Thursday, September 25, 2014

My Take on Pursuing Writing: Part 4

Here we are at last. The final step in our journey!

Step Three: Represent

You've learned about writing. You've written something that you hopefully love. You've even been through all the work, frustration, and joy of revisions. Now we're on to the step that begins to take writing from our hands and turns it into a co-labor with another person.

You're going to represent your book/article to an agent.

Represent: A Little Background

So you know why a literary agent is important, I'll explain a little of what I've gleaned in the publishing world.

You don't just send your book to a traditional publisher.

No. No no no. Most of the large traditional publishers do not accept any unsolicited manuscript submissions. They don't know who you are and so if you send them something, they won't pay you any attention.

So it's your job to get the attention of an agent. Once you have an agent, they are the ones who can present your book to publishers.

In looking for a good agent, the most important tip I've heard is to not try to get an agent that asks for money up front. The agent should get paid when your book sells. Not before. Do your research on agents. Make sure you find one that has a good reputation.

So now that that is out of the way...

Represent: Thoughtfully

So you've searched and found an agent with a good reputation. Before you try to get their attention, read about them. Make sure they represent your genre of literature. Make sure they're accepting new clients.

Read their submission/query policies until you could quote them. You're about to make a business proposal of sorts, so make sure you're doing it right! If you ignore their policies, they have no obligation to pay attention to you.

Represent: Through the Internet

The way I started looking for an agent was through online submissions. Each agency and agent is a little different, so create a query or submission that adheres to the proper policies.

Represent: In Person

Far more frightening than hitting send on a query e-mail is talking to an agent in person. Through writers conferences (check out for info on a great annual conference) you can get the opportunity to pitch your book to an agent who is literally sitting right across the table from you. You have 15 minutes to make your impression.

This is exciting and terrifying at the same time. Remember, though, that your chances are higher to get an agent when you meet him in person than when you query online.

This is the end of our road....

This is as far as I can take you on the road to publishing, because this is where I am. I've read, written, revised, and represented.

What do I do now until I get an agent?

I keep going. I keep learning and working and representing until one day, I'll write a book that will be published.

I hope these articles will help those of you making the journey with me to get even a bit closer to publishing!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

My Take on Pursuing Writing: Part 3

So, horridly late (sorry!), here's the third installment of my series on writing.

Part Three: Revise

Yes, this is a dreaded word when it comes to writing. You've spent hours and days fighting to get thousands of words onto the pages of your book/article/whatever. Hopefully, you're excited about what you've written. But now you have to go back and change things.

Here are a couple of ideas to get you started.

Revise: Big Picture

When you were in the writing stage, did a certain scene feel out of place?  Do you think you could strengthen the story if you added a plot element?

During your revisions, you'll want to make several big picture sweeps through your manuscript. This will be a start-at-the-beginning and don't-stop-until-the-end kind of project. Don't get bogged down in these revisions. If there's a detail you can't work out, make a note for yourself and then come back to it. Later. After you're done with the big picture.

In a big picture revision, look for things like:
  • Character inconsistencies: Did your normally cheerful character snap at another character for no reason? Bad idea. Either give the character a reason for his or her action or change the action.
  • Weak plot: If you aren't even buying into certain aspects of your plot, think about adjusting them. Cliche plot element? Try to fix it.
  • Easy details: I'm not suggesting you ignore details in a big picture revision. Try to focus on the structure and key elements of your manuscript during this revision, but if you see a typo ... please, just fix it now.

Revise: Details

In a detail revision, try to fix:

  • Typos and Grammatical Errors: Don't expect someone else to fix your problems for you. Agents and editors aren't interested in doing things you should have done yourself.
  • "Research Details": I didn't really know what to call these, so I'll have to explain. I would call anything you have to research a "research detail." In a novel I wrote, I had a character in juvenile corrections. I had to do some research to make sure I was using the correct terminology and I was being accurate to the scenario I had created. If you wrote a scene and were making up terms or historical details or the like, go back now and research. Don't slack off here!
  • All the "Ick":  Do you ever write a scene and just not like it? Is the description of the landscape too long (if you're asking this question, the answer might be "yes," by the way)? Is the dialogue forced? Take the time to wrestle with the details that don't flow correctly.

Revise: However Works for You

Though I think it's best to get your main story under control before getting to the details, you may think a detail revision needs to be done first. You might want to do three big-picture runs before ever touching the details. You might do a little bit of each all at once.

Revise in the way that works for you. Read agent blogs (have I mentioned I love those?) when they talk about revising. Find a plan, and stick with it. Revising isn't easy, but it can be more exciting than you'd dreamed to make a tricky scene work or see some of the messy parts of your book pull together. Your hard work in revising will prepare you for the fourth and final main step of pursuing writing: Representing.

(Part four will come soon ... I promise!!!)