BINGE-WRITING HABIT: 1000, BLOG BINGE-WRITING AMELIORATION PLAN: 0.
So in my queue, as we speak, are twenty half-written blog posts weighing in at about 1000 words each. Yep, twenty thousand words about random stuff I will probably never publish. I’ve been pondering and pondering WHY I can’t seem to get my act together and actually finish any of these, and I’ve landed on a number of things.
When it comes to opinions and informative stuff, (1) all of it has already been written and doesn’t really add anything new to the conversation and (2) there are many more people out there with far greater experience than me in their fields/profession/life etc. who are vastly more qualified to weigh in.
When it comes to personal stuff–fun stories about my kiddo or writing news or recommendations I have–I am less hesitant, but I do worry about over-sharing. Does anybody really want to know about my bedtime stories? And what my new-favorite blog is? Or the magical joy that is crock-pot cooking?
It occurred to me that these are pretty much the same reasons I stumble upon for writer’s block. I only get it when the possibility of publication *actually* rears it’s ugly/fantastically-gorgeous, Fight Club-Era Edward Norton-shaped head. When I’m just writing, for fun and without any audience other than myself, I can crank out thousands of words. When I start to consider the possibility that others might take a look at it, I slow down. So blogging’s instant-publication carries that weight with every word.
So I’ve tried to come up with a number of ways to combat blog-block:
1) YES, all of it’s already been written. But it’s never been written by me, and although I don’t have much expertise to speak of regarding most of the things I’m talking about, I’m adding a new perspective. (Mine.)
2) There will always be more-qualified and more-experienced people. ALWAYS. So thinking I’m going to gain some magical feeling of personal expertise is futile. Anyway, ignorance is coolio, man. It means you’re still learning.
3) Everyone who’s run across my blog has been SUPER nice. Like, super nice. And it’s fun to meet them (hey, guys!). So blogging doesn’t always have to be about contributing something meaningful to the conversation or what-not. It can also be about participation; finding cool people who share your interests, and giving them a nice, non-commital way to hang out. Or not. Whatevs, people. But I do appreciate it when you stop by .
4) This is also for me. I’m trying to practice writing in small bits on a regular basis, rather than staying up until 3:00 am and cranking out 15K. And sharing is good practice, too, right? No one is under any obligation to read this blog and it’s okay if they don’t. It provides value in the mere fact that I’m doing it.
5) And last but not least… it’s fun, and it’s nice to talk about things with an imaginary audience that I might otherwise not get to. Like how most zombie stories can be read as metaphors for consumption and show up primarily in times of economic scarcity. Or how the broken ships in Shipbreaker may be allegories for the literal destruction of relationships that the post peak-oil world Bacigalupi created. OH! Or how the presence of aliens in pop culture are a really positive sign–they’re the ultimate “other,” the thing only defined by it’s lack of human-ness, which means that the rest of us are starting to view ourselves as a people unified by our humanity, and not divided by race, religion, or nationality. Or how Bleach is my newest Best. Anime. Ever. and everyone who hasn’t seen it yet should because the entire series is on Hulu and you don’t have to sit through those filler episodes.
And now I need to actually write all those posts.
Baby steps, people. Baby steps.Read More
FINDING A PROSPECTIVE LITERARY AGENT
I had every intention of (finally) writing the classic “how I got my agent” post today. After all that query-work from the last writing-related post, one would think I’d be ready. But not quite. I almost forgot about the ever-important WHO to send your query to stuff. It seems like this should be quick and easy, considering the time and energy one needs to put into writing a very simple-looking query. But it takes longer than you think.
Especially if you’re me, and you’re a tiny-eetsty-witsy bit OCD about things, and you need to know everything there is to know about an agent before you query them. And then you need to make a chart with six handy headings: the agent’s name and contact info., their agency (link embedded), what they’re looking for, their submission guidelines, their response data (no response = no, 6-8 weeks, etc.), and a blank space for when you queried them and what they said.
That way, if they actually call you, you won’t be like “whuck? who are you?” Because that is my usual response when someone–ANYONE–picks up a phone and calls me.
(1) Anyway, I guess that starts with agentquery.com. Agentquery.com is the most comprehensive list I’ve found of literary agents. You can search the database by the genre they represent. There are about four hundred majillion agents who represent young adult. There are a lot less that represent sci-fi. I looked for agents who were looking for both.
So once you find the majillion literary agents who represent your genre, check to see that they’re accepting unsolicited submissions. Make sure they accepts email submissions (I don’t do paper. I mean, sometimes [I've recently learned it's indespensible for later-editing]. But I am pretty much 100% positive I wouldn’t get on with someone who uses paper. I know this about myself, so I didn’t bother querying anyone who doesn’t do everything electronically). If they’re a fit for all of the above, put ‘em on the list. Include their contact information, agency website, and submission guidelines.
