Always be a good hostess!

So, draft one is done, and our amazing first reader gave us back her comments and edits (big shout out to Jaime! Woot woot!) We’ve made all of the grammatical and suggested changes, and now we’re ready for action. Like, REALLY ready. It’s at about this point with a manuscript that I throw caution to the wind and start querying like a madwoman. And, you know…that’s yielded some results–just not the ones I’ve wanted. In the past I’ve had requests to read 50 page partials, 100 pages, and once I even had a full manuscript request. But the best outcome I’ve had so far was an agent who gave me detailed feedback with a final comment to send her anything else that I might write in the future. I was incredibly excited and flattered by her interest, but the downside of that offer was that–based on what I could glean from her website–she wasn’t a very experienced agent, so…I took her advice to keep writing, but I’m going to keep searching for my dream agent.

I’ve determined that we’re going to be far more patient and methodical with this project, as Holly and I have put tons of effort into this, and we’ve poured all of our authorial hopes and dreams into each other’s ears as we’ve worked. In researching the most amazing, kick-ass representatives for MG and YA authors, I found an agent’s website that included advice, links, and even a writing checklist. Her thoughts on how to present your work to an agent are really interesting, and the checklist walks authors through the whole writing process. I think the biggest takeaway I had from her article was the advice to bring your readers in to a party on page one–but bring them in to a party to which they’re arriving fashionably late. As soon as you get them in the door, show them the Who, What, Where, When, and Why of the story. Point them in the right directions–guide their attention towards your pool, your remodeled living room, your most interesting piece of artwork. Essentially, be a good hostess! Never, never, never in all my years of writing had I thought of it that way: I’m inviting people into my home, my world, my story…now it’s my job (our job!) to take their coats, offer them a drink, show them where the restroom is, and introduce them to our fascinating and eccentric friends. Being good hostesses is easy–we can do this!

Our manuscript is out there!

We finished the first run-through of our manuscript and sent it to three people this weekend, so now we just (im)patiently wait for feedback. I know the best thing to do during this rush of “we just finished a NOVEL!” adrenaline is move on to our next manuscript and keep the creativity flowing, so that’s what we’ll do.

The original idea for this series that we’re working on stemmed from Holly’s love of the American Girl books, and a unit at school last year that introduced her to pioneer girls and their diaries. After talking through what she wanted to write, we came up with an idea for the this series. Each book will be a standalone novel about a young girl who comes to America and lives her own version of the American Dream. Because each protagonist will come from a different country, it gives us the opportunity to research and learn about other parts of the world and other languages, and it also allows us to give some thought to what it’s like to be an outsider, a newcomer, a person who is striving for something and overcoming obstacles. Using fiction to understand life isn’t a new technique by any stretch, and while I know it will benefit Holly as she goes into middle school next year and broadens her own horizons, I figure it can’t hurt me to be reminded that everyone’s struggles are real.

Book 1 is about a girl named Iris from Holland (we’ll get back to her as soon as our first reader reviews come in from my parents and some trusted friends), but in the mean time, we’re starting to think about Book 2. Who will our main character be? Where will she come from and to which state will she go? Letting your characters come to life as you research them is an exciting stage of writing, and one we both enjoyed immensely the first time around. So here we go with a whole new set of characters and themes and places: let the games begin!