A lot of questions will be manuscript-specific, of course, but here are some questions I've been asked and what I've learned from them:
- What is your writing process like? I think the editor was feeling out how experienced I was as a writer. Not that either plotting or pantsing puts you ahead of others, but mentioning outlining, research, critique partners, a writing group, trunk novels, and extensive revising shows that you're investing in your career as a writer. I learned . . .that editors want to work with a writer who treats writing like a job, not a hobby.
- What have you learned at the conference? I enjoyed and appreciated this question. The editor seemed sincerely interested--she said that while she enjoyed meeting writers one-on-one, she missed attending classes--and we had a great chat about an interesting class on story structure I'd just attended. I learned . . . that listening to pitches all day was probably quite wearying!
- Have you thought about writing this as a romance novel instead? Well, since it was a middle-grade adventure novel, no. No, I had not. I learned . . . not every agent is a good fit for me.
- What books would you compare your manuscript to? Everyone asks this. Sadly, titles and authors fly out of my head when I'm on the spot! I like to compare a couple different aspects of my manuscript to published books--for example, the plot is similar to Code Name, Verity but the tone is like Ally Carter's Heist Society books. Or the pacing is like The DaVinci Code but the setting is Gone with the Wind. Or the tragic love story is very The Fault in Our Stars but the voice is Edgar Allen Poe. (These comparisons are getting worse and worse.) I learned . . . that it is way fun to talk books with other book-lovers. And that it's important to know where your manuscript fits in the marketplace.
- What TV show or movie would you compare your manuscript to? This one was hard to answer, because I pick TV shows based on what's funny for laundry-folding time. I learned . . . that this editor and I watched none of the same movies and shows.
- How much of the plot is romance? This editor specialized in romances, so she wanted to know whether the love interest was a side plot or a major player. I learned . . . that I probably wouldn't thrive writing romance, since my favorite books have side-plot romances.
- Is your plot big enough for me? This was an odd question, and not one she really wanted answered--it was a springboard for her thoughts. But I'm so glad she asked it! It's stuck with me as I've plotted other manuscripts. I think about it a lot. I learned . . .stakes can be raised so much higher than I sometimes envision originally.