Agents: Why Do Writers Need Them?

As mentioned in my last post, I am looking for finding an agent so I can get my book published. But agents aren’t editors. They don’t work for publishing companies. Then, why do I need one?

Well, the short answer is that because they work for me.

Okay, that’s a super short answer. An agent is the support staff for a writer. One thing that I’ve heard from countless lectures I’ve gone to with editor/agent speakers, is that the publishing business would crumble without the writer. Therefore, everything is pretty much built upon what the writer produces. Publishers want you to produce something awesome that will sell. Editors, and mostly agents, are the ones that help the author do this.

This is the breakdown of what an agent does as far as I know:

  • They support the writer
  • Help the writer manage their career
  • Manage the rights to the books
  • Be the writer’s advocate
  • Act as a bridge between you and the editor 

The agents are going to be the star quarterback for team Writer. A legit agent doesn’t get paid until you, the writer, does. They take a small percentage, but for what they do it seems worth it. They’re the ones who help you with revision. They’re the ones with the connections in the publishing world. They make sure they you get the most you can for your work.

Finding the right agent is like dating. You want to make sure that you click with one another. So, when you’re looking for an agent, make sure you do your research. This is some great advice that one of my professors passed on to me this summer. Literary Rambles is a great resource. They’ve got links to various agents and have collections of interviews and articles with the agent listed online.

Lastly, two things to keep in mind.

  1. Most publishing houses won’t look at manuscripts if a writer doesn’t have an agent
  2. Even with an agent, there is a chance that your book won’t be picked up for publication

So that’s what I got. Agents = good. As writers we need them, and they need us. When I finally get an agent, cookies will be sent.

In a little while, I’ll post about the querying process (the process of trying to get an agent to take you on), so until then, have a good one!

Step Four: Don’t Discriminate Any Written Word

Read All Forms of The Written Word:
Books aren’t the only thing out there…

I feel like as a writer I get very pigeon-holed in what I read. I usually read YA fantasy and not much else. It’s lame. I tell myself that I need to be aware of the market and what’s out there and what’s not… and I do. But I need to do more than that.

Chuck Wendig makes a very good point, one that’s never even come up on my radar:
“Those who write books are occasionally “book racists.” They pump their fists and espouse Book Power while denigrating other forms of the written word. “TV will rot your brain,” they might say. As if the Snooki book will somehow do laps around an episode of THE WIRE. Books are not the only form of the written word. You may not even want to write books. Branch out. Watch television. Watch film. Read scripts. Visit great blogs. Play games. Don’t be a book racist. The storytelling cults can learn much from one another.”
Fantastic advice! I mean, I think writers tend to forget that there are other forms of the written word out there that have lots to offer. I think watching TV (and not reality TV) is a good way of studying dialogue and characterization. I mean, I don’t know about you, but when I watch a Shakespearian play as a movie (you know with the original text – like that version of Romeo and Juliet) I can understand it so much better than just reading it. 

Like prose writer’s reading poetry, I totally agree with Chuck on this one. There are so many different forms of the written word out there and each has something different to offer. How can reading a script help your fiction? That’s not for me to tell you, but give it a shot and see what happens. I know I will.  

I Think I Can! I Think I Can!

Well, I’m getting ready to head off to my MFA program for the last time. I have super mixed feelings about it. On the one hand…

  1. I am beyond excited to get up to school and spend time with my Nerd Herd (I don’t think they know I refer to them as that, but they probably will now. And I think they’ll like it.)
  2. I love the classes and can’t wait to be in a physical classroom again learning.
  3. I love the location of my program and just feel so at home there. I mean, where I live now it awesome, but there is soooo much more up there. 
  4. And I’m really excited to be nearing the end of my degree and all that means.

But on the other hand…

  1. I’m going to be done with my degree before I know it. No more fun classes. No more going to Nerd Camp.
  2. I have to leave my new husband for 6 weeks.
  3. I will miss my husband’s birthday… 
  4. Did I mention that I’ll miss my husband?
  5. I won’t have any income for 6 weeks.

So there’s a lot swirling around in my mind. The lists above only scratch the surface. But don’t take away the wrong idea. I’m not unhappy, just conflicted. 

