Wendy Sand Eckel is a licensed social worker who self-published her first book about helping her dyslexic daughter learn to read and write. That experience convinced her that she wanted to be published the traditional way.
Her debut traditionally-published novel, named Killer on the Wall until she and her editor agree on a new name, will be published by Thomas Dunne Books in 2015.
“I’ve Written quite a few books,” Wendy said. “I started this one five years ago. It’s gone through many transformations. When I finished it, I went to conferences and got second place in a mystery writing contest. I thought it was in really good shape. Then I went to a conference with Nichael Neff.”
As creator and director of Algonkian Writer Conferences and the New York Pitch Conference, as well as other Algonkian events, Michael Neff, along with critique groups, ushered Wendy through a few edits and into an agent contract with story merchant Ken Atchity. He recommended more edits, which eventually led to a publishing contract—and more edits.
When Wendy pitched to Michael and others at the conference, they agreed that she needed more of a hook. Michael helped her decide on a social media connection. “The Wall” portion of her book title refers to the friends in her cozy mystery who help solve a murder by posting on the protagonists Facebook wall. That was the hook that intrigued her agent.
“The hook has come full circle with this book,” Wendy said. “When I first wrote it, I thought the hook was the unique setting, that the protagonist had just left her husband because he had an affair, she’s distraught and starts to cook, bake, and selling her bread.”
Once Ken helped Wendy land a publisher, a new round of edits began. While the publisher’s editor liked the social media theme, she advised against using it as the main hook because cozy readers like cooking themes. So the published book will have both, and cooking will trump social media.
Thanks to her lengthy learning process, Wendy recommends the following if you want to write a commercially-viable manuscript.
- A strong protagonist and antagonist—she stressed the importance of both that relationship and the arc that both go through during the story
- A really good setting
- A lot of action
- A good balance between description, action, movement
- Readers need to be able to see, taste, hear, feel and smell what’s going on
- Stage it to enrich the scene—the character’s movements, lighting, time of day
She also recommends that you:
- Never give up;
- Take the advice of professionals without getting defensive or protective;
- Allow yourself to write badly—even if you don’t feel it, sit down and write to avoid getting rusty; edit later when the creative juices are flowing;
- Find joy in everyday life by staying positive and focusing on relationships rather than things that don’t matter.
You can connect with Wendy through Facebook.