This year marked the Surrey International Writer Conference's 25th anniversary, and my fourth consecutive attendance. So good to see old friends, make new ones, and listen to some really hardworking, clever, approachable presenters (both authors and agents alike).
As always, one of my goals was to pitch as many agents as possible. These face-to-face interactions can't be overstated; it's the perfect way to jumpstart your query and make a personal connection. I was 5 for 5: that is, I pitched 5 agents, and they all asked to see my manuscript. 3 requests were for the full, 1 wanted 50 pages, and 1 had a standard form submission.
DREAM COME TRUE
Hands down, the highlight was a conversation with a truly world-class agent, who is well-known for his expertise in story craft. He had requested my full manuscript last year, and I'd been waiting since March for his feedback. Imagine my surprise and delight when he spent no less than half an hour discussing the details of my story!
He was very complimentary about my writing, characters, and plot. I was almost disbelieving, but he noticed my skeptical expression and said, "Listen. This is a nice story. It's great. The characters are enjoyable, and I've got a crush on Adelicia. But there's something missing from the story. I think it needs another layer. A cosmic element."
He asked me to consider weaving in a twist that takes the main character's struggle beyond the physical plane. Something beyond just putting a unique spin on a classic kingdom takeback-meets-coming-of-age story. What about the questions of life that we all ask? Fate vs free will? We traded ideas back and forth, and he lit up. "I like where this is going."
He asked me to send him a new chapter, one in which my main character suddenly realizes what's going on; the moment she sees behind her curtain of her own perception. She realizes it spells doom for everything she's been planning, perhaps doom for her country. She cannot stop it, and she cannot fix it. It is coming. How will she cope? How will she live in this new reality?
I left buoyant, confirmed, and inspired. This is the feedback I've been querying for. Thus far, all I've received are form rejections with nothing specific.
But perhaps the tide has turned.
- Helpful feedback: 3 (of these, 2 fulls, 1 partial)
- Form response: 26 (of these, 2 fulls, 9 partials)
- Closed, no response: 9 (of these, 5 partials)
- No longer repping YA: 2
- Cold queries: 12
- Full requests: 2
- Partial requests: 4
- Revise & resubmit: 1 !!! (from full)
Just today, another agent who had requested the full sent her regrets, but she also provided specific feedback. She felt the beginning started a little slow, and didn't grab her. She also felt disconnected from the true impact of the main character's stakes; what consequences her choices would really signify.
This is good. These problems would be addressed by this new "cosmic layer".
Looks like I've got some daydreaming to do.