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Introducing a new writing tool from the maker of QueryTracker. Learn More...

Success Story Interview - NK Traver

An Interview with NK Traver (natriss on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Brianne Johnson of HG Literary.


QT: How long have you been writing?
NK Traver:
My mother claims I’ve been writing stories since I was five, but I didn’t get serious about finishing a book until three years ago (I'm now in my late twenties). I realized writing was the one thing in my life I’ve consistently loved to do and the one thing I would continue doing no matter what else was going on. That’s when I decided to pursue it as a career.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
NK Traver:
I started DUPLICITY (a YA cyberthriller) in November 2011, then took a break in March 2012 to switch to a different project. I didn't switch back to it until January 2013, when I finally finished the book and sent it off to my critique partners. I continued revising the project until it won a writing contest in July 2013.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
NK Traver:
Yes. More than once. DUPLICITY was my second manuscript, riding on the tails of a novel I had really wanted to be The One, but that wasn't getting a lot of attention from agents. It was hard to shelve that first manuscript, but I knew it was time, and I felt like DUPLICITY had a much stronger hook. My critique partners agreed. So I was devastated when DUPLICITY did even worse in the query trenches its first month. I worried it would be a repeat of the last year querying my first book. Finally I realized, after entering DUPLICITY into an online contest, that my first chapter really wasn't working. I then pored over it for a month, rewriting the same six pages until I was cross-eyed, while my critique partners cheered me on from the sidelines. They were a huge part of why I kept going. When I finally surfaced, I had a shiny new first chapter that went on to win two online contests and ultimately my agent.
QT: Is this your first book?
NK Traver:
No. I wrote a YA fantasy before this, and its sequel, before the idea for DUPLICITY popped into my head.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
NK Traver:
No, though I did hire a freelance editor to help me with my first manuscript. Her personalized feedback helped me mature years faster in my writing abilities than I would have without her.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
NK Traver:
I write an hour every day before work, and I don't work Fridays, so I use that as an all-day writing day. I also sprinkle in a few hours of writing over the weekend.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
NK Traver:
DUPLICITY went through three minor edits (one from each of my critique partners) and four completely different versions of its first chapter before I found my agent. I attribute that small number to the fact that I basically rewrote every sentence of my first novel seven times, and even now, I'm thinking it will need to go through one more major rewrite before it comes off the shelf. So I definitely paid it forward in edits on that first manuscript!
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
NK Traver:
Yes. I have three critique partners--fellow writers I found online--that I work very closely with. Their feedback has been vital to my finding an agent. I wouldn't have even known about the contest I found Brianne in if not for one of my CPs.
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
NK Traver:
From the hip. I've tried outlining before, but inevitably something always changes.
QT: How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
NK Traver:
This particular book went through one month of querying before I pulled back and rewrote my first chapter. I then got several requests from two online contests, so in total, I would say DUPLICITY was in the trenches for about two months. My first novel was out for ten months before I moved on, and my whole journey to this point has been about two and a half years.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
NK Traver:
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
NK Traver:
I always Googled an agent before I sent a query. I made sure they were from legitimate agencies, that the agency had bestsellers under its belt, and that there was nothing on Writers Beware about the agency or the agent. If it was an agent with a few years of experience, I checked out his/her clients. Were their books still available on Amazon? How were they doing? What houses published them? I also checked Twitter accounts, Publisher's Marketplace pages, online interviews, and blogs to get a sense of the agent's personality.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
NK Traver:
Yes. I kept it short--just a sentence or two about something I liked on the agent's blog, or a book he/she repped that I loved, or something I read in an interview that I thought made them a good match for my book.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
NK Traver:
Join Twitter immediately. Network with other querying writers, follow agents you admire, follow authors you love. Enter contests, lose contests (I lost 8 before I won), find critique partners whose work you can't get enough of. Attend a local writing conference. And no matter what happens, keep going.