My son took this at Birmingham Botanical Gardens.

Miles driven yesterday: 547

Times I heard the song “Wide Awake” come on the radio before I switched stations: 52

Words written in my novel so far: 28,101

When I was four years old, I liked to swing out on my Candyland-painted swingset and sing songs of my own making.

One day, when I came inside, my mom was not happy with me about something or other. I cried and said they should make a movie about my life.

“Well, it would be a really boring movie,” my mom said.

My first novel, now sitting in a drawer (shelf) in my office, shows how oddly prescient my mother is. When I follow that oft-repeated advice, “Write what you know,” agents tend to fall asleep.

Hence, the second novel… the one that will knock their socks off. Or something.

Thank you to JM McDowell, who offered me the opportunity to talk about My Novel That Does Not Yet Exist in its Entirety. Here are the interview questions she doled out and my somewhat evasive answers.

1. Which genre best describes your current WIP (work-in-progress)? Women’s fiction.

2. Who do you consider the audience to be for your work? With women’s fiction, clearly I am writing for women of any age. But as with any writer, my goal is to capture universal truths, something men or women, young or old, will find relatable.

3. How did the idea for the work come to you? I learned my lesson with the first novel. Agents want something fresh, different, something they haven’t heard before. I mulled over many different concepts before I dug into this one because I realize now how important the concept itself is… agents aren’t interested in how well you write if the concept itself isn’t AMAZING. BAM!

4. Are you an organized outliner or a “pantser” when  you write? I am somewhere in between, but closer to a pantser. I find that if I outline, I try to fit things into a very pat outcome. To avoid that, I like to start with a concept, have an idea of the major plot points, and let the characters start to tell their stories without forcing the issue. I’m afraid I would miss something wonderful if I had everything all figured out already.

5. Is this book part of a series or a stand-alone? I think this concept would do best on its own.

6. Did your research for the book lead you to new twists or scenes for the story? Okay, see, I’m still researching. One thing I can say is that part of the book takes place in Santa Barbara, California, and I am starting to think that only vampires, hobgoblins and surfers live in Santa Barbara. Do any real people live in Santa Barbara? I am highly doubtful. Please discuss.

7. Some agents suggest comparing your work to that of a published author. Can you think of a good comparison for yours? I was able to do this with my last novel. I think I will have to be finished with this one before I know for sure. I started out thinking it was going to be very funny, and it seems to have a darker undertone than I’d imagined. So the author comparison will have to wait.

[I am skipping a couple of questions here about my agent “pitch” because my novel is “high concept.” This is a snooty, high-falutin way of saying, “I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.” Are you intrigued or just disgusted?]

8. When the book is published, how will you celebrate? I plan to take my husband on a two-week spa vacation to Tahiti. Oh. Writers don’t make enough money to go on vacations to Tahiti? OK. I will buy a photo of a beach in Tahiti and post it in my kitchen. Then we’ll go to dinner and split an entree. I get my own glass of wine, though.

I also want to put in a pitch for the South Carolina Writers Workshop fall conference. My writer friends and I have attended the past few years, and I’ve learned a lot. I’ll be volunteering this year, and I would love to see any blogging friends who are out pitching their books, learning more about writing or meeting with agents.


19 thoughts on “Tag!

  1. Bernie Brown says:

    Good blog. I learned from the interview and your answers. I am afraid you are right about agents liking the big concept, and I’m not sure my novel has one. In wiritng group, maybe you can help me make my pitch sound like it does. 🙂 I read someplace that is it okay to lie a little in your pitch.

    • annewoodman says:

      I think “high concept” is a trendy thing. Just watch–“quiet” books will go like hotcakes a year from now. ; ) I have horrible timing.

      You have a great novel; I’m sure your pitch will go well. We will all have to try out our pitches! I’ve got to do a query, so I’ll need help with that (again).

  2. jmmcdowell says:

    I am impressed! It took me far longer to come up with answers to the questions I was asked! 🙂

    And if anyone asks, it was perfectly fine to skip the questions you did. I offered that “out” for my tag-ees. Not everyone’s at a stage to answer them yet.

    Santa Barbara, hmm, now that does seem like an interesting place. I don’t think the people I knew are vampires, hobgoblins, or surfers, but they’re not quite like me, either…. Maybe they were hiding something?

