If you’ve been toiling away on a manuscript and getting no where with agents, then what are you doing wrong? I know, I know…I ask this at least once a day. Bet you do, too.
The thing is this: so many writers are too concerned with the end result [a published book] than they are with the act of writing. Sure, we all want to ‘have written,’ but it’s the ‘writing’ that gets us there. In the meantime, do your very best writing each and every day. Sure, it takes dogged determination and a thick skin, but it’s what gets you from point A to point B. [Hint: Butt in chair].
I’ve been doing some research on literary agents, reading interviews, scouring their websites and here are a few things I’ve learned:
- Agents want writing [a story/book] that is: effortless, authentic, surprising, engaging, balanced, and unique. Sounds like a lot of criteria, huh? Can you honestly say that your manuscript includes some element of those qualities? If not, maybe it’s time to re-energize it. If you want, go ahead and jot those word down and post them near your work area to keep you focused.
- Some signs you’re getting closer to publication: 1) You start receiving perosnalized and “encouraging” rejections.
- 2) Agents/editors reject your submitted manuscript, but ask you to send your next work. They see you are on to something…good things are around the corner.
- 3) Your mentor (or published author friend) tells you to contact her agent without you asking for a referral.
- 4) An agent or editor proactively contacts you because she spotted your work somewhere on-line or in print.
- 5) You’ve outgrown your critique group and need to find more sophisticated critque partners.
- 6) Looking back, you see why your earlier work was rejected–and probably deserved to be. You might even feel embarrassed by it. [points 1-6 from Writer’s Digest July/August 2011]
The question is this: Can you identify with any of those points? Are you nodding your head at the good, the bad, the ugly? If so, you may be getting closer to publication.
The recipe for success: Not that I have all of the answers, heck–I’m still slogging through myself. BUT here are a few tips I’ve gleaned along the way:
- Put your butt in the chair. Committ to writing for a designated amount of time. Fortuantely, inspiration happens for me at 9am every day. Not really. But my butt goes to the chair then. I stare at the blinking cursor for at least four hours. Some days, I write better than others.
- If four hours is too much for you, start small. 15 minutes? I bet you’ll end up doing more.
- Read great books. Really great books. Don’t mess around with writing that doesn’t challenge or enthrall you. It’s teaching you nothing.
- But don’t slog off a bad book. The author makes it look easy–but could you do it? Then identify why you felt it was a ‘bad’ book. Too much this? Too little that? Think about how you would have done it differently?
- If you don’t write that day, do something else literary-related. Go to book discussion group. Critique group. Browse the library. Talk to a bookseller. Really talk to a bookseller (they are the ones that keep us writers in business). Purchase a book you’re excited about (what draws you to it?). Reserach possible agents (hint: only if you have a completed manuscript–if you don’t have one yet, you’re wasting time). Read a book about writing. Dash off a scene idea. Do a character sketch. Plot out your main story points.
So, what are you waiting for?! Write On,
- March 5th interview with best selling author Holly Peterson about success, early morning writing, and her new book, THE IDEA OF HIM (William Morrow, April 1)
- March 12th (or possibly 19th) interview with debut crime/thriller author Elizabeth Heiter and HUNTED
- Leslie’s storyboard ideas