Friday, October 30, 2009

Know Thy Self: Guest Post

A real-life vent from a dear friend of mine on the perils of "jumping into bed" with an agent. Thank you for sharing your story, Anonymous Guest. :-)

First, I’d like to thank my gracious blog host, Jessica, for letting me post this. It’s been therapeutic to vent in a “public” venue.

As for jumping into bed with an agent, I’m someone who’s in that bed right now, trying to decide whether to "suck it up” or toss the covers aside and find another mate.

It’s so easy to say: I’m going to research every agent inside and out, read their every blog entry and online interview, talk to their other clients, and ask all the right questions to turn down any agent who answers even one of them wrong. That still doesn’t mean the marriage will be perfect. Even more than knowing your agent (which is virtually impossible until you start working with them anyway), is know your own career path. That’s the only way to assure the partnership will be successful.

I’d been trying to get an agent to notice me for over three years. After writing four books and getting over a hundred rejections, I finally had a top agent call me, interested enough in my work to sign me even before I made the revisions we’d agreed upon. I was so happy, I couldn't see straight. Finally I had validation from the publishing world that my writing—all of those endless lonely hours and words—had been worth it. Everything was going to be perfect. My agent would love whatever I penned, and I would sell books left and right.

Not so. Because I didn’t yet know who I was as a writer.

I did research my agent. I had been reading her blog. As for interviewing her clients—after conferring with my published friends, they made the point that unless you can find an ex-client, you’re unlikely to hear anything negative. Most clients are just so relieved to be repped, they don’t want to diss their meal ticket and compromise that security. So they’re unlikely to spill any criticism, in fear it might get back to their agent (just like I didn’t put my name on this post for the same reason). The only exception is if one of the clients happens to be your personal friend or acquaintance.

Now, asking questions of the agent? That’s where I dropped the ball. Well, kind of. I did ask the legal questions—things that applied to the biz. But I didn’t touch on the more personal questions. Not only of my agent, but of myself.

Again. Validation—in any small dose—is so seductive it’s almost blinding. The one question I should’ve asked above all others, was: “Why didn’t you like my first MS?” A MS that my crit group and several friends had read and loved. A MS that I completely forgot about after hearing she liked the other one.

In my case, my agent signed me on the second MS she read. The first one didn’t appeal to her. But she loved the voice. She asked what else I was working on, and I sent my newly finished, never read paranormal love story her way. She loved it. Wanted it. And signed me.

Now I find out she doesn’t want my other three prior MSS because they’re fantasies which she doesn’t rep. I’ve written two books since signing with her, and they both have elements more conducive to mainstream romance than traditional or single title. I’m having a hard time satisfying her. And in trying to satisfy her, I’m not satisfied.

A little too late, I’m starting to understand the role that voice plays in guiding a writer’s career path. I never stopped to really evaluate my “genre” in regards to style. VOICE drives you to your genre. No matter how hard you try to write something else, voice will win over in the long run every time. I assumed my work was romance with some fantasy/complex elements because a love story was always woven throughout. But what I’ve come to see is that the romance is secondary to plot. There’s an actual formula to traditional romances, and it’s clear that the way my mind works and puts a story into play is mainstream / fantasy. And I can’t even pursue that side of my creativity, because I have an agent who doesn’t have the connections or know how for fantasy or mainstream. She’s a stranger to my genre, yet she’s representing me. Scary.

With the paranormal love story, I had to change a lot of stuff to make it conform to her liking. And to this day she admits it’s still not really a traditional romance. I suspect that might be why we’re having trouble placing my paranormal (been trying for a year), because despite that it’s not traditional, she’s hitting the same editors she would if it were one. On the other hand, an agent who repped mainstream / fantasy would know of editors that would like the more in-depth and complex story leanings and world building, and might’ve already sold the book.

Some of you might be saying, “So what. Now that you’ve got an agent, suck it up and hang in there. Learn to write for the market she’s in, build a readership, then branch out later.”

But should I really, if writing for my agent’s market means changing my style which could possibly pigeon hole me into a genre I’m not meant for, for the rest of my career (or at least a big portion of it)?

