As a high school forensic science teacher, Pamela Ruth Meyer discovered inventive ways to solve crimes and was inspired to write mysteries. She is a member of Mystery Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, Romance Writers of America, and the Historical Novel Society. Her debut manuscript was a Page Turner Writing Award 2022 Finalist.
Pamela’s Pitch: Kate Belli’s Gilded Gotham Mysteries meets Bones in this turn-of-the-century love story wrapped in a historical mystery intricately solved by a woman who would one day change the face of forensics for all time.
Journey to Finding an Agent
One day I read about an art exhibition featuring the creations of a woman who’d helped shape forensic science. Poof, the idea for a historical mystery materialized. I dreamed it and spoke it to anyone who’d listen. It was with me when bike riding or showering. And I wrote it—had my first draft. Exhilarating.
I thought I was done. I signed up for a Writer’s Digest (WD) Querying Workshop with an agent I was sure would love my story. She requested the full manuscript, provided I fulfilled the romance genre’s major requirement—change the ending to a happy one. Challenged but hungry, I took to the keyboard. Months later, I had draft #2. Unfortunately, the agent had run into trouble, and most of her staff had quit. I never heard back from her.
If you fall off the horse, you get back on, right? Enter WD Querying Workshop 2. I read the agent’s reply, heart pounding. POV? Head-hopping? I’d never heard of these things. The very skeleton of my story would need to change—the revelation was bone-crushing. A year later, I had a story told from five distinct POVs. Next step … pitch the manuscript at the 2020 WD Annual Conference. I signed up, hefty price tag and all. But then Covid punched. I was to make a video of my pitch for agents to watch remotely. It must’ve been pretty good because 7 out of 8 agents requested submissions. Surely at least one would love it and offer representation.
Alas, no. But their rejections gave helpful tidbits about the manuscript’s weaknesses along with spoonfuls of encouragement. Now with actionable feedback, I could fix it. Novel-writing classes, conferences, workshops, and contests followed—an enthralling and enlightening process that helped me realize how very far I’d yet to go on the journey to publication. Humbled and aware, I figured out something important—I needed a professional editor. Said editor recommended using fewer POVs and taking out the multi-chaptered thread that had been the original spark of the idea to write the story in the first place. Devasted, I cried for days. But I tell you now, not even for an instant did I consider giving up. I bucked up and tore down what I’d built to make room for what would become. My story got better. With it, I entered the query pit in full force.
Out of 60 agents, only a few had requested pages. Slap. Pow. Bam. Crickets and crickets and crickets. That was the moment I could have given up. Of course, I did the opposite. I paid the largest fee to date and struggled through the month-long lessons of the Algonkian New York Pitch Conference. Slowly, it seeped in. My story needed something a gazillion other mystery stories didn’t have—a unique selling point. The facilitating agent’s personalized and razor-sharp insights made that blatantly clear. Weaving that necessary thread into my plot would take serious mental gymnastics. But I’ll tell you I’d already learned the most important thing I think a writer can learn—trust your subconscious to deliver an answer. Solutions came. Words came. Write, write, write, I did. Now, I thought, I have a story they’ll want.
2022 WD Annual Conference. This would be my first live pitch. The line extended the entire hotel-length hallway. Inside, I’d spend the precious hour waiting in an agent’s line until I reached the front. Then, 90 seconds to pitch and 90 seconds for feedback, including submission instructions. Then repeat. I’d done my research and ranked agents in order of most likely to want my story.
An announcement. My #4 and #5 agents didn’t come. Darn. The doors opened. I dashed to agent #1. She requested a submission. Next line… Time was called, and home I went, four requests in my pocket. Surely, one of these will love it.
The next day WD sent a link to query the absent agents. I did. A week later, my agent #1 responded. She’d found my writing “pedestrian.” My tears from this experience filled buckets. With none of the other agents requesting more, I turned to rewrite #6. My subconscious brain started niggling me about my story’s ending not fitting with my characters. As fate would have it, it’d take months of mulling it over.
Before the final ending took shape, agent #5, who’d been absent the day of the Pitch-Slam, requested the full manuscript. She’d be abroad, so I shouldn’t hear back from her until a given date, at which time I was to ‘rattle her cage.’ Two days after that date, I did just that. Then I went out to buy a lottery ticket—the prize a staggering billion dollars.
Fifteen minutes later, while standing in line, my phone pinged. It was her! I’ll trade the billion dollars for her. ‘Yes,’ I pleaded to the sky. Expensive, no doubt, but I swear to you that was the best deal I’ve ever made. She loved my story. Further, she knew and loved my characters almost as much as I did. Elation… I have an agent! Her only concern had been the ending. Lucky me, I had changed it. We’re now awaiting word from several editors, leaving me with an interesting mix of agony and euphoria up here in the clouds. I promise to let you know what happens next along our path to finding my story’s forever home. Until then, wish me luck.
Blogger Intrusion: Check out the fantastic miniature Pam sent me: