Monday, September 09, 2013

Best advice I've seen in a while

I recently clicked a link from @agent_ayesha (Ayesha Pande) that she posted with "Yes, yes, and yes. Read this please, dear aspiring literary fiction writers."

She was oh-so-right.

Here's one section of the article with my strikeouts.

Your Job
You, of course, are a writer. Let’s say you are just starting to send out. You are thinking, Am I any good? Will this make people I love believe I’m worthwhile? Is that third paragraph chapter unnecessary as R said in workshop, but I still like it, and if I keep it, and my story novel gets published then that will show R, but what if R is right after all? Is this my first step to fame and glory? Am I a genius? Am I in fact too good for this magazine agent I’m sending to or not good enough?  Am I an idiot? Will my parents stop suggesting other jobs I could do given my education? Will strangers want to sleep with me because of my prose? Etc. etc.

None of this is of interest to the editor. agent. Remember the editor’s agent's deepest wish: Send something perfect for us, please.

So your job is to help the editor agent by sending work that is developed, complete, thoroughly revised, and—of great importance—appropriate for the magazine. (Not as applicable to agent lists as it is to magazine subs)

To do that last part of your job well, you have to read the magazines.

Yes, you do.

Not long ago, within a few days, three aspiring writers stopped me (in the office, in the parking lot, and at an airport gate) to ask: “Where should I send my story which is over 20,000 words long?” “Where should I send my work where it will be accepted as fast as possible? The agent I approached about my novel says I have to have a track record.” “What magazine likes grown-up fables that are a little weird?”

They were asking for a shortcut. It’s natural to want one, when you feel small in a big unknown world, and impatient, wanting results immediately.  But I said, to each: “You can’t expect to be a professional if you don’t do your own homework.”

Here's the entire article. I read it and I'd like to have it be required reading for every author.  I might just start linking to it in my redirection emails (née rejection emails)

Would this article have helped you when you were starting out?


french sojourn said...

As I'm still starting out....Yes!

Thanks; gotta love the process or why do it?

Just consider it a journey, and admire the scenery.

Richard Brune said...

Can't help but think of Mark Twain - "The time to begin writing an article is when you have finished it to your satisfaction. By that time you begin to clearly and logically perceive what it is that you really want to say."
- Mark Twain's Notebook, 1902-1903. (This is equally true for a novel, I believe). As for the process, FS, hehe, it remains a paradox. Every day. Every bloody sentence ...

Lance said...

Thank you for the link. I am in the starting-out mode of researching and writing a query letter. This article is very helpful, particularly when combined with your advice and tips about queries.

Amanda Capper said...

Certainly would have helped me. Still will, only I will apply it to querying and novels and such.

Really liked the picture of the editor going through the stacks of submissions and her responses to them. Easier for me to visualize instead of 'do this, don't do that' advice.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Forty years of submitting, squished into one very valuable article...loved it.

Way back when, submitting my best material was a given Having said that, THREE of the most important rules are:

Always, always, always spell the editor's, or agent's name correctly.(Right Janett Reed?)
Read, read, read the publications.
No matter how big your head, be polite.
There is a number FOUR, probably the most important of all,
never stop learning.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and like the others, it can still help.

I don't think it hurts to be reminded (over and over) because in the daily grind of it all, with our hopes and wishes for the "yes," sometimes we forget it's not easy sitting on the other side of the desk.

Terri Lynn Coop said...

Yeesh, typo much? Let's try this again . . .

My inspirational quote comes from "Raisin in the Sun:"


"I want to fly! I want to touch the sun!"

"Finish your eggs first."


This article is fantastic. It reminds us to separate all the hopes and yearnings and fantasies from the finished product. The "How can you ask me to edit my soul?" riff.

Or as Jeffery Deaver will say everything time writers will listen, "it's a business."

Great post: Terri

Christine Monson said...

Thank you for sharing the post link with us. I really liked the article and bookmarked it for when I'm ready to start submitting.

Jennifer R. Donohue said...

Oh yes, it is helpful!

(though really, sometimes you do need to prove R wrong, because s/he doesn't know what s/he is talking about due to a limited reading or writing experience.)

j.a. kazimer said...

While I agree with the article, I don't think when I started out I would have trusted in it nearly as much.

There needs to be a certain amount of delusion about our work and ourselves in order to stay in the industry, to pile up the rejections, and learn the craft.

anya* said...

Thank you for sharing this link. I have, in turn, shared the article with my critique partners. I am in the querying stage and this advice is golden. It is always good to be reminded how much, in fact, is not about me.

Joe Iriarte said...

The article would've been helpful to me, yes. Having said that, if you linked it with every rejection I think that could rub people wrong. It would come across as an implication that the fact that you were rejected means you haven't done your homework. It reminds me of a certain science fiction magazine that sends, with their form rejections, a list of reasons why many stories are rejected--really clueless things like, I dunno, "the author can't spell." That magazine's rejections piss people off more than many other markets'.