We’re back with another Pitch Wars Success Story! Please join us in congratulating and celebrating Eagan Daniels and her mentor, Michelle Hazen! Eagan signed with Jana Hansen at Metamorphosis Literary Agency. We’re thrilled for all involved!
Eagan, what’s your favorite writing tip or trick you learned from your mentor?
There are so many! But the one that I’m probably leaning on the hardest now that I’m working on my next book is this: if it doesn’t move the plot forward, you can’t keep it. I had so many scenes that I was in love with because I thought they were funny, or hot, or cute … but they weren’t DOING anything. Now when I’m writing I ask myself what each scene is doing. If the answer is “oh, just being cute,” it’s gotta go.
Tell us about the revision process during Pitch Wars.
It was intense. I did probably an 85% rewrite. My MS needed a LOT of work, but I got lucky in that Michelle believed that I could do it and that it was worth it. I think one of her best tactics was to lead me through it gently. If she’d greeted me with “I think this can be done but you need to learn how to plot, and you need to learn what stakes are, and you need to rethink the way you’ve structured all of it,” I would have been so daunted. But she’s great at focusing on just a couple things at a time, and using enough positive reinforcement that I (almost) always believed I’d be able to do it. And then when I DID do it, and ended up with a manuscript I’m so happy with, it totally changed what I believe about myself as a writer.
Please tell us about The Call. We’d love as many juicy details as you’d like to share (e.g. how they contacted you, how you responded, celebrations, emotions, how long you had to wait, anything you’d like to share)!
When Jana let me know that she wanted to talk to me about my manuscript, I tried REALLY HARD not to get ahead of myself. I knew there was a good chance it would be an R&R, and I didn’t want to get my hopes up. When we talked, she opened by telling me what she loved about my book, and what her vision would be for some minor revisions. Then she gave me her background, and then at the end of it said the words I’d dreamed of hearing: “I’d like to offer you representation.” We talked details, nudging agents who still had material, etc, and then I hung up the phone and burst into tears. I liked all her answers to my questions, I loved her vision for my book, I just generally liked her, and I couldn’t really get over the fact that this was happening for me. I STILL can’t get over it.
How do you feel Pitch Wars helped with your success?
I know for a fact I wouldn’t be with an agent yet if not for Pitch Wars. My book needed a lot of work. And as it turns out, I wasn’t even querying it right! I’d been querying it as a romance, but Michelle let me know right away that it’s NOT. It doesn’t follow the romance novel rules. It’s definitely women’s fiction. Through Michelle and Pitch Wars, I learned a lot about the craft of writing and the business of publishing. I knew a little about writing, but I didn’t know anything about publishing. The PW process helped get me to the point of having a polished MS that I’m in love with, and it also helped with the “other” stuff, like the pitch, the query, the synopsis … the whole package. I feel like it would have taken me YEARS to get this far without PW, if it had happened at all.
And most important of all – the community and the friendships. I never had writer friends before. This is a totally different world now and I love it so much.
Do you have advice for people thinking about entering Pitch Wars?
Yep – do it!! Be prepared to work hard, and to shed a few tears. Or a lot of tears. But you’ll learn so much, and you’ll build a network of friends that will cry with you, encourage you, celebrate with you … I can honestly say that it changed my life.
Michelle, tell us about your experience mentoring your mentee.
Basically it was like if an enormously hot guy with a manbun and a six pack baked me a cake, and then cleaned my house.
It was just that satisfying, and just that easy. Eagan is an incredibly endearing person, and thus she creates terrifically charming and lovable characters, so that makes all the reading time easy. As for the mentoring time, she was so enthusiastic and energized about making changes, and so self-disciplined about meeting her deadlines, that my side of things felt effortless. I was definitely inspired to push every skill I had the extra mile for her manuscript because she was so eager to learn and grow.
We’d love to hear about something amazing your mentee did during Pitch Wars.
Eagan basically wrote me a whole new book, with the same characters and an all-new plot, in four months flat while working full time. I still can’t quite figure out how she managed it.
Fun fact! I had 2 mentees last year: Taylor Koleber, who I co-mentored with Katie Golding, and Eagan Daniels, who I stole for myself. And they were BOTH signed by the same agent! The agent had no idea they knew each other or that they’d both been mentored by me. She just has great taste, I firmly maintain.
How can mentee hopefuls prepare themselves for Pitch Wars?
Take the period between the submission window and when mentees are chosen to REST. If you are picked, you’re about to be revising your eyeballs out and you want to start fresh. If you aren’t picked, you still deserve a rest because you just polished your manuscript like crazy. A big part of figuring out how to last in writing isn’t just figuring out how to work harder, it’s learning the most effective ways to rejuvenate yourself.