There’s something lost when you stop writing your heart’s song. There has to be a balance somewhere between marketability and staying true to your voice. I know that there’s a publishing house out there that will get me, even though my agent doesn’t. I truly believe I’m marketable … just not in her genres. Yes, compromises will have to be made on my MSS all along the way, but not at the expense of the voice that makes me and my writing unique—which ironically, is the very quality that my agent fell in love with to begin with. The quality that to this day she still believes in. So, so confusing.

My advice to anyone seeking an agent for the first time is not only to research your agent, etc… but be sure that you are writing what you’re meant to write. KNOW what genre that is so you can assure your chosen agent represents your dreams, not just a one time fluke, before signing any dotted lines.

Then stand firm. Having felt the warmth of validation, I know how hard it is to turn away an offer from an agent after waiting so long in the cold. But is it really any worse to stand your feet upon a freezing, hard floor, than it would be to keep them toasty warm in a bed where a stranger sleeps beside you, or where you become a stranger to yourself?

Before jumping into bed, know where you want to be when you wake up. That way, you will find your perfect mate. :-)

Are the agents you want to query a good fit for your future writings? Do you know yourself, or are you still discovering where you fit in the publishing spectrum?

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Strange Bedfellows

Sometimes we hop into bed with an agent before thinking things through. Passion kicks in and oops, we're in "bed" with a stranger.

Just because an agent is reputable and nice doesn't mean they'll be the right fit. If you don't ask the right questions you might jump in with someone who:

Hogs the covers.

Takes up all the room on the mattress.

Huddles on the edge of mattress and you can barely reach him.

Snores in the middle of pillowtalk.

Have you thought about what to ask an agent before accepting an offer of representation? What things are you willing to overlook and what qualities are important to you?

Monday, October 26, 2009


I knew someone whose manuscript was rejected because of uneven pacing. It was the first time I'd heard of such a thing, and boy did it scare me.

Thinking about pacing, for me, is like thinking about calculus or trying to get home from the Orlando airport. I get lost. Easily. Frequently.

But I've managed to glean a few tidbits about pacing from different places (and since it's been a while I don't know who to thank--sorry!).

1. Pacing should slow when there's tension. I take that to mean we want the moment to stretch out wire-taut.

2. Pacing can be linked to conflict issues. So if your middle is sagging, your pacing might be off.

3. Pacing is the rhythm of the novel. Check out this excellent article by bestselling author Vicki Hinze.

What have you heard about pacing? How's the pacing in your manuscript? Your life? *grin*
Any good advice to share?

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Writer's Angst and some Thank Yous

Thank You Jeanette!

Thank You Steph in the City!

Here's a cute video I found over at Miss Snark's First Victim. It's an advertisement for Authoress's Book Agent Demystified, but I still thought it was really funny and kind of true. At least for the beginning of most of our writing journeys.

Have a great weekend!

Thursday, October 22, 2009

You Reap What You Sow

I strongly believe in sowing and reaping. Some people might believe in karma, some in 'what goes around, comes around.'

The basic principle here is that everything has consequences.

I just loved a recent episode of House because it was about sowing and reaping. Balance, even. The dad sacrificed everything to save his son, and being the wonderful show it is, the son lived. Not only that, but the minor characters have made some choices that are now beginning to bear fruit (and add conflict).


Are you making sure your characters are suffering from their bad choices? Being rewarded for their good ones? It's the little choices at the beginning of the story that should affect the rest of the book. I think these seemingly inconsequential choices should weave together and create the plot.

What do you think about sowing and reaping? Is your MC making good choices or bad ones, and how does that affect your character's moral arc?

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Oh Toliet Brush, How I Do Love Thee

As I was cleaning my bathrooms yesterday, it struck me how thankul I am that I no longer have to use my hands to clean the toilet bowl. I remembered how as a kid I hated sticking my fingers into that cold, nasty water.

But now I have my trusty toilet brush. Swish, swish and I'm done. No mess, little effort.

Thanks to computers, writing is easier too. No more whiteout in the typewriter, just a beautiful delete button. Then there's control F. And most recently I discovered page breaks. I'm sure there's lots of other cool tools.

