Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Either Agents are Liars or You Are Not Ready

Okay, so maybe "liar" is a strong word. Exaggerators? Maybe.

As you know, I am editing my novel which is going well, but definitely more work than I thought. (I forgot that I attempted to use Dragon Naturally Speaking to write a few chapters. They will have to be completely re-written.) And it's kind of boring. I don't like it. So, in order to keep my spirits up, I allow myself to research agents after I finish a block of editing. It's like a reward. Yes, I find the research fun. It gets my hopes up and makes me feel like I am closer to realizing my dream.

Of course, part of that research entails finding out what the agents want to see and what they don't. I get the query letter. Having some business experience, I understand the reason for it and the need for it's brevity. I am comfortable with the format. It is, simply, a business letter. I get it. What I don't get, and honestly find hard to believe, is the number of reports by agents of receiving anything other than even a semi-professional letter. Every book, blog, and interview I have read talks about agents receiving queries on colored paper, hand-written queries, printed in crazy inks and fonts, and formatted in unusual ways. Even on things such as Post-It notes. They make out like they get them all of the time. Really? All the time? I can understand the occasional oddity, but on a consistent basis?

Either agents are exaggerating the number and frequency of these, or there are a lot of people who are just not ready to be professional writers.

Yes, I said you are not ready. If you send an agent anything other than a well-written, printed query then you are just. not. ready. Like I said, nearly EVERYTHING I have read about landing an agent warns against this, so even a half-assed search should stop you from sending your query on lime green paper, printed in purple ink, and sprayed with grandma's perfume. You wouldn't send out a resume or a legal document out that way. (I hope.)

 It's just hard for me to believe that we live in a world where "Mike the Situation" is one of the highest ranked Google searches, but you didn't even bother to Google "How to get an agent?" before you sent out your query? How did you even know where to send it? You must not have put that much effort into your research. Unless, you think the rules don't apply to you. Either way, you are not ready to write professionally. And if your not in it to be a professional, then why bother with an agent in the first place?

So, which one is it? Deep down I hope the agents are telling the truth. (It would cut my competition.) I am not an agent, though,  and don't have one to ask. This is just what I think. Any agent, or writer who had a query like that work for them, is welcome and encouraged to comment.

Friday, March 16, 2012

My First Guest Post

Okay, so, you remember the website I told you about? The one with all of the cool info on landing an agent and other writerly stuff? Yes, the one I won the 2012 Guide to Literary Agents from, The Agent Challenge.  (On it's way and will probably be in my grubby paws by the time you read this!) Well, I was perusing over there this morning and what do I find? ME. (Yay!) My first guest post! Go check it out, I'll wait. The Agent Challenge: Death by Editing.

Being my first time, I was understandably nervous. I stressed and second guessed myself the whole way, which come to think of it, is not really that unusual. It turned out to be a really cool experience, and I had fun. Deidre was gentle and the process was smooth. I did, however, send her the post with a title that was way too wordy, but we (okay, she) turned it around and it is now infinitely better. Lesson learned. Put more thought into your title. And since I am trying to come up with a title for my novel, it was a lesson learned at just the right time.

Serendipity. Again. If things keep going this way, I'll start to think there might be something to this "positive thinking" thing. Now, go.  Get back to work.  I've got a lot more editing to do.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cue The Pointer Sisters!

"I'm so excited and I just can't hide it..." Yes, I have actually been singing today. (Now, aren't you glad that I'm not a video blogger? )

I have had a very exciting weekend, and the near future is looking pretty good, too. First of all, I finished my novel. Well, the first draft, anyway. Now it's on to the editing phase which I am told may take twice the time it took to write it, but that's okay. One step at a time. After editing, we can move on to submission.

Second, Nancy Allen was kind enough to review my short story, Just Enough, on her blog The Avid Reader. The story is really out of her preferred genre, but she read and reviewed it anyway. In some ways, getting such a positive review holds a little more weight when it comes from a reader who prefers a different type of story. Wouldn't you agree? So, go check out her blog and read her review of my story, as well as reviews of other good books.

