Despatches From The Querying Trenches - October. Kirsten Shares Her Monthly Round-Up.

Posted on 28th October, 2017

The last weekend of the month has rolled round again and it is time for Kirsten to give us her monthly round-up of what has happened in her writing life these past few weeks. Over to you, Kirsten!


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Despatches from the Querying Trenches


The motto for this month’s missive is ‘be careful what you wish for’!


Two days after bemoaning the lack of response from agents in last month’s column, I received a rejection. It was from an American agent I had met though one of those twitter pitch contests. It was a very nice rejection and she had gone to the trouble of giving me feedback on what could be strengthened - she thinks there is too much dialogue - for which I am very grateful.


But a rejection nonetheless.


I’m still waiting to hear back from the five UK agents who have the full but, of course, they currently have their hands full with the Frankfurt Book Fair so I think I will need to bite my nails a while longer. While I wait, I have sent the manuscript to the wonderful Alison May for a critique. (Alison offered a very generous full manuscript critique in the wonderful Authors for Grenfell initiative and I was one of the successful bidders.)


Meanwhile, it’s back to basics for me. I started writing my novel because I had a story I was burning to tell and then I fell in love with the whole process of crafting a novel. Recently I’ve been chasing publication - which is quite a different kettle of fish altogether. I’d still love to be published - and I actually enjoy the submissions process - but it can be quite relentless and all-consuming as many of you know. So, this month I’ve decided to go back to having fun with my writing.



I’m a member of Reading Writers, a fabulous bunch of funny, supportive and wise novelists, poets, playwrights, journalists and short story writers – some published, some not (yet). I really love their meetings but I’d always decided I was too busy to enter their competitions. I was too busy chasing publication to stop, take a breath and try something different. This month I entered a short story called Sunday Lunch into their Autumn Competition and it came second. I know!! Believe me, it’s been such a boost. My first writing award and it feels fantastic.



The other thing I’ve decided to do is to have a bash at NaNoWriMo starting next week. This will be a first for me and I am really excited. I am going to go hell for leather and try to finish the first draft of my second novel which currently stands at 23k words. To be honest, if I even get to 50k, I will be thrilled. I’m really up for this. Who’s going to join me? I’m writing as Curly Wurly and I would love to buddy up.


So that’s a very quick round up of my October writing life. In ‘real life’, I’ve been working and accompanying my son on uni visits. I LOVE uni visits … I really want to enrol at them all (but maybe not to do computer science …)


What have you guys been up to this month?



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Comments (33)

Yes, me too Wendy. I think it might be time to draw a line under the submissions I've already sent it and send in some more after one more round of editing xx Best of luck on your journey xxx
I feel I am travelling this journey with you, Kirsten. After a few rejections early on, I’ve heard nothing for weeks. Must be time to send to some more I think.
Thank you so much everyone for your feedback and encouragement - I'm thrilled so many of you have left a comment xx
Vanessa, many congratulations on getting your first draft written. I hope you are able to keep up the necessary momentum to get your work finished inside the time allowance you have given yourself. You're right - it is a matter of working at a certain level all the time, rather than in short bursts or once a year during NaNoWriMo. NaNoWriMo is wonderful because it gives so many writers the push they need, but how many of them continue writing with the same enthusiasm when NaNo ends?
Hi, Jen. Thanks for sending Kisrten your congratulations and good wishes. That letter from the agent who sent editorial suggestions is in itself quite an achievement for Kirsten. I remember writing a blog last year about 'positive rejections.' They should be seen as a big step forward. Kirsten, take note!
Hi Vanessa,
Wow - congratulations on your own very own Nano - or Nano and a half in your case. I'm really impressed you've done it on your own without others to spur you on and brilliant that you now have a complete first draft. I'm assuming this is Book 2 - or is it a rewrite of Flygirl?
I thoroughly agree with you that it's important to get the Big Idea down - 'don't get it right, get it written'! I spent ages with my first book trying to perfect things as I went along - hours faffing with passages that never even made it into the final cut of the book. I'm now a real convert to having at least a bit of a plan, and getting the bare bones in place before editing.
Can we work like this all the time? Not sure it's sustainable but I do agree we need to be doing it (much) more often than one month a year if we want to make a go of this writing thing.
Congratulations again and really looking forward to seeing you for lunch next week in Oxford xxxx
Happy NaNoWriMo Everyone!

In reply to Kirsten's twitter at me (and the previous post), I love NanoWriMo because it makes me focus. It becomes the most important and urgent thing I do each day. And writing IS the most important and urgent thing I do each day (apart from daily life, of course ...)

However I am not doing NaNo this November because I did my own sprint over 6 weeks in September/October. After returning from the Writers' Conference with the astounding realisation that a first draft could be 45 - 50k, I sat down and wrote it. HUZZAH. I now feel that this tight and concentrated burst of writing down the BIG IDEA is so much better than wandering around the houses for months on end. Too much flailing about, repetition and diving down rabbit holes.

This next 6/7 weeks will be all about finding out how much I've got and where I need to fill in. (I work in 6/7 weeks rhythms to coincide with school terms.) However I still need a graph to complete ... or the drum beat goes away ... and I've split all my story lines down and need to finish so many a week to have a full draft by 15th December. It's my own bespoke NaNo all along. :)

The more I think about it, the more I realise I need to do this ALL THE TIME not just one month of the year if I am ever going to produce a writing career. Anyone else feels the same way?

