Friday, June 12, 2009

So, you think you can dance?

Kristin Nelson hits it on the nose.

Not only do informed writers write better queries, they're knowledgeable about how to act.

I've received only one irate letter from a person I met at a conference. I've gotten dozens of others over the years from people who just cold queried me. (Interestingly it's dropped off dramatically now that I don't offer any helpful suggestions to anyone!)

I don't think I can extrapolate that informed writers don't want to strangle me sometimes (heck, I'm lucky my clients are only homicidal on paper!) but I can conclude that writers who've taken the time to learn about the industry know it's not in their best interest to do so.

What was the your starting point? You wrote -The End- and then what did you do?


Amy Sue Nathan said...

I wrote the end and sat in awe of myself for finishing an entire book. Then I set it aside, knowing that it was not a publishable book but just the beginning. The accomplishment drove me though - to several complete rewrites - and I'm in the midst of what I think is the final rewrite before I set it aside again to see if it's up to par.

The problem I have, as a writer who reads the publishing blogs and has contact with writers at various stages is how people who are not at the query-ready stage actually query. I've seen it on contest sites (send your polished work and it's drab and dreary), and I've known people to query with first drafts. I haven't queried yet but know that when I do there will be many letters out there that shouldn't be, taking the time and energy of agents away from those of us 'following the rules.' That is a different animal than a query that sucks, or a book that doesn't pique an agent's interest. The are the queries that truly, shouldn't be.

Myra McEntire said...

I put it under the bed, where it still lives.

Then I started again.

Margaret Yang said...

What Myra said.

Lucas Darr said...

A helpful agent wrote on her blog that I should put it under the bed and keep writing. It was my first novel after all.

I thought that was such good advice, I did it. Literally.

"What are you doing?"

"Putting my manuscript under the bed.”

“Uh, why?”

“That’s his home. That’s where he lives now.”

“Um, remind me why I married you again?”

“My impish charms? My good looks?”


It worked. It was like the promised land of novel writing. It taught me patience and to always look forward. It also taught me humility.

“So, what did you ever do with the first novel?”

“It’s under the bed.”

“No, really, did you shop it?”

“No. It’s under the bed.”

“Can I read it?”

“If you want. But you have to go get it. It’s under the bed. Watch your fingers.”

“Uh… how about the second novel?”


Oh, I will say it again, thanks.

BJ said...

I wrote my first novel(s) many, many years ago. Then I sat on them, waiting, while the 'writing books' told me no one wanted to buy that sort of thing. In the meantime, I grew up, succeeded at some things, failed at others, and basically survived. And nothing hatched from the eggs of my work.

Then a few years ago, I pulled my novel(s) out, picked one or two, and rewrote them completely. I also started studying the industry. Now, a couple decades or so since I put them away, I'm finally at the point where I'm querying.

While I don't recommend sitting on your work for twenty-some years, I do recommend waiting awhile. I was a *much* better writer by the time I sat down to work on these again, and I had a much better idea of what works and what doesn't, and what the industry *really* wants.

Diana said...

I suspect a person who reads, goes to conferences, talks to people in the industry, talks to published writers, reads agent and editor blogs, and follows publishers on Twitter is, in general, less likely to think his or her first draft of My Mom Said This Was Good is guaranteed to have ten agents chomping at the bit, a $10 million movie deal and the ability to make bookstores box up their extra copies of Janet Evanovich to ensure My Mom gets enough shelf space.

Kristin is right, though, about people assuming there isn't much training and practice in writing. I used to do university communications, and I can't tell you how many times I came up against people who didn't understand a single person couldn't "throw together" a 24-page magazine in an afternoon, that writing good, witty copy for a brochure takes some time to brainstorm and draft, and that their proposals were not well-written just because they pecked out the keys on the computer themselves. Yet these same people revered the photographers and graphic designers who worked on the same projects, because they perceived them as "artists" with "skills."

S.D. said...

When I wrote the end, I felt warm all over and had to convince myself not to start writing the sequel immediately.