GUTGAA Meet And Greet

Thank you to Deana Barnhart for organizing the Gearing Up To Get An Agent Blogfest. Check out her site for all the details. Today is the Meet and Greet where we can introduce ourselves and answer a few questions. So here goes.

I started writing in January 2010. It took me almost two years to figure out those stories in my head needed to be written down. Since then I’ve written over 1.3 million words in many stories. About a year and half into my journey, I started querying my first novel. That went nowhere. Now I’m preparing to query my second and am much smarter about the process.

The first stories I wrote were adult contemporary. The seventh one was young adult. I didn’t plan it, I just wrote it. Since then, they’ve mostly been YA–Read it. Write it. Love it.

So that’s my writing bio. The other basics: I have 2 kids, a husband and a dog. I’m mostly a stay at home mom, but also a civil engineer, although I don’t do a lot of engineering lately. I much prefer writing.

Here are Deana’s questions.

-Where do you write?
Two places. At my desktop in our computer room. Or on the laptop—which could be any place around the house. Away from the kids would be the best.

-Quick. Go to your writing space, sit down and look to your left. What is the first thing you see?
My phone sitting on top of a AAA Northern California Tourbook Guide.

-Favorite time to write?

-Drink of choice while writing?
Lipton Diet Green Tea-Mixed Berry. *That sounds good now, I’ll be right back*

-When writing, do you listen to music or do you need complete silence?
Music—mostly my favorite radio station. Sometimes when I go to the library and forget my mp3 player, it feels weird to sit in the silence. I prefer the music.

-What was your inspiration for your latest manuscript and where did you find it?
The current one… I don’t remember. I had few ideas jotted down from a year before and when I went back and read it in February, things started clicking. My next story idea, which I’m starting to flesh out, came from an episode of Law and Order Criminal Intent. And it has nothing to do with police or lawyer. It was the characters (the ones who only show up in that episode) that inspired the idea.

-What’s your most valuable writing tip?
Don’t query too early. I made that rookie mistake because unfortunately I just didn’t know any better. I do now. Edit, edit, edit. Find beta readers and edit some more. Get advice on your query from others so you don’t waste a bad query on good agents. Edit, edit, edit.

73 Responses

  1. Great to meet you Suzie!

    I’m beginning to think that querying too early is a mistake we all have to make before we move on. Those rejections are a good test to get past.

  2. Hi, nice to meet you!! I enjoyed reading your answers. Your writing tip is excellent, and so true. I’ve done this before, and then feel like such an idiot afterward. Looking forward to seeing you around GUTGAA.

  3. Hello! Nice to meet you!
    I think querying to early is inevitable for your first go around. When you are new to the world of writing you simply have no way of knowing when the time is right. That’s something you have got to learn from experience.
    Hope to see you around the bend. 🙂

  4. Hey Suzi! Ah yes, the lesson we all must learn the hard way. It’s so easy to get excited about a story and query too early. But then, I hear about writers getting agents all the time after writing their story 3 weeks before. It happens, just not to the majority of us. :S
    Glad you’re taking the GUTGAA trip with me.

  5. I hear you about querying too soon. I’m rather embarrassed at a lot of the queries I sent for my contemporary historical Bildungsroman last spring. Most of them were either too long or too short, and it didn’t help that I was mistakenly classifying it as YA in a lot of them.

  6. I think every first time writer makes the mistake of querying too early. Or at least most. I know this one did… haha.

    And how many MS do you have? The SEVENTH was YA? Man, I thought I had written a lot with five finished MS and two half done ones. You are amazing Suzi!

  7. Hi from another GUTGAA participant.

    Oh, yes. Querying too early. Been there, done that. On my latest ms I purposely waited six months after I thought it was done and then read through it again before starting to query. Man, that’s hard to do, though.

  8. Rachel Schieffelbein

    Great advice! I’m totally guilty of quering too early. When I first started I sent out some picture books that were pretty much crap. Oh well. Live and learn.

  9. Your editing posts are fantabulous. I can’t tell you how much I learn, or at least start to think about things in a different way. Now I know why they’re so good – you’ve had lots of practice! I might have to try the Lipton tea – it sounded good to me, too.

  10. Suzie, it’s cool to hear that your path to YA was realized through adult first. I, too, queried too early. Three years later, still polishing that manuscript, but it only gets better. Love that you keep track of your word count. It makes me want to go back and count mine:)

  11. Wowsers on 1.3 million words! What did Stephen King say? “The first million words are practice?” I’m jealous you’ve gotten your practice out of the way already. Very impressive. PS. Did your blog used to look different?

