Skila’s MG novel in verse CAMISAR releases on March 25, 2014. It sounds like a fantastic story set during Guatemala’s civil war. Details about the book and the contest will be at the end of the post.
So here’s Skila and Tina!
If you’re in this boat, I’m offering up four five tips today on what to do next. And I’ve asked the spectacular Tina Wexler, Literary Agent at ICM, to chime in with thoughts of her own.
TW: Tina here. Thanks for asking me to join in the conversation, Skila. Hope you don’t mind my adding a fifth tip to your list. Hey, we’re talking revision, aren’t we? It only seemed appropriate.
1. Drop your defenses. Think the agent doesn’t get what you were trying to do? Maybe that’s because it wasn’t clear enough. Think the feedback was overly-critical? Maybe that’s because you’re thinking this is about you and not about your story. Either way, you’re on the right track if an agent connected with so much of your story that s/he wants to help make it stronger. Celebrate that.
TW: This is a great first step. I know it can be disappointing to receive an offer to revise instead of an offer of representation, but if a writer can shake off that disappointment and welcome the creative feedback, oftentimes an offer of representation will follow. My relationship with several clients started this way, and I’m grateful they were able to drop their defenses and let me share my thoughts on their work.
2. Listen. Before you begin revising, listen to what the agent is suggesting. If you’re lucky enough to have more than one person weighing in, search for commonalities in their feedback. At first glance, it might seem contradictory. One agent says, “I think the romance needs to be stronger,” while another says, “I think you should lose the romance.” The commonality? Both think that your book is teetering on romance without deciding if it is or it isn’t. Which means you need to make a decision – cut it or enhance it. Maybe the agent’s comments are prescriptive in a way that you don’t really like, but listen hard to what problem s/he is identifying and see if you’ve got another idea on how to fix it.
TW: I often try to suggest solutions when pointing out problems in a manuscript, mainly because they
3. Don’t lose (the) heart. Think long and hard about what is sacred for you in this story. This can sometimes be the spark that initially drew you to the piece. Maybe it’s the relationship between two characters or the setting or the fact that you’re telling it in a specific way – like verse or multiple points of view. These sacred seeds might not be something you’re willing to alter. And that’s okay. If this story, in your heart, is really about a girl on the brink of suicide and an agent tells you, “I think you should lose the suicide bit,” this might not be the right agent for this novel. But be careful labeling something as sacred. Most things shouldn’t be.
4. Give it a try. You might not be on board with the agent’s suggestions right away, and that’s okay. But what’s the harm in trying? If you spent time researching an agent, if you felt s/he might be a good match for you and your work, then you must already respect this person, right? So keep that in mind as you read over the feedback and have some faith in the professionals. Give these suggestions a try and just see where it leads. You might be surprised that things work out better than you hoped.
TW: Yes! I love this advice, especially for writers who are asked to change the story’s point of view. (It’s more common than you may think.) A rather daunting task, with or without an offer of representation in hand. So, you take baby steps. Rewrite the first page. Is it working? Yes? Rewrite the first chapter. Still like it? Keep going. As you say, there’s no harm in trying.
5. Remember--it’s your manuscript. No one should revise to a specific agent’s taste in the hope of landing representation. An invitation to resubmit doesn’t mean “If you make these changes, I’ll sign you.” If you’re going to invest the time in revising your manuscript, make sure you’re doing it for the right reasons: first and foremost, to get a stronger manuscript out of it. And if that stronger manuscript also gets you an agent, bonus.
Thanks, Tina! I like that last tip. Natalie, we thank you for letting us stop by Literary Rambles today. It was loads of fun!
Thank you, readers! To celebrate the launch of Caminar, Candlewick is giving away one free copy of this newly released novel in verse. And Tina is generously offering her time to critique one lucky winner’s query letter.
Thanks so much for your advice, Skila and Tina! Details of the giveaway are below.
Here’s a blur of CAMISAR from the book jacket:
Set in 1981 Guatemala, a lyrical debut novel tells the powerful tale of a boy who must decide what it means to be a man during a time of war.
Carlos knows that when the soldiers arrive with warnings about the Communist rebels, it is time to be a man and defend the village, keep everyone safe. But Mama tells him not yet—he’s still her quiet moonfaced boy. The soldiers laugh at the villagers, and before they move on, a neighbor is found dangling from a tree, a sign on his neck: Communist.
Mama tells Carlos to run and hide, then try to find her. . . . Numb and alone, he must join a band of guerillas as they trek to the top of the mountain where Carlos’s abuela lives. Will he be in time, and brave enough, to warn them about the soldiers? What will he do then? A novel in verse inspired by actual events during Guatemala’s civil war, Caminar is the moving story of a boy who loses nearly everything before discovering who he really is.
Links for ordering:
Skila’s publisher Candlewick is generously offering a copy of CAMISAR for a giveaway and Tina Wexler is offering a query critique giveaway to one winner. So there will be two winners—one for the book and one for the query critique. The book giveaway is US only but the critique giveaway is International.
To enter, all you need to do is be a follower (just click the follow button if you’re not a follower) and leave a comment through May 3rd. I’ll announce the winner on May 5th. Please tell me in the comments which giveaway(s) you’re entering. If your e-mail is not on your Google Profile, please leave it in the comments.
If you mention this contest on Twitter, Facebook, or your blog, mention this in the comments and I'll give you an extra entry. You must be 13 or older to enter.
Here’s what’s coming up:
Next Monday I’m interviewing debut author Alexandra Duncan and giving away a copy of SALVAGE, a YA sci-fi story with fantastic world building and a contemporary feel.
Next Wednesday Rory Shay will be sharing a guest post on persistence on the path to publication and giving away a copy of ELECTED, her new YA sci-fi story.
The following Monday, I’m interviewing Dianne Salerni and giving away a copy of THE EIGHTH DAY, her new middle grade fantasy. This is a fantastic, well-plotted story that I couldn’t put down.
Wednesday that week I’ll have a guest post by Holly Webb and a giveaway of ROSE AND THE LOST PRINCESS, her MG fantasy.
Saturday that week I’ll be participating in the Amazing Book Giveaway Hop. I’ll have lots of great choices for you.
And don’t forget Casey’s Agent Spotlights.
Hope to see you on Monday!