But my ramblings are not the full focus of this post. This post is about writing, believe it or not. And my own writing to boot. 

I’ll go more into this in a future post, but I’ve been tracking my word count, day by day, for almost a month now. I have been forcing myself to sit down at the computer and just write damn it. Some days I’ll only get a few hundred words. Other days, I’ll get a couple thousand down on the page. Are they all the final words? Hell no! They are my road map. I know that there are blanks that I need to go and fill in, but that’s for another draft. 

This draft will be my first, complete draft of my novel. I have been working on it for around five years now. Why has it taken me that long to write one full draft? 

Here’s why:

  • I didn’t force myself to write as much as I have in the last few weeks
  • I’ve been working on this for several different workshop style classes and in those classes people want to read your stuff, critique it, and then see the changes. I’ll tell you I’ve had countless drafts of Chapter One, but only one draft of chapters 10, 11, and 12. 
  • I’m lazy
  • I’m not pushing myself to be a writer. <—— THIS IS BAD

So, the whole point of this is to pass along some more advice to you. Don’t be like me. Or, well, the old me. Don’t over edit a few chapter while never writing any of the others. Be like the new me. Write as often as you can and take notes on what you know you need to add in later. 

However, this way might not work for everyone. What’s your writing style?

Step Three: Read What’s Not Your Style

Read What Scares You:
Read Anything and Everything

This step goes hand in hand with the last step. Step 2 was all about reading all the time. Seriously, read more than you sleep if you can help it. This one is more focused on what you choose to read.

Let me start off with what Chuck has to say… 

Here then is the prison that writers build for themselves: it becomes harder and harder to read purely for pleasure. Reading for pleasure often means sticking to a few genres, with a few authors — “Oh, I like fantasy, so I only read fantasy fiction,” or, “I love the Detective Cashew Pepper series by K. J. Staplebottom, and I’ve read up to #47 in the series.” That privilege has been revoked. You now must read widely, weirdly, wisely. Read everything. Move outside your desired library. Read obscure British literature. Read poetry. Read non-fiction. Read science-fiction even though you hate science-fiction. If you want to do what everybody else is doing, fine, read only in your pre-existing sphere of influences. But this is about improving your work, not treading water like a poodle who fell off a boat.”

This is a amazing advice and something that I don’t think enough people hear enough. Like I mentioned before, writers are always told to write everyday. I mean that’s advice that’s across the board good to know and good to pass along. And yes, writer’s are also told to read a lot. However, I think people (me included) pigeon-hole themselves when it comes to the content of what they choose to read. Me? I’m not big on realistic fiction. I tend to read just fantasy. And that’s LAME! If I never read realistic fiction then I would never have found John Green (whom I love and I tend to study his dialogue like no one’s business). But see! If I never read him, I’d never have seen how awesome his dialogue is, and my dialogue might be a little less awesome. (Writer’s tend to know what they’re good at and where they feel like they suck: I’m good at dialogue and super sucky at description…) 

So what I’m going to do is include some various reading lists. I don’t think I’ll have a chance to read any of them by next week, but I think we could all get started on a new book. Pick one from a genre that is totally opposite what you typically read/write. See what makes it awesome and what you can learn from it.

Check out these lists:

  1. 100 Essential Reads for a Lifelong Learner 
  2. The Top 10 Banned Books of All Time
  3. College Bound Reading List
  4. 53 Books Every College Student Should Read

Step 2: Read Your Brains Out

Just Keep Reading:
Read like there’s no tomorrow

Here we go. Another way to becoming a better writer. 

Apart from being told to write sometime everyday, another piece of advice that gets passed around a lot is that writer’s need to read. Read all day every day if you can. If you can’t, set aside some reading time. Instead of TV after work, curl up with a book and read for 30 minutes. Take a book with you to work and read on your lunch break. In his book On Writing, Steven King even suggests keeping a book with you at all times and read whenever you have a free second – in line at the grocery store, waiting for someone who is meeting you for lunch… Also, King suggests that audio books can count, so listen to them in the car. That’s pretty much the reason I have a library card now. I can’t afford audio books all the time, so checking them out is soooo much better.

