critique partners, I can tell you, she is fabulously talented. Both of her novels are chilling & exciting & I can't wait until they are published!

L.G.Smith said...

Lisa, wow, I can't believe your perseverance. I'm ready to give up after sixteen queries (not really, but some days are tougher than others). Wow, wow, wow. Good luck with the novel.

Jeff King said...

Awesome... gives me hope.

Laila Knight said...

You are awesome! I know when I found your site through Nancy I went in there and sifted through all your glad you joined Blogger and are able to share your invaluable experiences with us. :)

Becky Wallace said...

Wow, wow, wow! Thanks for sharing your story. Truly inspiring!

Christy said...

Your book looks great-I love Nova Scotia. Well, I think I would love it. :) It's great to connect with another writer/book blogger!


Melodie said...

Thanks for the comments, all! Be sure to stop by tomorrow for Part II.

Carrie Butler said...

per·se·ver·ance (noun)
1. Lisa Regan

Seriously. Four and a half years? I have nothing but respect for that. What a great interview! I can't wait to read the second half. :)

Tracey Wood said...

The best kind of crawl-your-way-up story! Great.