Let’s hear from agent, Jana Hansen.
Jana, what drew you to Eagan’s manuscript?
I was drawn initially by Eagan’s #PitMad pitch. Once I started reading, however, I found Willa’s voice to be funny, pithy, and honest. And the shenanigans when she meets Jimmy and the rest of Corporate pulled me right along until “The End.”
How about some fun questions for Eagan and Michelle.
You only have two hours to finish some edits. Where do you go for quiet time?
Eagan: Usually up to my room, unless the pets and kids are too distracting (I only have two kids, but I have a LOT of pets). If I can’t concentrate at home, I’ll escape to the library or coffee shop.
Michelle: Lots of times in the summer I’ll haul my solar battery down to this park with big, old trees and write by the river. Sometimes I get to watch the river bank minks fight, which is a terrifically good distraction.
What author would you like to spend the day with? What would you do with them?
Eagan: Charles Dickens, if he wasn’t dead. Probably I’d mostly just play with his hair. He had some seriously crazy hair, and I don’t think he was very good at relaxing. I probably could have helped him out. But then again, maybe he wouldn’t have been as prolific if he’d had any ability to chill. So it’s all probably working out for the best.
Michelle: Tiffany Reisz. I would just make her margaritas and get her to go on rants about things. It would be hilarious.
What fictional character would you most like to meet? Why?
Eagan: I think I have to say Jane Eyre because I think she’s so fascinating. But she’s so uncompromising. It’s admirable, but I bet she wouldn’t really be that fun to hang out with. Can you picture her drunk? Or even picture her laughing? Me, Charles Dickens, Jane Eyre at a party where we all get drunk and play with each other’s hair. I’m feeling a new book idea coming on …
Michelle: Carol from The Walking Dead. She could teach me to blow up bad guys with propane tanks, and make great cookies out of beets.
If you could only be in one fandom, which would you choose?
Eagan: I think I have to say X-Files. That means I get some special alone time with Skinner, right? Yeah, definitely X-Files. But it’d be hard to pick just one. I’m not really good at casually liking a thing. Usually I either loathe it and wish it never existed, or I love it in a really aggressive, weird way.
Michelle: The Walking Dead. You’ve got horses, you’ve got friendship and bromance and badassery and creative weaponry and fantastic fight scenes made meaningful by deep emotional connection to the characters. And as if that’s not enough, there’s Daryl and Carol.
What inspired you to start writing?
Eagan: I don’t have the ability to turn off my daydream mode. Writing gives me a respectable reason to wallow in it.
Michelle: For me, inspiration comes in little scraps of images, like gifs. And it draws my curiosity until I can’t help but make up a story to piece all those little mini-movies together into a larger story, making meaning out of chaos.
Share with us your writing process (e.g., routines, tools you use, time of day you write, go to inspiration, etc.).
Eagan: I work full time, and I have kids. When I wrote COMING INTO FOCUS, I was also a grad student. So I write … whenever I can make it work. Lunch break at work. On my phone waiting to pick the kids up from school. Weekends. Evenings if I have any energy left. I use Scrivener. I’m fueled by jelly beans. I have fingerless gloves I wear when I need to feel especially fancy – a friend got them for me and they have text from JANE EYRE on them.
Michelle: I can only answer this question by illustrating a very specific moment. It’s the moment when I’m snuggled in next to my husband, on our deliciously comfortable couch, re-watching The Office.
That’s the moment in my day when I know whatever I say, it will be welcomed, and respected, and loved. And that’s the mindset I try to immerse myself in at my desk, because that’s when I do my very best writing.
Eagan Daniels has a Master’s degree in English, and a Bachelor’s in Photography. If there were such a thing as an advanced degree in fangirling, she would certainly have earned that, as well. Her interests include sports photography, live music, literature, and male musicians who wear eyeliner. She lives in Michigan with her husband and two children.
Michelle Hazen is a nomad with a writing problem. Years ago, she and her husband ducked out of the 9 to 5 world and moved into their truck. She found her voice with the support of the online fanfiction community, and once she started typing, she never looked back.
She has written most of her books in odd places, including a bus in Thailand, an off-the-grid cabin in the Sawtooth Mountains, a golf cart in a sandstorm, a rental car during a heat wave in the Mohave Desert and a beach in Honduras. Even when she’s climbing rocks, riding horses, or getting lost someplace wild and beautiful, there are stories spooling out inside her head, until she finally heeds their call and returns to her laptop and solar panels.