Friday, June 4, 2010

Question of the Day #576

After I queried my agent, she asked for a partial. Then a full. Then she suggested some revisions. So I revised and revised. But nothing worked. The timing and pacing were off and what should have been a very dramatic, creepy story sort of fell flat.

I had no idea how to fix it.

So I attended the Big Sur Children's Writing Workshop. (Which is an amazing workshop - especially if you're agent hunting because it's run by the Andrea Brown Literary Agency.) My first critique group leader was Nancy Lamb, author of 43 books and an amazing editor.

I read the first few pages aloud. She loved the voice and the characters.

"But how is it structured?" she asked.


"What does she want and what's preventing her from getting it?"

"Huh?" I repeated.

"You need to set up the conflict immediately. What happens in this story?" She waited as I fumbled through a meandering synopsis.

Thankfully, she waved a hand in front of me. I stopped babbling.

"Go to the scene after that big night. Write it out in present tense. Flashback to what happened before that night and then rewrite that critical scene and continue the story in present tense."

"I don't know how to do that," I said. I wasn't even sure what she'd told me to do much less how to do it.

"You're going to need this book." She handed me a copy of The Writer's Guide to Crafting Children's Stories (which BTW, she wrote).

As the other writers shared their work, my brain went wild. She wanted me to open with a prologue in the present tense. Write the "before" story in the past tense and the "after" story in the present tense. What? Write a manuscript in all those tenses and add a taboo prologue? That woman was crazy.

But desperate to get the manuscript back to the agent I hoped to partner with, I went back to my cabin, read Nancy's chapter on how to write flashbacks and wrote and wrote and wrote. By morning I had a new opening, a solid framework and a desperate need for coffee.

It was good. And my agent thought so too.

Nancy Lamb saved my manuscript. So I'm pleased to let you know that she just finished a new website and a new blog. The blog provides writing tips and posts about writing life. She aso offers editing services in case any of you also have WIPs that need saving.

So please go to, leave a comment on her blog and enjoy all that she has to share.

I consider Nancy a mentor, not only regarding writing, but life. Who are your mentors?



  1. That's excellent news about your progress on your manuscript! YAY!!

    I don't really have a single mentor in life. I generally try to, and do learn from everybody who is close to me.

  2. That is quite a story, Suzanne! Thanks for sharing! I will go to her site!

  3. Excellent read and inspiring! Mentors have been few and far between.

  4. I love Nancy's writing book. You're right--it's fully of solid advice.

    My mentors are the wonderful women of my critique group (I'm the only one who hasn't sold a manuscript): Cheryl Howe, Cathy Yardley, Sylvia Mendoza, Lorelle Marinello, Mary Leo, and Ann Collins.

  5. Great news!

    I have lots of mentors :). Especially at my age, there is always something to learn that is happening around me.

  6. Nancy's book was the first one on writing that I ever read. I think it's time I reread it.

    Great tip about your start. I've outlined a novel with a similar kind of frame. Now I know how I'm going to approach it (when I get around to writing it).

    I'm off to check out Nancy's blog now. :D

    Have a great weekend!


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