This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Margo Kelly, author of UNLOCKED) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.
Margo Kelly is a native of the Northwest and currently resides in Idaho. A veteran public speaker, Margo is now actively pursuing her love of writing. Her critically acclaimed debut, WHO R U REALLY?, was published by Merit Press (an imprint of F+W Media) in 2014. Her second novel, UNLOCKED, was published by Merit Press in October 2016. Margo welcomes opportunities to speak to youth groups, library groups, and book clubs. Follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or her website.
1. Rejection is part of the process. I had been in sales and marketing for decades when I decided to pursue writing. I knew there would be rejection, and I figured I’d be fine because I had grown a tough skin during my business years. The thing I didn’t understand before becoming published is the rejection never ends. Agents, editors, industry reviewers, and readers. Rejection can be quite cruel. As a result, some writers never read reviews of their published work. I haven’t mastered that skill yet. I still read them all. Not everyone is going to like everything. But when a story resonates with a reader, the effect is pure magic, and that beats every bit of rejection.
2. Dejection is a choice. Once I understood rejection is a continual part of the publishing world, I learned that self-imposed misery is not a required consequence. When I read a bad review or when my agent tells me to try again, I’m disappointed. If I sink into that dark pit of gloom and despair, I cannot write. At all. And I really like to write. So I let myself feel disappointed for a limited time. I be the best depressed I can be: pajamas, Netflix, and ice cream. Then I remind myself that I love to write, and I get back to it. That’s where I find my joy.
3. Determination must overcome self-doubt. The question I often ask myself comes from a Tim McGraw song, “How Bad Do You Want It?” I can hear his voice singing the words in my head. Sometimes I play the song before a writing session. If I’m going to achieve my writing goals, my tenacity must be greater than my skepticism.
Hook agents, editors and readers immediately.
Check out Les Edgerton’s guide, HOOKED, to
learn about how your fiction can pull readers in.
4. Fellow writers can provide excellent moral support. One of the best things about the publishing industry is the people. Other writers are going through the same things I am, and being able to discuss issues with them has been a huge blessing in my life. Critique partners, agency siblings, and publishing siblings—these are some of the people with whom I’ve aligned myself. They bolster me up when I’m feeling dejected, and they cheer me on when I’ve received good news.
5. A great agency will handle the hard stuff. Every day I’m grateful to be associated with a skilled agent, who is backed by an agency with longevity and experience. Each contract I sign is reviewed and negotiated by my agent and the agency’s legal department before it ever reaches me. They do the hard stuff. Negotiating foreign sales and other sub-rights are handled by the agency. Instead of spending time worrying about any of that, I write stories.
6. Today is the day to write more. Even if only for a few minutes, I try to write something each day. Sometimes it’s a blog post. Other times it’s notes for a new idea or eighteen non-stop hours of revising. In order for me to keep the writing energy flowing, I will leave myself a note at the end of the day reminding me where start the next day. That little spark gets me back into the writing groove.
7. Celebrate each accomplishment. It’s very common for writers to worry about the next step, the next deadline, or the next idea. I’ve learned that due to the amount of rejection in the publishing world, it is crucial to celebrate each success, no matter the size or significance. I must be in the moment, share the news, and relish the achievement.
Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers’ Conferences:
- Sept. 9, 2016: Sacramento Writers Conference (Sacramento, CA)
- Sept. 10, 2016: Writing Workshop of San Francisco (San Francisco, CA)
- Sept. 10, 2016: Chesapeake Writing Workshop (Washington, DC)
- Oct. 28-30, 2016: Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference (Los Angeles, CA)
- Nov. 5, 2016: Manuscript Academy’s Online Children’s Writing Conference (online)
- Nov. 5-6, 2016: ShowMe Writers Masterclass (Columbia, MO)
- Nov. 19, 2016: Las Vegas Writing Workshop (Las Vegas, NV)
- Feb. 26 – March 3, 2017: Writers Winter Escape Cruise (conference/cruise departing Miami)
Your new complete and updated instructional guide
to finding an agent is finally here: The 2015 book
GET A LITERARY AGENT shares advice from more
than 110 literary agents who share advice on querying,
craft, the submission process, researching agents, and
much more. Filled with all the advice you’ll ever need to
find an agent, this resource makes a great partner book to
the agent database, Guide to Literary Agents.
Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- What Does a Literary Agent Want to See When They Google You?
- How to Plan a Great Book Reading: 5 Tips.
- Read an Interview with a Debut Middle Grade Author.
- Writing young adult or middle grade? New agent Sarah Nego seeks clients!
- Trust Your Instincts: Write the Story the Way YOU Think It Should Be Told.
- How a Critique and Accountability Partner Can Help Your Writing and Career.
- Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and writing a query letter.