This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Emmie Mears, represented by agent Jessica Negron) 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.
Emmie Mears spends at least an hour a day preparing for or thinking
about the zombie apocalypse. After growing up with a desperate hope
that her DNA would bring her an awesome genetic mutation and the
ability to teleport, she naturally gravitated toward writing strong female
characters. She still loves the X-Men, but now she creates her own
superheroes. Emmie lives outside D.C. with her husband and husky
puppy. Emmie is represented by Jessica Negrón of Talcott Notch
Literary Services. Emmie blogs often and tweets too much. In
May 2013, Emmie founded Searching for SuperWomen as a place
for geek women to groove on the things we love.
When I first finished a novel back in 2008, it sat there on my hard drive, a rose-tinted picture of accomplishment in 125,000 words of urban fantasy. (Don’t laugh.) I’d finished something. I had something magical and shiny. I was going to get published! I was going to see my epic-urban-fantasy-something on shelves!
I was wrong. It’s not that simple, and as with many, many writers, that novel wasn’t the one that would get me an agent. It wasn’t until I shucked The Beast to the side and scribbled out an entirely new project in 2012 that I discovered a big hole in my knowledge. Or, you know, several holes. The new project landed me an agent, and then we were on submission — and I had no clue what to expect. I’d spent months reading about how to get an agent, but I seldom came across anything about what happens next.
Here’s what I’ve learned so far.
1. The Wheel of Time turns. Getting an agent is just another turn of the wheel. In fact, getting an agent sort of spins you right back to where you were when you sent your first query, in some ways. You might have to do a few (or a heap of) revisions. Either way, when you go on submission, it’s back to the waiting game. Get comfy. Waiting is about 87.4% of a writer’s life. In the interim…
2. Go tackle a new quest. There’s nothing like a new obsession to keep you from obsessing over submission. Sure, some books get snapped up by editors faster than you can say “six figures,” but for most of us, it takes longer. A lot longer. To dull the ache and fear of the inbox, start something new. Put everything you’ve got into it. The other, stinkier part of this is that your darling book-on-sub just might not sell. You need to have a horse to get back on if that manifests as reality.
3. Find some companions. I’ve heard it said that the first rule of sub club is that we don’t talk about sub club. While you definitely shouldn’t break out the bullhorn every time an editor requests or rejects your work, chances are, you’ll have a writer friend sharing your boat with you. While it can seem odd to discuss the Query Trenches 2.0 in vague, mystical terms like, “We’re out with a few places right now,” just knowing someone understands your feels can help.
4. Always keep your sword sheathed in public. Try to resist the urge to check the Twitter accounts of editors who have your manuscript. If you give in to the dark side, don’t contact them. Resist! If you’re on social media, make sure your presence is worthy of pro-level. Just as you get the urge to lurk, so do editors who might be considering your manuscript. Also resist the overwhelming desire to ask your agent every hour if she’s heard any news. Bottom line: patience is more than a Puritan name.
5. Learn your craft. This falls by the wayside sometimes. Now that you have an agent, one of the best things you can do is continue to work on your writing. Getting an agent and going on submission is a big level up moment, but if you’re serious about making writing your career, concentrate on honing the things you’re already great at and sharpening the duller bits of your repertoire. Do better. Make your new project more awesome than the one that snagged your agent’s attention.
6. Keep your shield hoisted. Rejections aren’t fun. Being on submission can be even more nerve-wracking than querying. Sometimes even if an editor loves it and wants to buy it, the higher-ups will veto it. It doesn’t mean you have a bad book. The sticky, gum-on-the-bottom-of-your-shoe truth is that first books don’t always sell. Steel yourself against these rejections, learn what you can, and move on. Once you have a book out in the world and everyone and their chinchilla can weigh in on it, it gets a lot messier.
7. Stop and enjoy the mead. Take a minute and remember something: you have an agent. Maybe editors are reading it and responding positively, even if it’s not that yes you’ve been desperate to hear for ages. It’s no small feat to get to this point. Enjoy not having to fret about one star reviews or critics misunderstanding that subplot about the cannibalistic dolphin. Enjoy the sense of accomplishment that comes from slogging through the query trenches and coming out with an agent at your side. You did it. You made it this far.
Now keep going.
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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- 4 Agent Pet Peeves.
- How Do We Know When It’s Time to Quit Writing?
- Book Marketing For 21st Century Authors.
- NEW Agent Seeking Clients: Carlie Webber of the Jane Rotrosen Agency.
- Sell More Books by Building Your Author Platform.
- Learn How to Find a Literary Agent.
- 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 how to write a query letter.
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