The 4 Golden Rules of Being a Writer

1. Start at square one. The world is full of people who know people who know an agent … but you can save yourself a lot of time and disappointment by ignoring them. Because the truth is, no one really knows anyone, and even if they did, it is probably not going to help your chances one bit. 2. Do your homework. Yes, I'm afraid so. Just as there are no shortcuts when it comes to finding an agent, there are no shortcuts when it comes to your manuscript and query letter. Guest column by Anne Fortier, author of the New York Times bestseller Juliet, a novel about a young woman who discovers that she is descended from Shakespeare's Juliet.
Author:
Publish date:

Here are four lessons about writing and finding an agent that I have learned the hard way. I hope you will read them and save yourself a lot of time and trouble. It is hard to calculate writing time, but I would estimate that, over the past ten years, I have wasted up to eighteen months by not figuring all this out earlier.



Guest column by Anne Fortier, author of the
New York Times bestseller Juliet, a novel
about a young woman who discovers that
she is descended from Shakespeare's Juliet. The
novel
has sold to 32 countries worldwide, and
came out in the US on August 24, 2010.
She is originally from Denmark
.

Image placeholder title

1. Start at square one.
The world is full of people who know people who know an agent … but you can save yourself a lot of time and disappointment by ignoring them. Because the truth is, no one really knows anyone, and even if they did, it is probably not going to help your chances one bit. So, instead of chasing after those elusive people and waiting in vain for introductory e-mails and phone-calls, simply tell yourself that there are no shortcuts in this race; if you run around looking for them, chances are you will still end up back at square one, wondering why you just wasted six months on hearsay.

2. Do your homework. Yes, I'm afraid so. Just as there are no shortcuts when it comes to finding an agent, there are no shortcuts when it comes to your manuscript and query letter. I hardly need mention that your manuscript needs to be 1) finished, 2) brilliant, 3) formatted correctly, and 4) edited to near-perfection, but allow me to emphasize that the same goes for the query letter. You can save yourself a lot of time and unnecessary rejections by following the established rules about query letters. So, go ahead and buy that annoying book about how to compose and format query letters … and follow its recommendations. Don't rush. Don't try to squeeze through loopholes in your smarty pants. Invest the time and do a proper job; this is the most important page of your entire manuscript.

3. Pitch your book before you write it. What I mean by this is that you can save yourself a lot of time and headaches by thinking ahead to your query letter as early as possible in the writing process. Once you've done your homework and know what a query letter needs to accomplish, you are very likely to look at your finished manuscript and groan. Because how do you pitch that rambling, pointless, dead-boring excuse for a book? Hey, it looked so good while you were writing it, but now that you have to pitch it to someone else, you realize just how un-pitchable it really is. There are no murders, no explosions, no secret society … Well, too late. So, make a point of thinking through the story early on, with the pitch in mind.

4. Don't jump the gun.
Or, perhaps more to the point: Don't foul your nest. The book world looks pretty darn big from your office chair, but it actually isn't. So, once you have compiled that beautiful list of desirable and reliable agents (once again: by doing your homework), make sure you don't waste it. Don't send query letters to more than one agent at a time. Don't say you've finished a book if you haven`t. And above all: Don't test the water by sending your second-best. Be patient. Finish the book. Write the most attractive query letter ever. And then sleep on it. And sleep on it again. Remember: an agent is not some opponent you need to blitz; an agent is someone who would like nothing more than to be your ally. All she/he needs is a good reason.

Image placeholder title

From First Draft to Finished Novel has
instruction, checklists, and worksheets
that touch upon everything from plot
conflicts to the art of editing and
polishing your manuscript.


WD-Poetry-2020-WinnerGraphic

The 2020 Writer's Digest Poetry Awards Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2020 WD Poetry Awards!

GettyImages-163437242

Your Story #113

Write a short story of 650 words or fewer based on the photo prompt. You can be poignant, funny, witty, etc.; it is, after all, your story.

E.J. Levy: When Your First Draft is Your Best Draft

E.J. Levy: When Your First Draft is Your Best Draft

Author E.J. Levy discusses her journey with drafting and redrafting her historical fiction novel, The Cape Doctor, and why her first draft was her best draft.

Poetry Prompt

Wednesday Poetry Prompts: 569

Every Wednesday, Robert Lee Brewer shares a prompt and an example poem to get things started on the Poetic Asides blog. This week, write an "In the Name of Blank" poem.

Writer's Digest July/August 2021 Cover

Writer's Digest July/August 2021 Cover Reveal

The July/August 2021 issue of Writer's Digest features a collection of articles about writing for change plus an interview with Jasmine Guillory about her newest romance, While We Were Dating.

Lacie Waldon: On Writing What You Know ... But Keeping it Interesting

Lacie Waldon: On Writing What You Know ... But Keeping it Interesting

Debut novelist Lacie Waldon discusses how her agent encouraged her to write what she knew, but then her editor made her realize that what she thought was boring might not be the case.

Pedal vs. Peddle (Grammar Rules)

Pedal vs. Peddle (Grammar Rules)

Learn when to use pedal and peddle with Grammar Rules from the Writer's Digest editors, including a few examples of correct usages.

Marissa Levien: On Pinning Down Your Novel's Middle

Marissa Levien: On Pinning Down Your Novel's Middle

Debut author Marissa Levien discusses how she always knew what the beginning and the end of her science fiction novel The World Gives Way would be, but that the middle remained elusive.