Vanessa x
Hi Jen,
Lovely to hear from you and thank you for all your support. I hope you had a great trip. Are you doing NaNo this year? xx
As always, I enjoyed your update, Kirsten. You've taken more important steps forward this month and I hope you're celebrating those! Congrats on the award & getting a more personalized rejection is fab! Glad to hear you're having fun with your writing again and wishing you all the best with NaNoWriMo. x
I don't think she was overly enamoured to be honest, but it was very kind of her to give me some honest feedback! x
Thank you for your lovely long comment, Jane. For an agent to have given Kirsten feedback including advice on how to proceed with her novel is a great feather in her cap. It shows how highly the agent thought of her writing. And, yes, there are still all those UK-based agents to hear back from.
Thank you Jane. It's always wonderful to hear from you, my lovely friend. xx l
Another great round-up of your month's activity! Thank you to you and again thank to Susanna for inviting you to provide an update.

It is interesting to hear what's been going on for you. Well done, once more, on your prize for your writing. As I have known since the very beginning of our friendship, you ARE a writer. So great it has been recognised.

It must be a real roller-coaster ride when you start the journey of writing a book of any kind. Excellent that someone has been kind enough to comment on possible improvements on your novel writing style, in your first attempt on a novel. I hope that proves useful the novel you are currently working on. Keep going, lady! And you are still waiting to hear from UK publishing houses. Fingers crossed for that. I am thinking of you and sending positive wring vibes your way.

It must be interesting visiting universities when it is for your children and not for you.It must bring back memories too.

Look forward to your post next month. Happy Halloween!

Jane x

Hi, Jan. It's always lovely to hear from you. We are all going to storm to Nano victory this year with one another's support!
Thanks for commenting, Cass, and for rightly pointing out that getting feedback from an agent, rather than just a standard rejection, is a big deal. It shows how promising Kirsten's writing is and how much the agent liked it, even if s/he didn't feel it was quite what s/he was looking for.
Jan - you don't know how happy you have made me by saying you look forward to my despatches. Thank you! It was very generous of Sue to give an aspiring writer a 'voice' on her blog - thank you Sue! - and I am so pleased that you are enjoying what I write!
Really looking forward to supporting each other during Nano this year - lets both get the first draft of our second novel written!! xx
Hi Cass, Thank you for your lovely supportive comment. Many congratulations on your Nano success last year - how wonderful that you published it this summer. I can't wait to read it. I'm really looking forward to sharing the Nano roller-coaster with you this year. xx
Another very interesting post, Kirsten. Congratulations on your short story success and receiving positive feedback from the American agent. I shall enjoy being a NaNo buddy and wish you lots of luck finishing your second novel. That’s what I’m aiming to achieve, too. Knowing there are other writers cheering us on is going to be a big help, I think- and hope! I look forward to these end of the month despatches, Sue - a great idea. Thank you.
I'm really glad you are taking a break from the pressure of the submissions process to focus on your writing again, Kirsten.

And massive congratulations on your first writing award! That's fabulous!

Be delighted the agent gave you feedback! I've heard it's not usually the norm at all!

Good luck with NaNo! I started it last year with about 25k written of a story I'd started years before. I had toyed with trying to forget it, but it wouldn't let me go, and in the end, I used NaNo to push it forwards and published the finished version this summer. You can do it!!!
HI, Julie. Yes, your account is still there and to prove it, I have added you as a buddy! Glad you have decided to join our merry band. Hope the decorating goes well. See you in NanoLand.
Hi Kirsten, yes I'd love to join your Twitter group. Need a bit of accountability!
Hi Susanna - happy to be a buddy. Will need to check my account still works as it's three years since I last did it. Am in Warrington this weekend decorating my son''s house so will see to it tomorrow night.
Alexis, nice to hear from you. thanks for sending Kirsten your good wishes and understanding. Best of luck with NaNo.
Julie, thanks for dropping by. After your comments last week, I'm delighted you are signing up for NaNoWiMo again. I hope you don't mind if I look you up on the NaNo site and add you to my list of buddies.
Hi, Catherine. What a lovely thought!
Hi Alexis, Great to hear from you. Good luck with your novel and with NaNo (you're welcome to join our Twitter group too if you like!!) and hopefully see you at Reading Writers again soon xx
Sending good luck to Kirsten, hope you hear positive news from an agent soon! It must be so nerve wracking. I think we met at Reading Writers once in the past! I too am doing Nano in the hope of getting 30-50k words done on my manuscript!! Fingers crossed :-)
Thanks for popping by and leaving a comment Julie. I'm getting excited for Nano. Susanna and I have set up a little Twitter Group to talk all things Nano and to support each other. I'll add you if you like?? xx
Thanks Catherine!! It is a very dialogue rich gem!!
Good thinking Kirsten - getting on with a new project is the best way in my opinion. It can generate more enthusiasm and stop you brooding over the submission process. Good luck and we'll done on being placed in the competition.

I need to go back to my Nano account and make sure it is still working - I'm there as Holly Day (quite appropriate as we've just come back from an amazing tour of South Africa) and would love to buddy up. I'm embarking on a rewrite of The Bad News Agency and on advice from Debi I'm just going to enjoy seeing where my characters take me!
Congratulations on your award! Let’s hope the other agents return from Frankfurt and see your full for the sparkling gem that it is.
Thank you Moira - and for all your support. Will look out the Phoebe Morgan piece. Look forward to cheering each other on during Nano!! Xx
Thanks for your encouraging words, Maddie. Kirsten has so many well-wishers waiting for her to hear good news. Good luck to all of us who are doing Nano!
Lovely blog and I just know you will hear good news soon. Phoebe Morgan on twitter left a very interesting piece there the other day about just this subject and why it takes so long. Many congratulations on your award too and let's rock Nano!