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An Interview with Scott Tracey upon receiving an offer of representation.

Scott Tracey (Legionsynch on QT) has signed with agent Colleen Lindsay of .

How long have you been writing?
If you want to get technical, I started writing before I was even in kindergarten. I used to write newspaper articles about my grandmother. Then I wrote my illustrated autobiography when I was around seven or eight. I still have it – some days, I think it's some of my best work.

I started a draft of what became my first novel in high school, but I didn't seriously start writing until a little less than a year ago. In that time, I wrote two novels. The first one didn't go anywhere, but it taught me quite a bit about not only writing, but about the publishing business.

Was there ever a time you felt like giving up, and what helped you to stay on course?
Uhm, about three weeks ago? While I had a lot of requests for more material off of my queries, the responses I were getting back were generally positive, but the agents weren't falling in love with my work. It actually took my best friend, and a couple friends I made through, to beat into my head that I wanted to give up too early. That support system helped tremendously.
How long have you been working on this book?
I started writing in September of last year and finished in January. Along the way, I went through a few drafts, but I was finally comfortable with it in January.
Do you have any formal writing training?
I don't.
Do you follow a writing "routine" or schedule?
What I've found that works for me is to put myself on a deadline. So when I'm in that first draft stage, I give myself a target word count for every day, and figure out what my projected end date will be. If I get more words for the day then I needed, then I wait a week or two, and look at revising that end date.

Since I work full time, and my job can call for some very creative hours, I just try my best to write when I can. I'll write first thing in the morning, mid afternoon, or after midnight if I have to. If I can sit in front of the computer for two hours, then I'm going to at least make the effort to get some words in. I've found that knowing I'm running out of time before work is a huge motivator in getting some writing done.

How many times did you re-write/edit your novel?
I think I've gone through five drafts. Originally, the story was in third person. When I realized it wasn't working, I went back and did the first five pages in first person, and then showed them to my roommate. She immediately told me that I'd nailed the voice, and she loved it. After that revision, I went through a couple of my own revisions, and then beta-reader inspired changes.
Did you have beta readers for your novel?
I do. I have a group of about four very solid, very awesome beta readers – half of whom I met on Querytracker's forums.
Did you outline your novel, or do you write from the hip?
I don't outline in a traditional sense. Usually, I have a good idea of what happens up until a point in the story, and I'll keep writing until I get to that point. Then hopefully the next 'segment' of the book will reveal itself, and I'll know my next destination. I usually go into it knowing a few events along the way, but most of the story shapes itself as I write.
How long have you been querying for this book? Other books?
I queried my first novel for about four months in the middle of last year. With WITCH EYES, I started querying near the end of February, and I had an offer at the end of March.
On what criteria did you select the agents you queried?
About a month or two into writing, I'd spend some of my downtime looking into agents, and researching their tastes. I'd make notes about who was accepting what, who had sold what (I bought a subscription to Publisher's Marketplace for a few months to help with this), and where I thought my book would fit best.

I also read a lot of blogs, of authors who were writing urban fantasy, and not only researched who their agents were, but their stories. There are a handful of agents out there that get a crazy amount of press from their authors. The authors think they're amazing, and aren't shy about sharing that. I knew I wanted that kind of agent – someone that I could really look back and think "man, they're amazing!"

Did you tailor each query to the specific agent, and if so, how?
I did for the ones I knew best. Those agents that had blogs, or were very open about the kinds of things they liked to see, or the kinds of stories they loved to read. I'd mention this in the opening paragraph of my query, right underneath my novel's stats. Of the queries I sent, I'd say I personalized about half of them.

If I didn't know enough about the agent, I didn't personalize the query.

What advice would you give other writers seeking agents?
Start your query letter early. It's your first (and sometimes only) chance to draw an agent's interest – the more time you put into it, the better off you are in the long run. There are numerous resources online that can help you learn the kinds of formatting agents are looking for. If you have beta readers, then let them read the query once you're happy with it. Keep rewriting, and get as much feedback as you can. This is one of the reasons I love QueryTracker – I posted about eight different drafts of the query letter for WITCH EYES, and every time, someone had helpful comments that allowed me to tighten it. I started writing the query letter in October, and started submitting in February, so it was time well spent.

Other than that, polish your manuscript. I made sure my first five pages were the strongest I could make them. I don't know if it worked or not, but whether it was the first 3, the first 5, or the first 50 pages, I tried to make sure I ended somewhere on a cliffhanger (so the agent would want more), or a really great line (so that would be the last thing they'd remember about my story).

Would you be willing to share your query with us?

Dear Agent,

I am seeking representation for my YA urban fantasy novel, WITCH EYES (90,000 words). [[Personal reason for querying here.]] The novel follows Braden, a seventeen-year-old navigating sexual identity in a tale of magic, manipulation, and mean girls.

Braden is the only guy he knows that wears his sunglasses at night. He sees the world as it truly is – a bright and alien encyclopedia full of memories, pain, and darkness. Though this vision makes him a formidable witch who can unravel spells with a glance, see through lies, and occasionally glimpse the past, it's a gift tempered with pain and powerful migraines that worsen the longer he gives into them.

Hoping for a fresh start, Braden is lured to Springfield but finds trouble instead. A supernatural feud involving rival witch families divides the town, and each side hopes to use him to achieve a final, vicious victory. As the battle lines are drawn, his new friends are on opposite sides of the conflict, the guy he's fallen for is becoming his enemy, and tensions in town are escalating. If Braden can avoid becoming a sacrificial pawn, he might learn why he was born with the witch eyes, how to stop the feud, and find the normal life he was looking for.

I believe that Braden's struggle will appeal to fans of Perry Moore's Hero, as well as fans of Scott Westerfeld's Midnighters series.

If you would like to consider WITCH EYES, I'll happily forward the manuscript to you at your request. An outline for a potential sequel is also available.