What's your favorite word processing tool? House-cleaning tool? What do you wish would be invented?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Conference Goodies!

On my last post Deb mentioned wanting to hear about the good stuff from the conference. So here we go:

1) Amazing networking. I met many of my blogger friends, plus new bloggers.

2) I met my wonderful and generous crit partner. Also roomed with her, which was awesome.

3) Books, books, and more books. They gave away a whole bunch too!

4) Seeing editors and agents and realizing many of them are my age. Kind of a funky feeling there, but good.

5) Delicious desserts

6) Tree Climbing

7) Being surrounded by other writers is one of the biggest supports I've ever felt. It's incredible.

So that's the good stuff from the conference. There's so much more I could write about, but others have covered it better than me. The links below are for fellow bloggers who did more detail on various aspects of the conference.

Katie's Post

Jody's Post

Krista's Post

Eileen's Post

Jeannie's Post

Any links you all want to add?

Friday, October 16, 2009

Conference Bloopers

I tried hard to keep my foot on the ground, but gravity didn't cooperate and my size ten got stuck in my mouth a few times.

The worse faux pas was when I saw an author whose name I recognized and since she was standing right next to me, I told her how much I liked her book. And then I paused, horror filling me as I realized that I couldn't remember which book of hers I'd read. And then I tried to fill up that awkward silence by saying I knew I'd read a book of hers, but I couldn't remember which...uh, yeah. Not quite the right thing to say. That was my worst thing, I think, especially because I didn't know whether I'd maybe hurt her feelings. The last thing I'd want to do was make an author feel like her book wasn't memorable.

The second blooper was less serious. I'd just met some fellow bloggers and we were talking and I threw out the word heroine in our conversation. The blogger (wasn't it you, Katie?) looked at me funny and it dawned on me that my entire mental life has been spent saying heroine the wrong way.


Not too smart, but now I know the name sounds like the drug. Weird.

Any words you've been mispronouncing lately? Has your mouth ever moved faster than your brain and then you accidentally hurt someone's feelings?

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

An Announcement and apology

From Kat at Tender Graces and Angie at Gumbo Writer:

You are cordially invited to attend an "open house" beginning Wednesday, October 14, in honor of the newly renovated Rose &Thorn Journal:

Drop by, sign up for the newsletter, check out the new digs (and blog!), follow us on Twitter and Facebook, leave us your comments/thoughts, and wish us well!

Rose &Thorn is a quarterly literary journal featuring the voices of emerging and established authors, poets and artists.

Now...go enjoy the open bar and appetizer spread!

Angie Ledbetter &Kathryn Magendie
Rose & Thorn Journal

As for an apology, I'm going to be really busy today so I might miss some of your blog posts. Just wanted to apologize and let you all know that I'm still following you and will be back in blogaholic mode by Friday. I hope you're able to check out the Rose & Thorn!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Consistent Characterization

Sometimes when I read a series of books where they are all tied into the same family or place, I notice that a main character from a previous book doesn't seem as real when put in a secondary role.
It's always disappointing to me that someone I loved becomes such a shadow, as though a secondary character can't be as strong as the current main character.

It's not consistent.

I just finished Julie Lessman's A Passion Denied. This is the third book in her Daughters of Boston series and the heroine is the third sister in the family. There's a scene where all three sisters from the book are together in the kitchen and it made me laugh several times.

Lessman did something I don't usually see. She managed to keep each character strong and original without taking the focus off the main sister of that particular book. Talk about consistency!

Faith was still more serious and prayerful. Charity, hot-headed and sensual. And the heroine a little of both.

Have you written a series? Are all your characters strong, or do you sense that you've weakened some? What's your favorite series of all and who do you think is the strongest character in that series?

Saturday, October 10, 2009

The Dead Don't Always Die

I wrote the following when I first started this blog. Totally forgot about it too, but since I'm feeling exhausted and my brain is on post-freeze, I thought I'd repost it. Wish I had the link because it was really an amazing story.

