This week: How To Get An AgentEdited by: LJPC - the tortoise
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“Ambition is the path to success. Persistence is the vehicle you arrive in.”
~ Bill Bradley
“Commitment is an act, not a word.”
~ Jean-Paul Sartre
“You always have two choices: your commitment versus your fear.”
~ Sammy Davis, Jr.
How To Get An Agent
Do you want an agent?
I see a number of you nodding your heads.
Getting an agent isn't the huge mystery some think it is. Yes, plain old luck -- being in the right place at the right time with the right manuscript -- can account for about 40% of your chances. However, most of it comes down to one thing.
Learn Your Craft.
About 6 years ago, I joined WDC and found a group called “Let’s Publish!” We wrote short stories, received feedback, and polished the stories until they sold to e-zines and print anthologies. Then we started writing novels. From the original group, some people have come and gone, but about 4 of us have remained all this time -- and 3 of us got agents. Yes, that's 3 out of 4. Coincidence? I doubt it.
Here's how we did it.
When “Let’s Publish!” sadly closed, we started another private forum and invited a few friends. Anytime one of us found a great article on writing craft, we'd run back to the forum and post it so others could read it. When we found writing or first page competitions that offered agent feedback, like Miss Snark's First Victim , we shared the info, joined the contests, and discussed the agent feedback we and the other contestants received.
If one of us took a class from a successful author or professional editor, she'd rush back to the group and share all she'd learned.
We picked apart each other’s work. We didn't get defensive or angry or have hurt feelings. We said "Thank you," took good suggestions, and worked hard to improve our writing skills.
We began to improve. A lot.
We began to win or semi-final in competitions (like ABNA or Writers Conferences). We queried and got a few full requests. We commiserated on our rejections and learned from them. Then we wrote new novels and got a lot more full requests. Then we wrote even more novels until -- suddenly -- instead of a rejection, we each got an OFFER!
And There was Much Rejoicing!
Some of you may think:
I don't have time to commit to a writing group.
I can't find a group I like.
The groups I find don't write in my genre.
I can't afford to buy expensive craft books.
I don't have time to go searching for articles on writing craft.
I want people who're *nice* about my work -- it's my heart and soul after all...
You have more options than you think.
Sometimes my group goes into hibernation when we're busy with life or writing new projects. But we eventually come back together and share critiques. We are busy people, but we are committed. And whereas local writing groups obligate you to set aside time to go to meetings, online groups just need 15 minutes for a check-in – any free 15 minutes you can spare.
Just as reading books is important, so is reading articles on craft. You don't have to buy expensive books. There are plenty of excellent online articles that are free.
You don't need to have others writing exactly your genre. Of the three of us who got agents, one writes Paranormal Romance, one writes YA Contemp, and I write Horror (and others in our group write everything from literary to epic fantasy). The genres are different but almost all the techniques of good writing are the same.
Be aware of agent judged competitions (like Miss Snark's First Victim , Pitch Wars and SC Write Query Contest -- all free to enter and going on now), and read the feedback other readers and agents give. Agent feedback is gold. They rarely give it because they don't have time. Soak up as much as you can.
If you want *nice* feedback, give your manuscript to your mother. If you want to get an agent, find critique partners who know their stuff.
You don't want an agent? You're going to self-publish as an indie? Fine.
You Still Need to Learn Craft!!
(If I sound unhappy, it's because I get disappointed when I pick up a book from an acquaintance on FB or wherever who has begged, "Please, please read my book," and I find things like info dumps, POV head-hopping, cliches, and no understanding of "Show Don't Tell" or basic writing craft. It's like they don't respect their readers enough to make a serious effort.)
To help you out, here are some excellent articles on craft:
Activate Your Story by Agent Jill Corcoran -- on how to make sure you’re starting your story in the right place on Agent Jill Corcoran’s blog.
How to Open Your Story Three Dynamic Ways by Dr. John Yeoman -- on how to write openings that will make the reader keep turning pages on the Writer’s Village Wicked Blog.
Turkey City Lexicon from the Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America (SFWA) -- their list of writing "don’ts," ways not to write a story, or things they've seen too much of. (This is a great article and very funny too!)
Strange Horizons: Horror Stories We've Seen Too Often – the “don’ts” of Horror writing and what they’re tired of receiving.
Writing Fix: Reinvent Your Story by Linda S. Clare – on how to take a trunked novel or story and breathe new life into it on the Linda S. Clare blog.
Write Better: The 7 Qualities of High-Concept Stories by Jeff Lyons – on how to make sure your story premise is high concept and stands out from the crowd at Writer’s Digest blog.
Finding the Right Door to Enter Your Story by P.J. Parrish – on how to write the crucial beginning chapters to your novel at the Kill Zone blog.
10 Errors to Avoid When Writing About Guns by Benjamin Sobieck – on how to write the correct details if your characters are using guns or rifles on Jane Friedman’s blog.
Skeletons in Her Closet – The Forensics of Skeletons by Fiona Quinn – on how to correctly describe skeletonized remains at the Thrill Writing blog
Until next time: Let the horror bleed onto the pages with every word!
Here are some spooky stories for your reading pleasure!
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To my delight, some writers took the time to comment on my last newsletter: "Similes - Are Yours Good or Bad?" Thank you!
Comments listed in the order they were received.
Phoenix writes: Love the teen writer similes! Too funny.
Those were a riot, weren’t they?
Vampyr14 writes: Love those school kids' similes! They made em laugh.
I can just picture the kids smirking to themselves when writing these and knowing that they were going to crack everyone up—even the teacher!
Tina's TEN YR Anniv writes: Funny you wrote this NL. I just read from a writing book about comparrisons. Describe entering into a stadium. "The people were crushed togther like Jews sent to a concentration camp. The smell of the place was like the caranval that came to town each year. When I heard the roar of the crowd, I though of how an baggage handler works loading a plane when others are takeing off and landing. Anyone reading this woud know exactly what I was describing. Using familiar smells,sounds and sights of one place brings the reader into the moment.
You got the point exactly! Thanks so much for replying to the newsletter.
Julie writes: The bad simile newsletter had me dying laughing!
Me too! The similes from the kids are hilarious! Thanks for commenting on the newsletter.
Danger Mouse writes: Thanks for the excellent newsletter. Sometimes my similes don't work, like breakfast after a night of heavy drinking they come up at the worst moment.
Hmmm... what a wonderful opportunity.
"Always in shade from the moon and the parking lot lights, this furtive human was as invisible as a mouse."
Good or bad?
I think it’s great! Everyone knows how sneaky and silent mice can be, so comparing a human to one gives him these traits and conjures up the style of his movements perfectly. Well done!
Taniuska writes: Similes can be so much fun... you create the best and more original ones in your stories:)
If I do, it’s only because I’ve re-written and changed them a hundred times to try to make them work!
W.D.Wilcox writes: Similes make me Smile
That’s great! Those kids really had some ridiculously silly ones, didn’t they? Thanks for replying to the newsletter, Will!
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