Finally, I was chosen as the winner of the monthly book drawing for the month of February at Deidre Havrelock's blog, The Agent Challenge, and will be receiving the 2012 Guide to Literary Agents. Deidre has an awesome blog that is chock full of great information about finding an agent. Needless to say, I will be visiting her blog extensively over the next few months. (Additional news regarding this great blog in a future post, so stay tuned!)

So, that's all for now.  I have a lot of work to do, and I'm sure that you do, too. And if you don't, well, the least you can do is try to look busy so that the rest of us don't feel so bad.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Confidence and Support

I spent several hours last night putting together my new desk and chair. (See it there in the picture? Cool, huh?) Most of the problems that I ran into were my own fault, as I misread the directions. Okay, okay, I didn't read the directions at all until I realized something was wrong. Turns out they put just enough screws in the box to build the thing and they are not interchangeable. But, I finally managed to put it together and lovingly set up all of my stuff. Finally, I have a place that is set aside strictly for writing. To anyone else, this desk is just a desk. Nothing fancy about it, but to me it is much, much more.

In the past, I would hunch over my little net book and bang away at the keys in whatever room of the house was free of children, which was not always possible to find. Now, I have a desk, a chair, and a special place just for me to write in. I'm not sure how I can explain to you how special this is, unless you are a writer, then you already know.

It's not just about comfort, although I am sure that my back will feel much better writing here instead of bent over a comp in my lap on the couch. More importantly it has built my confidence. Why, you ask? Because it let's me know that my wife supports my work. Sure, she tells me all the time what a great writer I am, but every writer's family tells them that.  By buying  me the desk and helping me carve out my "office" area, she has given me concrete evidence that lets me know just how much she supports my writing.

How can a desk do this? Simple. Her actions tell me and everyone else that what I do is important. Important enough to warrant spending money  and rearranging our home. She could have gone on telling me that I was good enough and I would have gone on believing her (until the "I'm no good, this is all shit" feeling crept back up), but she showed me in a very real way that she's not just blowing smoke. She believes in me and supports the path that I have chosen, and that is much more valuable than any words of praise.

Do you ever lack confidence in your abilities? Who is there to support you in your endeavors and build your confidence up?

Friday, March 2, 2012

I Found My Agent, They Just Don't Know It Yet

I know. It sounds a little creepy, but I promise that I am not stalking anyone (yet). Even though I haven't completely ruled out self-publishing, I am leaning pretty hard toward not. I think I may want to continue to self-pub short stories, but when the novel is complete, I want to give it the best possible chance of succeeding and I am smart enough to know that I am too dumb to trust myself with that task. With that in mind, I used most of my daily "screw around" time to research agents and found my first pick.

Before you say anything, this is not the first time I researched them, so I didn't just randomly pick an agent. I know this agent will like my work, as it is similar to at least two of their other clients, and more importantly (to me anyway) is that their clients seem to love them. Is it wrong of me to be looking for agents when the book isn't even finished yet? Is that too cocky? Maybe. I don't think so. If nothing else, the power of positive thinking may help me out a bit. (I will be represented by agent X!) Plus, it gives me motivation. In my imaginary universe, this agent is waiting anxiously for my manuscript. Okay, so maybe that is a little much, but it works for me.

In other news, the response to my short story continues to overwhelm me. Thank you, again, for all of the encouraging comments. Especially thanks to everyone who pointed out the errors. (They have been corrected.) Of all of the articles and blogs that I have been reading lately dealing with Self-publishing, almost all of them emphasise editing, editing, editing. I knew this, but I guess I was so excited to get it out there and start the whole experiment that I only edited. I forgot the other two edits. Another lesson I had to learn the hard way. Why do I sometimes feel that the rules do not apply to me? Maybe that's a character flaw we should examine some other time.

Enough about me. What about you? Do you visualise your goals with lots of details (right down to who your agent will be) or is it just a general "I hope I get published someday" goal? Something in between, maybe?