Now the only problem with agentquery is that despite it’s breadth, it’s not *always* 100% up-to-date. I don’t think this has anything to do with the site… they’re amazing and keep tabs on everything. But literary agents are people, and as people, they don’t keep us apprised of every tiny thing they do and when their tastes and whims change. So you need to double-check all this information. Start with…
(2) Their Agency website (you should already have a link! in your chart!). If not, five seconds on google will do it. Are they actually asking for what agentquery says they are? Are they still agenting? If the answer is yes, then check their agency’s submission guidelines. If they match agentquery’s, cut-and-paste them into your chart. If not, I usually use agency guidelines above any other. Because they WILL be listed differently in different places.
(3) Okay. You’re prospective agent is still accepting submissions and *even* wants the kind of stuff you’ve got. Yay! Now it’s time to get on Publisher’s Marketplace and look up your agent. (Yes, you need a subscription. But you can do it for a few months and then cancel if you don’t find it useful anymore. Chances are, you will. It’s a great resource.) Check your prospective agent’s recent sales.
If they haven’t sold anything in your genre, make a note of it. Did they just start agenting? If so, keep them. If they’ve been around for twenty years and their profile doesn’t say something like “I’ve been around for twenty years but I’d really like to break into X genre,” cross them off your list. Did they sell a book almost identical to yours last week? Cross them off your list. Have they recently sold stuff in your genre, kind of like your book but not exactly? If so, keep ‘em! Cut-and-paste those books’ descriptions into the “what the agent is looking for” column. Onwards….
(4) Time to hit the internetz. The internetz is the place where you can learn all kinds of things that aren’t true. But you should hit it, anyway.
First get on Absolute Write and check the Bewares and Background Checks forum. Look up your prospective agent and see what people say about him/her. 95% of the time, it will be positive. Sometimes it will be glowing.
4% of the time, someone will say something nasty that you can easily recognize as the classic sour-grapes syndrome (“they rejected me! they are so evil!”). The mods usually get rid of these types of posts pretty frequently, but if you run into them don’t immediately cross this agent off your list. Just wait. Someone will usually step up to defend them.
o.5% of the time, your prospective agent will be a bad seed. Usually these are professional scammers. Chances are you’ll figure that out before you get to this stage in your research.
And then there is the 0.5% you need to watch out for. These are reputable agents who work for reputable agencies with recent sales. Most people like them and no one’s really nasty. However, you may run in to things like this “I used to work with him/her! PM if you wanna talk.”
This may sound innocuous. IT IS NOT. There are certainly times when this is true–people aren’t the right fit and things don’t work out. But from my limited experience, people either love their agent or they hate them. They rarely feel “meh” about an experience. If they did, they wouldn’t be on the AW boards talking about them. People on the boards who want to discuss things privately are reasonable, professional people who had a bad experience. Because they are reasonable, professional people they aren’t going around bad-mouthing anyone. But they’re their experience was bad enough that they feel the need to warn you.
(BTW, these percentages ARE COMPLETELY MADE UP. Just estimating here, folks )
Here you can either PM the original poster and get the scoop, or cross this agent off your list. I’d go for the former. I know time is short. But I really do believe in giving people the benefit of the doubt. What if there’s some super-awesome agent out there who got a bad break? Who is wonderful 99% of the time but had something go awry with one deal? I do think you owe it to them, and yourself, to find out. Set up an AW account, if you don’t already have one, and PM away.
Hopefully it’s all a big misunderstanding. But if the original poster says they withheld funds, bartered a bad deal, etc. etc. run for the hills. Lot’s of bad things just happen. That’s the nature of business. But when people steal your cash? That’s premeditated, baby.
After AW, do a little googling. You’ll probably turn up a number of agent blogs or interviews. Read them! Is your information still up-to-date? Is your prospective agent a meat-eating NRA member and you’re vegan? Look for someone who fits with your work AND your personality.
(5) The List! You’ve got a list! Woot! Hopefully you’ve trimmed it down from about 200 to 70 or 80. Now it’s time for some organizing. Check over your chart, and look at the “what the agent’s looking for” column. Find the people who fit the *very* best with your material. Hopefully, you’ll have at least twenty.
Of those twenty, check response times. The first ten queries you send out should all be best-fit early-responders. Why? Well, if everybody says no, you know your query needs work. If they want partials, you’ll be super happy, but also get some quick, valuable input back if your work still needs some revisions (which you can take into round two).
So after you’re list is together, organized and happy, start sending! I’d go with the usual ten-queries-per-month. (I say that, but then I was so gung-ho with my queries I sent out about twenty-five in six weeks.)
Now… wait. Chances are, your MOST wanted soon-to-be-best-friend-of-an agent will send you a form reject from his/her assistant. That’s cool, though. Remember how the internetz is filled with things that aren’t true? And how agents are people? No amount of research is going to gaurantee anything. But you may find that it will help your chances. And that’s all you can do.
Anyways, this post has somehow turned into something potentially useful. Gasp! Clearly, I need to get back to waxing nostalgic about things no one else is really concerned about. So next time… yeah. More of that.Read More