Ask Daphne! Speed Round

February 4th, 2009 • Kate

An adorable pair of walking shoes for today’s SPEED ROUND! No delays, let’s just get right to it! Kathy wants to know:

How many times should you revise your novel before trying to get an agent?

Until it’s ready, Kathy. There’s no magic number, but if you’ve polished it, and shown it around to your writer’s group, and feel that each word you’ve chosen is the right one, then you’re ready to send it out.
She also asks:

If you find what you think is your “dream agency” should you only submit to them?

You can submit to them first, if you like, and allow them some time with it, but I’ve said it before, I’m not a huge fan of exclusives. Get your manuscript out there! You may think Agency A is the bee’s knees, but Agency C or D or Q may surprise you, and be an even better fit. You won’t know unless you try.
Sarah wonders:

Do you only accept submissions from residents of the US, and do the writers have to be a certain age?

Nope, Sarah. I’m open to all! kt literary client Lili Wilkinson is a happy resident of Australia, fer instance. As for age, you don’t have to be a certain age, so long as your writing is strong enough. I just haven’t yet seen a novel by a teenager that was on par with the submissions I’ve received from authors with a few more years of experience under their belt. But I’d love to be proven wrong.
Meanwhile, Gabby ponders:

I don’t know what to do. You see, I had an amazing idea for a novel but it seems just like everything else I’ve read. So the whole idea seems ridiculous, like I need to make up something that no one has read before.

Well, Gabby, there’s a school of thought that there are only five original stories out there, and every novel ever written is based on them, but that’s not really helpful to you, is it? Justine Larbalestier had some great advice on this topic during her “January is Writing Advice Month.” In terms of finding ideas of your own, she suggests, “take a plot from somewhere else: a fairy tale, a movie, a novel, manga, anime, anywhere at all really. But change it. Change it a lot.” That’s just the beginning of it. Read the whole thing, and see if that doesn’t help you come up with an original idea.
And another teen reader writes:

I want to write an autobiography, but I’m only 16 years old. Would it be wrong to write your life story when your life isn’t over?

Not wrong exactly, but what’s so great and important about your life that a memoir or autobiography at this stage is going to be worthy of being published? Maybe you’re a movie star (like Miley Cyrus) or a royal (like Prince William or Harry) — then I’m sure you have tales to tell, even if you’re just a teenager. You don’t have to be famous, either — if you’ve lived through an extraordinary event, you may have an important story to tell. But for most of us — and I think back to my own teen years — a memoir of me at 16 would have been pretty dull. It’s not that your life isn’t over yet, and therefore not worthy of being told, just that it may not be all that readable.
Thanks for the questions, guys! Please keep ’em coming by emailing me at

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8 Responses to “Ask Daphne! Speed Round”

  1. lotusloquax Says:

    great questions and thanks for the answers.

  2. Kelly Ann Fiore Says:

    Regarding the teen reader, I've read that some agents are looking for a good teen memoir like "Eat. Pray. Love." I have a feeling, however, that those memoirs will be written by adults about their (or someone's) teenage experience. What seems to come with time is the ability to reflect more objectively and let go.

  3. stina Says:

    I had to laugh at the dream agent part. I never thought my dream agent would ever request a partial. I didn’t even query her first, thinking there was no way it would go beyond the query letter and first chapter. But to my immense surprise, she did request the first 50 pages . . . right after another agent requested the full. So now I wait nervously, wondering who’ll get back to me first. Of course I’m realistic, considering my dream agent’s client list (I’m a fan of three of her YA authors, which is more than I can say for any other agent save one). But I’m honored that she requested anything at all. There are thousands (I exaggerate not) who wish they were in my shoes. So I say go for your dream agent, though do your research first to make sure she is the right one for you beyond just her client list. Now I’m off to frame my dream agent’s request for a partial . . . which I’ll treasure even if she passes on my novel ;0)

  4. stan Says:

    I didn’t have just one dream agent—I had four. I included them all in my initial ten query letters. All four requested my manuscript and I thought: this is gonna happen. They all said nice things but they all passed. One asked for a revision, which I did. He passed on that too, just didn’t fall in with it but was sure someone else would. Two asked to see future work. One said she’s sure I’ll find a home for this story. Now I have ten partials and two fulls out there. I’m very encouraged by the responses I’ve gotten but I’m continuing to query.

  5. Kiersten White Says:

    I had a lot of "dream" agents (Kate included!) but ended up with an agent I'd never heard of. And guess what? She's a great fit, and I couldn't be happier.
    Point being, query widely. There are a lot of dream agents you just haven't figured out you should dream about yet ; )

  6. jeanoram Says:

    For the teen memoir inspired:
    I say, write your memoir. It's good practice, plus you will have all those memories and events written down. Whether you publish it now–or ever–is moot. The fact is, writing is therapy and it helps to write things out. If it isn't print-worthy at this juncture, it will at least be something nice to have later in life–for reasons yet unknown. Go for it!
    (I like re-reading my teen diaries and wish I had written more.)

  7. Kate Says:

    Thanks, Jean. Good point! I forget sometimes the difference between giving writing advice and giving publishing advice. By all mean, write! Write like the wind!

  8. shelli Says:

    a friend once told me that you don't know your dream agent until you meet him/her and they love your book as much as you do. 🙂