Today we've got a success story from the slush pile as Tristina Wright joins us for an SAT (Successful Author Talk). Tristina recently landed Danielle Chiotti of Upstart Crow Literary for an agent. How'd she do that? Let's ask her.
Are you a Planner or Pantster?
TW: Pantser. A ridiculously out of order pantser. My first drafts are a crazy puzzle of out of order scenes and horrible transitions. Thank god for Scrivener. I have a weakness – I have to write all the good stuff first like kissing and The Sexytimes. Oh, and fights. I have a thing about writing a good and dirty brawl.
How long does it typically take you to write a novel, start to finish?
TW: A few months? Maybe 4 or 5? I have a toddler and, recently, a newborn so my writing speed has slowed considerably as a result.
Do you work on one project at a time, or are you a multi-tasker?
TW: Normally, one project at a time, but now that I may be writing in two categories (YA and Adult Romance), I’ll probably always be working on multiple projects at once. And, let me tell you, keeping my head straight from a YA manuscript to an Adult Romance manuscript is difficult. The delete key is my friend. “You can’t say that in YA, Tristina.”
Did you have to overcome any fears that first time you sat down to write?
TW: Yes. I had a professor in college tell me that fantasy and science fiction are cop out genres and the writers who write them are sellouts. Then I had another professor tell me that I would never be capable of writing a book. I actually quit writing for 8 years because of those experiences. And, even though I conquered the insecurities enough to start writing again, I battle them every day. It’s hard.
How many trunked books (if any) did you have before you were agented?
TW: I have plans to rewrite it someday when I have “free time” but, for now, it’s languishing on my hard drive.
Querying and Agent Hunt Process:
Who is your agent and how did you get that "Yes!" out of them?
TW: My agent is the fabulous Danielle Chiotti of Upstart Crow Literary. I love her. She found me in the slush pile, actually. Slush works, yo! I sent her my query, and she requested a full about three weeks later. A few weeks after that, I was ninjaed from a contest by another agent who read my manuscript in 50 page increments over about 4 days. That agent offered rep which (after the excessive flailing and shrieking) prompted me to nudge all the agents that had my manuscript. Danielle responded immediately saying she had actually already finished my manuscript and had been planning on emailing me to offer rep. She told me later she was actually a little jealous that another agent got to me first! She asked for The Call for the next night and I pretty much fell in love with her on the phone. We talked for over an hour about my story and books we love and pretty much every subject under the sun. I waited a week to let the other agents get back to me with yea or nay, but, in my gut, I knew I was going to go with Danielle.
How long did you query before landing your agent?
TW: I started querying this manuscript beginning of September. Danielle offered middle of October. Yes, I know that is ridiculously fast, but I’d also spent the year prior querying another manuscript that got oh so close but no.
Any advice to aspiring writers out there on conquering query hell?
TW: Querying blows many objects that are probably inappropriate for me to name. Honest truth. It’s a lot of agonizing over making The Perfect Query and then doubting your perfect query when you get rejection after rejection. Oh, and having an intense hatred for the word subjective. My advice to you? Never forget that only you are the one who can tell your story. And your story deserves to be told. So, draft your query letter, rewrite it about eleventy million times, and send it out without looking back. Then surround yourself with people who are doing the same thing because you need each other. Seriously, I could not have gotten through the depressing rejections without the support of my critique partners and writer friends. Plus, WHEN you get that elusive request followed by The Call, you’ll have a ridiculoton of people to celebrate with.
Social Networking and Marketing:
How much of your own marketing do you? Do you have a blog / site / Twitter?
TW: I have social media! I’m probably far too addicted to it. (Don’t tell my agent)
I have a website, I'm on Twitter and there’s a whole stalking section on my site for links to Facebook, Goodreads, Tumblr, and Pinterest.
When do you build your platform? After an agent? Or should you be working before?
TW: I strongly believe in before if you can. There’s an AMAZING community on Twitter of established authors, new authors, writers in the querying trenches, writers on submission, agents, editors, and publishers. You can find people at the same stage of the game as you, writing the same category/genre, and your age group. And the support is incredible. When I announced my agent, I had so many people congratulating me and spreading my news to their followers and so on and so forth. It seriously makes you feel ten feet tall.
Do you think social media helps build your readership?
TW: Yes, but you have to be careful with it. If all you do is spam links of where to buy your book or quotes from reviews, then people will tune it out pretty fast. I enjoy authors that actually talk to you about normal things like crazy kid antics or what stupid thing the dog did now or sharing pictures of shoes or hot guys. Those are the authors that I look up online and put their books on my Christmas wish list. Those authors I call friends and, when my time comes to flail all over social media because my book is published, they will be the ones to virtually tackle hug me and shoot virtual confetti canons and tell everyone to go buy my book.