  12. So great seeing you one here! Nice to have a familiar face. 🙂 1.3 million words!? That’s crazy to think about, but huge congrats – what an accomplishment! Look forward to seeing you around GUTGAA!

  13. Melodie

    Wow – I’ve never thought of counting words on all my MS. *scared* Someone said it takes at least 10,000 hours to become good at something…sounds like you’re well on your way.

  14. Hi. It is nice to meet you I am new to your blog and I discovered it through the meet & greet for GUTGAA. I love your blog. It really stands out and has a unique personality. I love Law and Order Criminal Intent. I know the Character, Detective Bobby Goren, is probably not very believable (according to my husband who cannot stand it that Goren seems to know everything about everything), but I love him. He is incredibly entertaining. Now you have me trying to guess the guest character who inspired your WIP. Could it be, the Australian antagonist, Nicolle Wallace?

  15. At least you’ve learned all about the query process:) Good luck on this round of querying. You’ve already written so much, that is so awesome! Great to meet you and thanks for joining in GUTGAA!

  16. Your tip might be the best I’ve read so far, but I also think that querying early might be a right-of-passage for a lot of us (myself included). Interesting topic! Good luck!

  17. It’s important not to wait forever to query, either. I remember being terrified with my latest book (the one my agent took on) because I was absolutely certain there was something big wrong with it. And there were a few things wrong, but it took the actual querying process, and vague feedback from a few agents, before I could figure it out.

    But yes, first, definitely, edit and revise over & over & over. 🙂 Best of luck in the contest!

  18. Hi,
    I’m GUTGAA bloghopping and have to tell you I totally agree with your writing tip. I made the same mistake and now realize edit/revise is the mantra to follow. Best of luck.

  19. Hi! Nice to meet you:)

    TV shows often inspire me, too. And shows like Law&Order do have the most amazing wanderer characters (totally my term for these type of characters)
    And I understand your situation. I a couple of years away from receiving my degree in architecture when I accepted that my heart wasn’t really into it. Now I do what I really love, which is writing and reading books.

    Come by to say hi at my #GUTGAA Meet&Greet post at

    Read you around 🙂

  20. Abby

    Nice to meet you!

    I am the same way re: music & writing. It’s very hard for me to concentrate if there’s no music!

    Good luck with GUTGAA!!

  21. What do you know, another retired Civil Engineer turned YA writer! Nice to meet you! Heh, i don’t do much engineering anymore either but it has come in randomly handy when folks in my crit group write scenes set in sewers.

  22. Hi Suzi! I hear you on the 1.3M words. Sometimes it feels like I’ve spent that much on my query, too. Speaking of, great piece of writing advice…I’ve edited my ms to death, even had a pro do it, and I still feel like it’s too soon! 🙂 Good luck with GUTGAA!

  23. Hi, Suzi–

    Glad to “meet” you. I agree with your comment about querying too early. It applies to pitching too. I pitched an agent a couple of years ago, when I knew my book wasn’t really ready, and he asked for 75 pages. He rejected the manuscript, of course, and I might have gotten a different response if I had waited.

    See you around GUTGAA.


  24. Hi! So, we’ve both written about the same amount of words. I got somewhat lucky with my first book though. I was getting ready to query when I joined a local critique group that had just started.

    By the second meeting it was abundantly clear that I was nowhere near ready to query. haha. I ended up re-writing the whole manuscript. Twice. Unfortunately, still no luck with it. A couple requests for a partial and one for a full, but they fell through.

    So, I moved onto book two. I believe this one is ready to be queried, but I’m super nervous about it– especially since my critique group broke up. I’ve been hooking up with some beta readers though, so hopefully that helps!

    Anyway, good luck with your story. I just started my blog (I got inspired by all the great blogs on GUTGAA). I’d love it if you could stop by. I’m kind of in desperate need of followers. haha. Hope to see you over there!

  25. Paula

    Hi Just stopping by meeting fellow GUTGAA BLOGGERS Great blog. Hope to chat with you soon!! I so want to query right now, but I guess I will wait at least until my wip is completed:)

  26. I think so many people have made that horrible mistake of querying before their WIP is ready. The great thing is, you make that mistake once and you NEVER do it again! 🙂 Happy Writing!

  27. Great bit of advice there… I’d say I’m guilty of premature querying myself… I hope I’ve learned from my mistakes. 🙂 It’s nice to meet you! Good luck with GUTGAA.

  28. I got started on the GUTGAA a little late. I hear you on not letting it go too soon. I’m just in the middle of rewrites now and lining up my beta readers. The last thing I want to do is send my hard work out and have it immediately dismissed for rookie mistakes.

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