Tuesday, May 01, 2012

Rules for Writers-Get Ahead of the Curve(ball coming at you)

Two years ago I attended Malice Domestic and during the Saturday banquet heard one of the winners of the William F. Deeck Malice Domestic Unpublished Manuscript contest give a short thank you speech.

It was a lovely gracious speech that touched on how much the writers at Malice meant to her, and how thrilled she was to learn she might now be on her way to joining them.

I knew I was looking at a star. I leaped over the table and rushed to accost her. Fortunately she did not summon les gendarmes to escort me out of the ballroom by mon oreille.

Instead, when I asked if her novel was ready, she said "yes it is." I read it, signed it and sold it. She came that year as a contest winner, the next with a deal, and this year with a published book.

The contest only required three chapters. But if all you have is three chapters, it's hard to snag an agent. And if you win a contest, there's a golden opportunity to be in front of some people who might want to help you reach the next level.

Be ready for the next step.

If the contest is three chapters, finish the novel and then enter. If you win, you're ahead of the curve.

If you're querying on your first novel, have a second one ready. If you hear "I like your book, but it's not right for me, what else do you have?" you've got something else ready to go. You're ahead of the curve.

Here's the rule: Get ahead of the curve as much as possible.

16 comments:

Suzanne Dritschilo said...

I'm not sure that's a realistic goal for new writers- demanding they have 2 books COMPLETELY finished, edited, polished and ready to go, on the offchance that an agent passes on the first book so they can have a back up ready in the other hand. What about doing your homework and research so you're not wasting an agent's time by offering something they don't rep in the first place? It's hard enough for a new writer to get 1 book finished/polished, now you're asking writers to do 2 at a time instead? too discouraging

Leah said...

Huh. I actually had an agent say that very thing to me. I didn't have a second one written at the time, but it's written now, and marinating on the top shelf for a while so I can work on the next thing. In the meantime, I continued to work on getting the first book published.

But you can be completely sure...as soon as that second book is done marinating, has received a good re-write and polish, and is ready to go...that agent is FIRST on my list.

So...good advice, in my opinion. Just wish I'd known to take it a while back. ;o)

Unknown said...

Yep. Fortunately I'm close to being done. My mantra is now - FINISH THE DAMN BOOK, and I will. I'm working hard already.

By the way, I always appreciate your tips. They're golden.

Simon Hay Soul Healer said...

Suzanne, if you want it bad enough, nothing is too discouraging. Writers have lots of options, & knowledge is crucial to help us decide what option is best. I think it's beneficial to have more than one wip. Janet, see you somewhere in the world soon.

kregger said...

Damn!

That curve keeps getting steeper every day.

Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

I'm actually working on my third novel right now, with the second with readers. Unfortunately, they are three in a series, so if the agent doesn't LOVE love the first submission, and asks for more, the only thing I have to offer is the second novel in a series. :(

It's great to be prepared, but I feel I may have all my eggs in this one big basket at the moment. And so far, everyone says they like the second book in the series more than the first! As long as I can find an agent who loves the first book enough to ask about a sequel, it could still work out...

Wry Wryter said...

I'm so far ahead of the curve with finished material my bumper is out of sight. I'm not boasting just pontificating on the ride.

Lydia said...

Discovered this golden nugget of advice out the hard way after a certain former assistant (we'll call her MB) requested manuscript on behalf of you'll never guess who. But it needed revision. MB asked for a laundry list on behalf of YNGW and I was caught with pants down; didn't have extra material on hand.

So I wrote it. Will be working on novel number 5 soon while number 4 is out with agents.

Patience has it's own rewards, they say.

So does productivity.

Melanie Rose Meadors said...

Janet's advice, as usual, is spot on. If I had a quarter for every time I or a writer friend have been asked, "So what else do you have for me?" or "I have the PERFECT place for this RIGHT NOW, when can you get it to me?" I'd be rich. Be prepared--it will pay off! As soon as you finish a book, get started on the next one while you are shopping for an agent or editor. I've been going to conferences for years where people can give pitches, and I'll tell you, it makes a big difference! An agent/editor doesn't just want to see you as one book. They want to see that you are able to sustain a career.

stacy said...

Laura, is there any way you can edit the first book so that it works both as a series opener and a standalone? Lee Child's Jack Reacher series is a good example of this.

Kay Camden said...

MittensMorgul I'm with you. Only, my 3rd book is a prequel.

I think we're both screwed.

And Stacy is right about making them stand alone, but I couldn't possibly publish book 2 as a standalone without publishing book 1 first. It just isn't right.

Laura Hughes, MittensMorgul said...

The first book can absolutely stand alone. It doesn't have a cliffhanger ending, and the main story lines are all tied up in neat little bows. You could read it and feel satisfied, though your imagination will hopefully kick in and lead you to guess what might happen for the main characters next. But all books should do that, whether or not they are intended as one in a series.

Lily Cate said...

Yup. I started a new manuscript the second I hit "Send". Actually, I've written two since I began the querying adventure. And which one do all the agents want? Not #1, that I queried, not #2, that I've shown to no one, but #3, which I am currently finishing.
I wish I'd had #3 ready first, but sometimes we can't help when the idea germinates.

Lanette said...

While I'm shopping for agents with my current ms, I am researching like crazy for my second one. I even have a trip planned to Europe to do research and am learning a foreign language to talk to the people where they're at instead of hitting the tourist spots. I'm trying to get ahead of the curve, but it'll probably be six to twelve months before the next book will be presentable.

Sam F. said...

Wonderful advice! Personally I find it impossible to postpone a new project so I can edit and revise; rather, I'm always working on two simultaneously! Writers like to write more than revise (though revision can be fun, too), so why not do both at the same time?

BP said...

I know it can seem 'impossible' to have more than one work (not in a series!) up and running at a time, especially if you're not a writer for a living (and very few newbie writers are!). But writing is a LIFESTYLE, not really a career, in the first place, and if you've only written and the first part of one book (or only have one idea for a book), my advice would be to keep writing, in general, not just for the purposes of being ahead of the curve. You'll find new voices, new stories, improve your writing, and have a backup or two on hand, to boot! I find working on multiple projects at once pacifies my (weirdo) mind and allows me to stretch my creative legs! Thanks for the great advice, Janet! Nobody would call security on a charging shark, now would they? Especially such a charming shark! lol