    And now, I’m sure I want to know more about your book when you’re ready to tell us. 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      I think your questions were harder, that’s why! Mine were things I’ve already had to think about… I’ll have to think about who to tag, since I follow the same writers you’ve tagged.

      I’ll definitely be posting more about my book when I know it’s more complete. Thanks!

  3. Amy Mak says:

    This is great! Your sense of humor also makes me laugh – esp. when your mother told you your life would be a very boring movie. My mother never sugarcoated either 🙂 I love that other authors are in the same place I am. Maybe I will see you pitching at a writer’s conference and I will yell, Tahiti! or something and then the agent will sign us both…or something. Keep writing – can’t wait to read the final product!

    • annewoodman says:

      Yes, the conferences are such a great way to feel not alone. And we have some good friends who we have watched pitch, query, publish and this year, talk on a panel FOR PUBLISHED AUTHORS! So satisfying. The only thing more satisfying? When I get to be up there with them! Can’t wait.

      Yes, I am excited for your 100,000 word novel. I am sure I will never write anything that long (my first novel was just over 70,000). Good luck editing!

  4. 4amWriter says:

    Good job. I think you’re the first one to respond to the tag. What exactly is high concept? I’m not sure I ever really understood that term.

    The SC conference, this fall, eh? I would love to go to a writer’s conference this year. Is there a website with info that I can go peruse? It’s wishful thinking, but you never know. I lurve writer’s conferences!

    I wish it weren’t so true about publishers looking for concept over writing. That is a downer, and for me, really hard to cave into. If a book isn’t well-written, no matter how exciting the story, I can’t finish it. I wish more people felt that way.

    Well, I’m glad to learn that you didn’t give up on writing after your first novel. I know a lot of people who can’t go on after something like that, so kudos to you. 🙂

    • annewoodman says:

      Here’s the info on the SCWW conference in October. I’d love to see you there!

      And high concept? I’m not sure myself. But I was never afraid someone would steal the idea for my last novel: four women in a wine club who help each other through some tough times and solve a neighborhood mystery. Now, I feel like I have to shield my idea a bit, at least until I can get the darn thing written.

      No, I can’t give up yet. Maybe I’m just crazy??

      • 4amWriter says:

        Thanks for the link. I’ll look into it. I’d love to fit a conference in, as I am due for one this year. Now, I just have to convince hubs…

        Oh okay, that’s high concept. Hmm. Well, let me tell you, when I pitched my novel at the Writer’s Digest Conference (2011), one of the agents said to me, “Sounds very high-concept. That’s not for me.” I asked her what she meant by that because it sounded ‘bad’, but we were on a 3 minute timer and time ran out before she could fully explain.

        So, if this makes you feel better–not all agencies look for high concept. Maybe your wine-drinking women will make a comeback after all. 🙂

  5. 4amWriter says:

    Oh! I also meant to ask you…is there a reason your setting has to take place in Santa Barbara, and not another city in CA? I have family who live in CA, but outside of LA–just wondering if you were having trouble with research?

    • annewoodman says:

      I actually thought about shifting my setting. Then, while researching, I realized Santa Barbara is the perfect place, for a few different reasons. Now, I just have to find real people who are willing to talk. You wouldn’t believe how I work it into regular conversation: “Oh? You’re from Arizona? Wow–isn’t that near California? Which contains Santa Barbara? Huh–have you ever lived in or near Santa Barbara? No? What about your best friend’s brother’s nephew? No?” It’s a little shameful.

    • annewoodman says:

      Funny about the high concept thing. I’m not sure what it means either, really. I think it just means, in that case, that that’s not the right agent for you. ; ) Another agent might not even think it’s a high concept book. Who knows?

      If you decide to do the South Carolina one, let me know. I’d love to see you there!

  6. robincoyle says:

    Please photoshop me into your photo of Tahiti. That is as close as I will get to being there.

    Great answers to JM’s questions.

  7. David Gentry says:

    The advice should be, “Write about what you know, or research, or imagine.”

    Great post, as usual.

  8. Melissa says:

    Oh the things we learn from blogs….write what you know…hmmm. Trivial pursuit would make a boring book…just saying.😉

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