This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,” where writers (this installment written by Samantha Bohrman, author of RUBY’S MISADVENTURES WITH REALITY) 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.
Column by Samantha Bohrman, author of RUBY’S MISADVENTURES
WITH REALITY (July 2015, Entangled Select). Shortly after graduating
from law school, Samantha had three children and began writing books.
She never looked back, but she suspects her husband has. You can often
find her wandering the aisles of Target buying ingredients for tacos (because
her kids won’t eat anything else) and staging a murder scene in the produce
section (in her head). Follow her on Twitter.
1. Make friends. Make friends who love you no matter what, the kind of people who will be there whether you get a six-figure deal from one of the big five or only end up published on embarrassingqueries.com. Just any old friends won’t do. They need to be writers so they understand just how shitty you feel when you get a reject from your dream agent. You want someone who will Twitter stalk Jessica Sinsheimer with you during a coffee break at work (Hi, Jessica! I love you!). Your spouse won’t understand so be really good to your writer friends. Buy them a slurpee while you’re hanging out by Jessica’s twitter account. Don’t spend all day on Twitter, though. That probably deserves its own point or at least a subpoint. In your mind, mark that as 1(a).
2. Write 1,000 words a day. I stole this idea from my good friend, Kristi Belcamino, and it’s been really helpful. Kristi is filled with good writing advice, which is another advantage of having good writer friends. One thousand words is great because it’s an achievable daily goal. It keeps you from losing momentum on a project or getting bogged down tinkering with chapter one. In a business where you can go years with nothing but rejections, 1,000 words a day can be one measure of progress that sees you through. It also, keeps you off Twitter for at least 1,000 words of real work.
3. If you think something needs to be fixed, fix it. With my first project I waited to see if readers mentioned some of the issues I was worried about. I’ve found that sometimes readers don’t notice issues that are truly problematic or might be too worried about my feelings to mention. Over time, I’ve learned to trust my instincts. If I get any inkling something needs to be fixed, I don’t wait for someone to tell me. Sometimes the best solution is simply deleting. I think Stephen King said that he deletes twenty percent of every manuscript. That sounds about right to me. If you really aren’t sure you need to fix or delete a scene, make a copy of your project and play around on a duplicate copy. I don’t think I’ve ever gone back to my original.
4. Get Another Project. You never want to have all of your hope (and sanity) wrapped up in one manuscipt. It’s a recipe for disaster. By the time I got an offer for my first manuscript, I was like, “Really? That old thing!?” Well, maybe not that casual, but it’s good to get a little emotional distance from the manuscript you’re selling.
5. Be yourself. All the agents, editors, and fancy pants writers are just people wondering what to have for dinner like the rest of us. They probably don’t even have a good idea and will end up eating frozen pizza. Sure, you have to follow the guidelines and approach through acceptable channels, but don’t be afraid to have a normal conversation.
6. Don’t get an itchy trigger finger. Sending queries is like gambling at a slot machine. There’s a big temptation to pull the lever over and over again until you get a “Winner winner chicken dinner!” I haven’t done an official study, but I’d say that the odds in querying are about the same as those in gambling. If you keep pulling, you’re going to run out of quarters. Send out a small batch to begin with. If you’re getting all no responses or auto rejects, don’t send out twenty more hoping for a quick endorphin rush. You’re gonna want it, but revisit your query and your pages before you resend. Don’t let querying become a gambling addiction.
7. Be patient. Publication doesn’t come quickly for most of us and once you’re there, you’ll probably find that not much will change. For most of us, publication doesn’t bring a big pay day or a change in lifestyle. The day my book came out I went to Costco with the kids and took them to a play date. None of the other moms even knew it was my book realease day. After I told them they didn’t rush out to buy the book. (Note to self: find a new playgroup for children! Approach writing like gardening or some other hobby where you never expect glory, but can’t quit because the plants will die if you do.
Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers’ Conferences:
- Oct. 28–30, 2016: Writer’s Digest Novel Writing Conference (Los Angeles, CA)
- Nov. 19, 2016: Las Vegas Writing Workshop (Las Vegas, NV)
- Feb. 11, 2017: Writers Conference of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN)
- Feb. 16–19, 2017: San Francisco Writers Conference (San Francisco, CA)
- Feb. 25, 2017: Atlanta Writing Workshop (Atlanta, GA)
- Feb. 26–March 3, 2017: Writers Winter Escape Cruise (conference/cruise departing Miami)
- March 25, 2017: Michigan Writers Conference (Detroit, MI)
- April 8, 2017: Philadelphia Writing Workshop (Philadelphia, PA)
- May 6, 2017: Seattle Writers Conference (Seattle, WA)
- July 22, 2017: Tennessee Writers Workshop (Nashville, TN)
- Aug. 18–20, 2017: Writer’s Digest Conference (New York, NY)
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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:
- How I Got My Literary Agent: Kirstin Chen (Fiction).
- Pros and Cons of Getting a Creative Writing MFA.
- Agent Spotlight: Lara Perkins (Andrea Brown Literary Agency) seeks YA, MG and Picture Books.
- Good Stories Have The Same Bone Structure.
- 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.
Your new complete and updated instructional guide
to finding an agent is finally here: The 2015 book
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the agent database, Guide to Literary Agents.