|A split fiber optic cable on the sidewalk|
in front of my parents' house
In the weeks preceeding the conference the organizers opened up a series of pre-conference forums where people could post their queries, first 500 words or first chapters for feedback. Having spent some time over at Nathan Bransford's query forums I've developed a good eye for what works and what doesn't work for me in a query. I spent some time on the pre-con forums responding to some of the queries, hoping to help other writers and to better solidify what was lacking in my own query.
Identifying what's not working in someone else's writing? Not much of a problem. Identifying what's not working in my writing? About as easy as writing my own resumé. (That is to say, it don't work well for me. At all)
On the first day of the con I posted a slightly tweaked version of my latest version of my query and hoped people would help me identify what wasn't working. (The overall verdict: Good first and last sentence but the middle was too factually bland and not engaging enough, both in character, stakes and in voice) It was a good experience and I appreicate the helpful criticism.
Today I received an email from my CP that read:
"I meant to email you - I saw Kathleen's comments at WriteOnCon. How encouraging! She read through the whole thing and it was a clear case of 'not my style' as opposed to 'this needs work!' Great job. :)"And I had no freaking idea what she meant.
I did a search on a distinct keyword in my title and came up with only comments to my query. Then I remembered a few weeks before WriteOnCon Elana Johnson wrote an entry calling for the first 500 words of WIPs for a possible review by an agent. I tossed my firist 500 words in and promptly forgot about it. Until today when I did a distinctive keyword search on a phrase from my first 500 words and found this. (I'm the last one on the list)
Agent Kathleen Ortiz had this to say about my first 500 words:
"Part of me is thrown off by the fact that the main character is referred to as ‘the boy’ and the other part of me isn’t really pulled into the story enough because of its formal tone. This is a pass for me."The first part of this didn't bother me at all. My main character is referred to as "the boy" intentionally until sometime later in the first chapter. The "formal tone" throws me a bit because I'm not quite sure what to make of it. I know I'm not writing like a kid, using all sorts of modern-day hip jargon, but is that even what she meant?
In the introduction to the critiques, Ortiz does say:
"If I simply say “I didn’t connect with the voice,” then that’s what it means. If I say “It’s not for me,” then it’s just simply not something I typically gravitate to and the writing / plot wasn’t enough to suck me in and change my mind. Please understand that this is such a subjective business. My thoughts may be completely the opposite of my fellow industry professionals or they may mirror other agents’ thoughts."Instead of analyising this to death, I think I'll take heart in what my CP said and consider myself grateful for having an agent say "this doesn't suck, it just isn't something that I'm drawn to."
Meanwhile, I'll keep plugging away at the query.