Today’s guest for the SAT (Successful Author Talk) is someone who’s success is well-earned and quite overdue. And that’s not just because she’s my crit partner, lets me sleep on her couch, and catches all my comma splices. (I’m sure the copyeditors at HarperCollins would thank her if they only knew). RC Lewis, fellow moderator at AgentQuery Connect, recently sold her debut, STITCHING SNOW to Hyperion/Disney in a two book deal. Expect it Summer, 2014. In fact, if you feel so inclined you can go ahead and add it on Goodreads now.
BBC: Are you a Planner or Pantster?
RC: Somewhere marvelously in-between. I’m all about balance and following what a specific story needs. I’ll usually jot a note or two before starting. Sometimes just a touch of vocabulary or world-building. Other times it’s more of a rough bullet-points outline. Those notes always get added to as I’m drafting, because my brain tends to move ahead of the writing.
BBC: How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
RC: There is no “typical” for me, because it depends on a lot of things, like how much time the day-job is taking. Also, the more I let the “planner” side out, the faster it seems to go. I’ve drafted some in 6-8 weeks, and others took 3-4 months.
BBC: Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi tasker?
RC: When I’m drafting, I usually stay pretty focused on that one, but there have been exceptions.
BBC: Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
RC: Not really, because I had no expectations. I’d been complaining about certain things that bothered me about several books and thought, “Could I do any better?” So I sat down to find out, having no idea what the answer was.
BBC: How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?
RC: I fully queried out two books, plus tried just a few queries on another book in-between those.
BBC: Have you ever quit on an ms, and how did you know it was time?
RC: There’s that one I only did some limited queries for. I wouldn’t call it quitting, though. I knew going in that the timing wasn’t right for that particular story, and the query experiment confirmed it.
Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
BBC: Who is your agent and how did you get that “Yes!” out of them?
RC: My agent extraordinaire is Jennifer Laughran (of Andrea Brown Literary Agency). I sent her a query the week before a multi-blog contest. She ended up lurking the entries and tweeted that she saw a few she’d love to read, but the posts didn’t include author info. I got brave and tweeted back that some might be in her query inbox at that very moment. She went to check and emailed me moments later.
I got several other requests through that contest and the few queries I’d sent. It got a little “Is this seriously happening??” for a while (a short while), but I ended up with Jennifer.
BBC: How many queries did you send before landing your agent?
RC: With this particular manuscript, hardly at all. About ten queries right before the contest, several agents involved in the contest directly or lurking … all told, it was thirteen days from first query emailed to offer accepted.
BUT … my other two manuscripts combined for over two hundred queries sent, several full requests each, even a revise-and-resubmit, over the course of about two years.
BBC: Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
RC: If you’re intimidated by the idea of condensing your story to 250 words or less, stop thinking that way. You don’t need to condense the whole thing—you just need to give enough to make some tantalizing bait. Sometimes there’s nothing wrong with a query, but it just isn’t working. There’s nothing wrong with starting from scratch again.
I also found it helped to always have something else to work on while queries/submissions were out. Maybe it sounds pessimistic, but I always planned for each project I was querying not to be the one that’d snag an agent … but the NEXT one would be.