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Quotes tagged “Writing Advice”
If you view it as a craft you work on and can improve, you'll know a bad day of writing is something you can fix.”
(1) Sit down and write the damn thing without complaining or worrying about tools.
(2) That’s it, just show up every day and make words.
(3) Seriously, nothing else matters.
(4) Go write.”
There's this thing we call LIFT -- this unteachable, unforceable element of a book that makes it fill your heart with excitement. It makes a series sticky, makes a character someone you care about like they're real. It's a tough code to crack. Agents can see it. You need it.
The slush pile = your reaction to the test is part of the test. If you get 5 query rejections and want to quit, this might not be the job for you. You've got to find your reason to push through the self-doubt and fear. How much are you willing to fail?
But I can tell you with 100% accuracy when your book ISN'T ready and when you SHOULDN'T query, and that is December 1, after you've won NaNoWriMo. Do yourself a favor and edit that book properly. Do your work before attempting to query. Agents remember garbage queries.
Oh, and a tip for querying and live pitching at conferences: 95% of the time, saying, "This book is like nothing ever written before!" doesn't signal that you're the next JK Rowling. It says you haven't read widely in your genre or have disdain for it. Pick a different hook.
And when I think back to editing my first 2 books, the pre-agent books, I remember how hard I was on myself. I was learning a new skill set. I wasn't born knowing how to edit a book. It took a few messes and some guidance. No one expects you to get it right the 1st time.”
Here's some tough love: It's very rare that your 1st book is the one that will get an agent or a sale. For most pro writers I know (NOT ALL; DON'T @ ME), our 1st book is great practice that is ultimately trunked. Start writing book 2 while you query. Forward momentum!
How do you know when it's time to trunk your 1st book? * When you honestly can't think of a single way to improve it further * When you've got 60+ rejections and are out of agents to query * When you're sick of it and have a new story idea WRITE THE NEXT BOOK and query again.
The painful truth is that if your goal is to be traditionally published, you can't cling to 1 book forever. You can't write 7 books in the series and expect someone to buy them. You've got to write 1 great book, query it, repeat-- until you get an agent/sale. Period.
And as I say with every one of these writing advice threads: This is all based on my experience in the world of traditional publishing. YMMV. You may disagree. Every journey is different. There are outliers. You do you. May the odds be ever in your favor.”
I suggest sending out 5 queries to a variety of agents on your list. If you get nothing but form rejections, read more QueryShark and rewrite your query. If you're getting requests, keep querying and wait for responses. But what do those responses mean?
Decoding query responses:
1. Not a good fit= generally a form rejection
2. Agent offers compliment/any personal advice = getting close!
3. Agent suggests specific changes and says they'd look at it again = so close!
4. Agent wants to have a call to talk about it = SCORE
Still not sure if your book is good/if your edits are helping? Ask yourself:
* What does the protagonist want?
* What is the main conflict stopping them?
* What subplots complicate it?
* What is the character arc?
* Does the end satisfy the beginning?
* Can you write a hook or blurb for your book?
* Are there any parts you consider boring?
* Would you tell someone it gets better in chapter 3/whatever?
* Are there weak spots you hope an agent won't notice?
* Are you proud of it?
Still not sure if your book is any good? Go ahead and write a 1-page synopsis, which many agents want as part of your query. Is there a definite plot-- this happens, which causes this, and then this? Or are most of the verbs passive-- she learned, he discovered? Plot= vital.
Check your first chapter. Is it a character experiencing a normal day in which nothing happens, walking around a room thinking about something, or describing themselves in a mirror? Those are all red flags. Consider the instigating factor and rewind one scene. Start there.
IME as a writer and teacher, many 1st chapters are the writer thinking out loud and waiting for something to happen. If that's in your first draft, cut it and decide where the book really starts: in a moment that shows character and worldbuilding while kicking off the plot.
One issue I see in books at the querying stage = the writer is ramrodding the plot when the main character should be driving it. Your protagonist should be motivated to do something, and their agency is what makes things happen. The world and antagonist should impede them.”
So let's say you have a 1st draft. It's garbage, because all 1st drafts are garbage. Your job is to fix it! Your 2nd draft should fix obvious mistakes and holes, things you didn't know the first time around. I like to let my 2nd draft rest and forget it for a few weeks.
When I come to my 3rd draft, I've forgotten most of what I knew about the book, which means I have fresh eyes. Here, I look for plot or character inconsistencies, tension or motivation issues, etc. When am I bored? This is where you dig deep for big changes. Revision.
When I was starting out, this is the part where I realized that I had no idea how to make the book better. This is the part where I felt helpless and like publishing was rigged and like I had skill and if someone would just see my potential, I could do great things. But...
Here's where you show your grit. Take that 3rd draft and polish it up. Scour for spelling errors, make every sentence sing. Then find someone to read it. Someone who loves you and will tell you it's great. Ego boost! Now find someone who reads a lot. Get an honest opinion.
My 1st beta readers were neighborhood friends. But I got too much "This is great!" feedback, so I started asking specific questions, which gave them the in to offer constructive criticism. They often disagreed! I had to choose how to move forward and why. That's a big step.
At this step, you can use a cheat code to level up by taking a class or going to a conference and paying for the privilege of having pro eyes on your work. I crit 1st chapters in my @LitReactor class. My agent does this with @WritersDigest. I did not have this opportunity.
With my first few books, I didn't really grok deep edits, so I self-edited using reader feedback and polished for weeks. I didn't know it then, but I was procrastinating out of fear. It's easier to pull out a thesaurus then query agents and get the requisite rejections.
I realized Draft 13 was just me changing "tired" to "exhausted" and that I was being a coward and getting super bored with the book, so I decided to query. I'm a HUGE fan of querying early. Query early and get it out of the way. It'll make you stronger. But query RIGHT...
Here is my guide to getting published, which details how to learn to write a query and how to find literary agents: http://terribleminds.com/ramble/2013/08/13/25-steps-to-being-a-traditionally-published-author-lazy-bastard-edition/ … If you don't read every query on QueryShark, and if your draft isn't polished to h*ck, you are shooting yourself in the foot.”
About The Authors
This page was created by our editorial team. Each page is manually curated, researched, collected, and issued by our staff writers. Quotes contained on this page have been double checked for their citations, their accuracy and the impact it will have on our readers.
Kelly Peacock is an accomplished poet and social media expert based in Brooklyn, New York. Kelly has a Bachelor's degree in creative writing from Farieligh Dickinson University and has contributed to many literary and cultural publications. Kelly assists on a wide variety of quote inputting and social media functions for Quote Catalog. Visit her personal website here.
Kendra Syrdal is a writer, editor, partner, and senior publisher for The Thought & Expression Company. Over the last few years she has been personally responsible for writing, editing, and producing over 30+ million pageviews on Thought Catalog.