Tag Archives: Napa Valley Writers Conference

I am referred to an agent

Getting into the Napa Valley Writers Conference was one of the best things that has happened to me. The workshop leader was kind enough to say that she thought my novel was ready to send out. Then she turned to me: “Do you have representation?”

At that precise moment, I was with the agent who didn’t want to sign a contract, but had offered to show it to a couple of editors.

“I’m not sure,” I replied. And then explained my situation. A few of my classmates nodded sympathetically (they had similar stories to tell). The workshop leader explained that sometimes relationships with agents could be murky, and it wasn’t always clear whether you had representation or not. This was news to me.

She took me aside later, and gave me the name of her agent. I didn’t hesitate. Within a week, I’d contacted the agent, telling her that I’d been referred by the workshop leader (a New York Times bestselling author).

The result was astonishing. The agent contacted me within a day, asking for a synopsis and the first 50 pages. Then I had to settle in for the inevitable wait. It was summer, and the agent was traveling.

I finally heard back from her 2 months after I’d sent the MSS. She told me that it didn’t click for her. However, she did spend the time to give me some feedback about what she thought wasn’t working. I am eternally grateful to her for taking the time to write me 120 important words.

NEXT: I fix up the MSS and send to another agent.

Image: wallpapers-diq.com

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2010. All rights reserved.

Leave a Comment

Filed under About Cynthia, Agents, How to Publish Your Novel

What I learned at Napa Valley

In the blurb for the Napa Valley Writers conference it said you had to send a 7,500-word excerpt of your novel in to be critqued. My reason for going to the conference was to get some much-needed feedback, because, as any writer will tell you, getting good quality feedback is a huge problem.

As I said in an earlier post, you cannot assume agents will give you any meaningful feedback (aside form the it-didn’t-knock-socks-off or it-isn’t-right-for-my-list variety) even though you may have given them a 3-month exclusive. Infuriating? Yes. The only thing you can do about it is to NOT to let them have that exclusive for longer than it suits you.

In any event, I decided that I needed help with the middle of my novel, which deals with the politics of the Wars of the Roses. So I carved off a huge bleeding chunk and sent it off.

The weeks rolled around, and one day I found myself sitting in class awaiting my critique. I was sure everyone was going to hate it. I braced myself for the worst, and was surprised by good news.

I breathed a sigh of relief. I must be doing something right. The problem I’d had was that my main character was having 13 children in 17 years, while her husband got caught up in the intricacies of court politics. I racked my brains to find some way of making this potentially mind-numbingly info palatable, and hit upon the idea of doing crowd scenes, then interleaving these scenes with interior monolog and narrative summary. Somehow, all my hard work had paid off.

Next: I get a referral to an agent

Image: Tudor Rose, intstudycen.com

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2010. All rights reserved.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Conferences, How to Publish Your Novel

My MSS gets slammed

Somewhere in my journey to getting ONE SEED published, I decided to approach someone well-known, to ask for advice on my novel. She was kind enough to reply, making flattering remarks about my website, and telling me that there was enormous potential interest in my novel.

She asked to see the first couple of chapters.

The next day, she slammed me.

Of course it hurt, especially as she had built me up. But I am British and she is British, and I understand that criticism is dished out much more violently in Britain than it is over here.

I managed to take a deep breath and write a polite note asking her for specific details. She responded by telling me two important things: 1) modernize the language, and 2) wear the historical research lightly.

I gave myself about three months before I did anything to the MSS. Then I fixed it up per her instructions, and submitted it to Napa Valley Writers Conference. At the end of April, I was invited to come.

You have to be invited to Napa, you can’t just pay and show up. So I was thrilled to be asked to come, especially because I’d been turned down three years before.

The moral of this story? Yes, the feedback hurt. Yes, I think she was too savage in the way she treated me. On the other hand, I learned some valuable things that enabled me to get into Napa. So if you run into an unpleasant experience, take a deep breath and try to hear that nugget of information that you really need to hear.

Next: What I learned at Napa.

Image: 70filmopening09.blogspot.com

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2010. All rights reserved.

Leave a Comment

Filed under About Cynthia, Agents, How to Publish Your Novel, Promoting Yourself

I almost get representation

After getting turned down by an agent at a top New York agency, another one almost immediately appeared. I dutifully sent in the MSS and hoped she wouldn’t take three months to give me an answer.

She didn’t. Instead, she said she’d like to represent me.

You can imagine how happy I was. “So,” I said to her over the telephone, “do you send me a contract?”

“No,” she said. “I don’t work like that. I’ll send it out to a couple of editors, and then if there’s some interest, I’ll represent you.”

I had attended many workshops with titles like How to Get Your Novel Published, and had never heard of an arrangement like this. But no-one else was beating down my door, so I agreed. At least, I told myself, you haven’t signed anything.

I heard nothing more for weeks. Finally, after some prodding, she admitted that she’d gotten no response from her friends in the editing business. But by that time, I’d attended the Napa Writers Conference, and found another agent.

Next: Getting Slammed, or How I got into Napa.

–Cynthia Haggard writes novels.  She is currently seeking representation for ONE SEED SOWN, TWO MURDERS REAPED, the Richard III story told from the point of view of his mother. For more on her creative writing, go to spunstories. (c) 2010. All rights reserved.

Leave a Comment

Filed under About Cynthia, Agents, How to Publish Your Novel