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

Success Story Interview - SD Stanley

An Interview with SD Stanley (saddleridge7 on QT) upon receiving an offer of representation from agent Liza Fleissig of Liza Royce Agency, LLC.


QT: Can you tell us a little bit about the book for which you've found representation? What inspired you to write it?
SD Stanley:
The book is a YA mystery with a slight paranormal element. I wanted to write a ghost story. I hadn't covered ghosts before and I thought it might be interesting. In the end, it turned into a contemporary, but I loved the way the possibility of a ghost complicated the situation for my characters.
QT: How long have you been writing?
SD Stanley:
Forever, but I completed my first novel in 2008.
QT: How long have you been working on this book?
SD Stanley:
I started this book in January of 2013 and finished the principal writing in May. I used the summer for beta reads and edits and began querying in September.
QT: Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
SD Stanley:
Yes. The rejections on full requests, especially when they were impersonal form rejections, were the hardest for me. I worked so hard to create a query letter that would get a positive response and then they didn't like the book. I began to wonder if I was good enough or if I just needed to write as a hobby and let the rest go.

Whenever I got really discouraged I worked on something new to take my focus of the project I was querying. Nothing keeps me moving like getting excited about new characters and a new story.
QT: Is this your first book?
SD Stanley:
No. The book that finally garnered the agent is my seventh. The fourth that I queried.
QT: Do you have any formal writing training?
SD Stanley:
No. I went to a few conferences, participated in a critique group, and joined a few writing organizations to learn as much as I could. I also read in my genre like crazy.
QT: Do you follow a writing routine or schedule?
SD Stanley:
No schedule. Single mom, three kids. I wrote when I could, often in the middle of the night.
QT: How many times did you re-write/edit your book?
SD Stanley:
I edit from a hard copy after I have done everything I can on the computer. It helps me to actually see it on paper. I also read aloud. I have six printed copies of the manuscript with edits so at least six revisions, the first couple taking the original manuscript from 80,000 words to 90,000 filling in plot holes.
QT: Did you have beta readers for your book?
SD Stanley:
QT: Did you outline your book, or do you write from the hip?
SD Stanley:
I write from the hip, but I do take notes as I go so I can keep characters and plot points in order. I also skip around, writing important scenes and filling in the blanks in between.
QT: About how many query letters did you send out for this book?
SD Stanley:
I sent a whopping 80 queries. Having queried before, I knew I would be lucky (really lucky) to get a couple of requests for more material.
QT: On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
SD Stanley:
I looked for agents who represented authors I like and then utilized the different data bases on Querytracker. I always checked websites and Predators and Editors to make sure they had a good reputation.
QT: Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
SD Stanley:
For this novel I didn't. I wrote a killer marketing piece and left it at that. I'm not a published author and I don't have a background that would make an agent look more closely at my work. I had to create something that stood up on its own. I spent hours going through the query letters on Queryshark and other blogs to see what was truly effective and why.
QT: What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
SD Stanley:
Keep going. If you don't get a positive response, write something new. I didn't hang on to any project, I kept writing. Each book was better than the last. I always figured when I succeeded I could go back to my earlier projects.
QT: Would you be willing to share your query with us?
SD Stanley:
Here is a copy of my query letter:

Query Letter:

Evan Wilson blows his head off on a frigid November night in the woods behind Olivia Novak's Madison, Wisconsin home. The sound of the shotgun blast tears her from a deep sleep. Her father, an emergency room physician, tries to save him. His friends are shocked. His family is devastated. Olivia is confused. He appeared so confident, so strong, so…perfect.

At Evan's memorial service Olivia is compelled to reach out to his best friend Brad Johnson. Brad responds, moving her in a direction she never expected—right into his life.

Brad is haunted by Evan's death, suffering panic attacks and convinced Evan didn't kill himself. Despite his powerful angst, Brad is charming and witty. When he asks Olivia to Winter Formal she goes, completely enamored, but their bliss is short lived.

The first text is a compromising picture of Olivia taken through a window. It goes out school wide the day after Brad's tires are slashed. The second is of Brad, photographed at a party in a less than ideal situation. Soon, the pictures are accompanied by words.

Stay. Away. From. Her. And. I. Will. Stop.

The photographs spread through town, the threats become more violent, and Brad and Olivia are driven apart by the anonymous assailant. One thing is clear, the stalker knows them. He seems to be everywhere they are. As suspicion grows and the police try to identify the person responsible, the mystery around Evan, Brad, and their friends deepens.

With each secret that is revealed, Olivia is pushed deeper into a dark place of mistrust and fear. Struggling to piece together the truth about Evan and Brad, she races to expose the person who is stalking her before it is too late.

GREAT GRAY is a 90,000 word Young Adult mystery anchored in real life with paranormal overtones.