Yesterday I logged onto Yahoo and got the shock of a lifetime. Okay, not really, but it was a surprise. A man who'd been pronounced brain dead by doctors suddenly, on the day of the plug-pulling, moved. Yes, he moved, then woke up, and forty-eight hours later went home. How incredible is that? How awesome! So I was in a really good mood and decided that maybe I don't want Dear Hubby to pull the plug on me if I'm ever brain dead. 'Cause obviously the doctors were wrong.
And then my mind started thinking about books, which is a common ailment of mine. The thinking about books thingy, that is.
There was a time historicals were considered dead. And now everyone's saying, NO More Chick-Lit! And guess what? Historicals are back in a big way.
The experts said they were dead. The experts were wrong.
My purpose in this is to encourage writers to never give up what they love to write, even if the market doesn't seem to be swinging that way. The market is always changing and nothing is ever really dead. It only morphs into something new.
Isn't that some kind of scientific law? Probably could be said for spiritual things as well.
Back to the point of this: Write what God has placed on your heart to write.

What do you write? Is it popular? Have you heard any cool stories like this?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

A Bitter Root

See to it that no one misses the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many

Grace is a beautiful thing. We all need it.

Bitterness is ugly. Most of us have it.

When I think about bitterness, I think of a vine growing around our hearts and choking us. I'm not trying to preach to anyone today, but I did think it's worth noting how easy it is to become bitter in a business like publishing.

This is a subjective business, one that doesn't necessarily conform to rules. We want rules. We come up with formulas and plotting strategies and one-sheets. We revise and edit, revise and edit, shooting for perfection.

And then we face rejection.

It's the subjectivity that's the toughest, because in this business, you can't measure success by publishing. Getting a contract means a lot of people like your book. Rejection doesn't mean people DON'T like your book.

The business of publishing isn't a formula. There are things we can do to draw closer to our goals, but they're still no guarantee of a contract. All these gray areas leave room for big dreams and big disappointments. They leave room for bitterness.

I guess I just want to encourage everyone. Bitterness is easy to give into, but hard to escape. Even worse, it's contagious.

Grace is a good cure for bitterness.

Has there ever been anything you've been bitter about? How did that bitterness feel? Were you able to escape its tentacles? What does grace mean to you?

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Sin + Virtue = Bestseller

I took this class at ACFW. Agent Natasha Kern was the speaker and she kept me hooked.

Basically, she taught us that what makes a novel great is this simple formula. I wondered what her class would be like HERE. Now I know.

Our main character must have a great desire, one main thing that comes from their strongest virtue. This virtue must drive the main character. Conflict comes through the form of the character's biggest weakness, or sin. The character must be tempted away from their goals (something heroic deriving from their virtue) by their very own sins/lusts/flaws.

She used the example of Scarlett O'Hara, who loves her home Tara and wants to protect it at any cost. She does horrible things but the reader forgives her because we understand her driving need is heroic. Even her love for Rhett is a conflict, because it clashes with her virtuous passion to save her beloved Tara.

Another example was Julie Lessman's character Faith, in A Passion Most Pure. Faith desires to be Godly above all else, but she's also in love with her sister's boyfriend. Talk about major conflict.

What do you think? Does your conflict pull at the moral fibers of your main character? Have you pitted the MC's sins agains his or her main Moral goal? What's your favorite story and how does this formula play out in it?

Sunday, October 4, 2009

New Word and True Heroism

Here's a link to One Very Brave Heroic boy who I think is completely awesome!

Here's a link to the new word on the block (and it cracks me up). Shug.

If you were going to combine two words to make a new one, what would they be? Do you think you could do what that boy did? Why or why not?

Friday, October 2, 2009

Jessica Nelson, Super Spy

I'm guilty.

Guilty of reading my sisters' diaries. Guilty of listening to strangers' conversations. Guilting of putting my ear to a wall and trying to hear what's happening in the next room.

My heart galloped in my chest when, in my high school years, I discovered I could listen in on my mom's phone conversations via the radio. Yep. Turned it to the right channel with the antenna pointed just so, and I could hear every word.

But my curiosity always battled my conscience. Now, instead of eavesdropping on others, I write characters who do it.

Have you ever eavesdropped? Heard something you shouldn't have? Did you regret it or enjoy it?