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I See the Light!

by Maggie Van Well 15 July 2011 8 Comments

I’m sure most of you know the RWA National Conference took place in NYC (no flight for me this year, yay!) at the end of June. As always it was a grueling, eyeopening, wonderful experience, made even more so by the friends I had to share it with. Nothing helps ya get to know a person or people better than sharing a bottle of wine over dinner.

Okay, enough about my sordid evenings in NY with my fellow writers. It’s time to talk business. Nationals this year was not too far from the norm: Dark paranormals, Y/A everything, historicals, some steampunk, all have to be fresh or have a new twist. But one genre stood out; small town contemporaries and/or set in a series.

I had a meeting with an editor from HQN books. I had my pitch ready, knew all my characters conflicts, internal and external as well as the zany plot. She was, of course, very nice and welcoming. She asked me questions, I had all the answers. I fully expected to hear. “Wow, send me a partial!”

Well, I didn’t.

Wait, what? I thought they always asked for a partial, if for no other reason than to get you out of the chair without throwing a hissy-fit. I’m here to tell you, they don’t. So if you did get a request, don’t take it lightly.

Was I upset? Honestly, no. Surprised, for sure. I’d never not been asked for a partial before and I didn’t expect this time to be different. But I had to appreciate her being straight up and honest. Plus, she gave me some wonderful suggestions for revisions.  Can you guess? Yup, small town.

A light went on. A small town series? I love it! So guess what I’ll be doing over the next few weeks.

So, here’s my dilemma. This editor really liked the plot and my conflicts and suggested the small town revision. Should I send a partial to her once this book is revised? Start with a query? (HQN only accepts agented submissions, but will read a query from a non-agented writer) Obsess over this until small towns are out?

If you have any pearls of wisdom, a memorable pitching story or any suggestions on writing small town and series, please share! Because no wants me curled up in a corner with unanswered questions running around in my head.



  • Jolyse Barnett said:

    Hi Maggie!

    I’m surprised you didn’t get a request either. It certainly wasn’t for lack of a great premise or delivery on your part. Thanks for sharing your experience.

    I look forward to reading other writers’ feedback so I can learn along with you. :)

    I had a wonderful time at RWA, too. Can’t wait to go again!

  • Maggie Van Well (author) said:

    Thanks, Jolyse! We can learn together :)

  • Silver James said:

    First, get Jeannie’s Work In Progress notebook, if you don’t already have it, or something similar so you can build a series bible. This will be vital as you create characters, locations, and plots! Trust me, I’m having to backtrack all of this for a series and I really wish I’d done it with the first book!

    Second, work on your setting. Figure out where your plot and characters will be most comfortable and then, give the place a name and something unique. Is it a little town in New England where folks travel through to see the leaves in the fall? An old mining town in the Rocky Mountains trying to come back to life and cash in on the tourist trade? Or a little town in the south where the magnolias bloom and if you order iced tea at the diner it comes out sweet. (That’s a southern thing, lol) Discover something unique and charming about your town and use that to build your plots from.

    Add all this into the book you pitched. Obviously, you want the town to fit that book. 😀

    Now, as for the editor, heck yeah submit to her! Send her a proposal, reminding her of your pitch and the conversation you two had. Tell her you took her suggestions, revised the book, which is now a small-town series and tease her with the changes you made. Then ask her if you can send her a proposal (three chapters and a synopsis) or the entire manuscript. If she really liked your basic idea, and she was the one who suggested changing the setting, she’ll ask to at least see the proposal. We hope! And if not this editor, then another from a publisher who accepts unagented work. You can also query agents with it, see if it strikes a chord with one of them.

    You have a whole new world of possibilities here, Maggie! I’d jump at the chance. Good luck and keeps us posted!

  • Silver James said:

    Ack. I got ahead of myself. QUERY her first, asking to send the proposal. Der. That first “proposal” in the third paragraph, should be “query.” Sorry ’bout that. I obviously need more coffee.

  • Maggie Van Well (author) said:

    Thank you, Silver! What wonderful advice. I was surely take it :) I knew I could count on the kindness and wisdom of others to help me out

  • Debora Dale said:

    I think it’s wonderful that she took the time to make suggestions. I’m not all that experienced with agents and editors but think if they don’t ‘feel’ something from your pitch, they won’t waste your time or theirs by trying to work with you to improve it. So, while she didn’t ask for a partial at that moment, she certainly seemed to have left the door wide open for you. :-)

  • Maggie Van Well (author) said:

    Seems that way, Debora. I hope you’re right! :)

  • Jeannie Moon said:

    She made suggestions and that says to me, “Keep me in the loop with this project.” I would definitely send a query/proposal when you’re ready. This was a conversation starter. Keep it going.

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