But, why should you read all the time? Here’s what our list master Chuck Wendig has to say: 

“The world is home to — *does some quick math on fingers, toes, testicles, nipples, and teeth* — 45 smajillion books. Each of them often containing somewhere north of 50,000 words. And new books hit the atmosphere every day. You do not need to read all of these books. But you should act as if that is indeed your task, carving your way through the world’s cumulative body of the written word one tome at a time. If you want to write, you’re coming in at the ground level of these 45 smajillion books written by 33 fnuhzillion different writers. You are a but a mote in the reader’s eye. You want to compete? Read. Learn what other writers are doing. Absorb it with that schnapps-laden sponge you call a brain.”

See what others are doing. I mean, they are published so they have to be doing something right. Look at how these published writers weave their story together. To really notice that, if you’re like me, you’ll have to read a book at least twice: Once to get the plot and once to see how the writer builds and shapes the story. Try and pay attention to the logic within the story and how a particular author handles dialogue and characterization. Look at your favorite writers and try and figure out not only why they are your favorites but how they’ve accomplished that. 

Step 1: Follow Up

Alright, so Tuesday I shared with you the first step on how to become a better writer. It’s easy for me to sit here and tell you what to do, but harder for me to actually do it. So, I took my own advice, because if I don’t who will? And did one of the writing prompts.

Describe a “first” (first apartment, first kiss, first time driving a car, first lie, first big success, first roller coaster ride, first time in this setting). Include as many details as possible, being sure to include an aspect relating to each of the five senses.
Okay, this is the first time Liam (the main man in my YA fantasy novel sees Brea, the narrator of the WIP) I know I didn’t included as many sensory details as I could, but I was just happy to write this scene. Writing prompts don’t have to follow all the rules/ directions… as long as you get something written.
Liam closed his eyes and took a deep breath, which he almost choked on. The metallic sent was heavy in the air and made his lungs feel as if they were full of smoke and ash. He understood why Rowan insisted meeting in the city, there was less of a chance that Ash’s spies would follow them into the heart of a city full of iron. However, it was still painful. Even though the medicine the court alchemist made for them kept Liam from getting iron-sickness, he couldn’t help but imagine the poison that surrounded him seeping into his body.

He hated the city. However, Rowan was his King and there was next to nothing Liam could do about it.
They reached a small café, The Village Cup. Lo had scouted it out earlier in the day for their meeting. It was out of the way, small, and deep enough into the city that wandering fey wouldn’t dare come close.

Lo opened the door. A string a bells that hung on the inside of the door jingled merrily as the three stepped into the coffee house. It was empty apart from the young mortal girl that was behind the counter. She glanced up at them and her mouth hung open slightly. They tended to have that effect on mortals. Liam wanted to smile but didn’t. Rowan didn’t understand Liam’s interest with mortals. To Rowan, they were playthings, exotic pets of sorts. But to Liam, they were simply fascinating.

The sound of ceramic shattering on tiles seemed to snap the girl out of her daze. She glanced down at her feet and winced. Yes, she had dropped her coffee cup. Liam imagined that her feet were now soaked with the bitter, dark liquid.

Rowan scoffed and glanced over at Liam.

“Liam, take care of our orders.” Not even telling Liam what he wanted, Rowan strode over to the back corner, and fell into one of the overstuffed chairs. Somehow, Rowan still managed to exert an air of authority even when he was sprawled out in a chair.

Lo made eye contact and slightly rolled his eyes. That was more of a reaction than Liam had hoped for. Lo was a fey of few words and even fewer readable expressions of emotion. His eye roll was Lo speak for “He’s our king, what can you do?” He then glanced at the chalkboard that was propped up on the counter advertising the new pumpkin spice latte. He nodded his head toward it and then went and joined Rowan in the corner.

Liam walked up to the counter. The strong smell of coffee was almost powerful enough to cover the stench of iron that hung in the air. The girl at the counter smiled at him. He wanted to smile back, but didn’t. His track record with mortals wasn’t very good. As much as he found them interesting and amazing creatures, they had a habit of dying when they spent too much time with him. No need to encourage this one.

But he so very much wanted to. She was beautiful in only the way a mortal can be. She had brown hair that was the color of chocolate and eyes that were the color of Forget-Me-Nots. And she had the subtle perfume of coffee and baked goods that clung to her.

“Hi,” her voice was a bit shaky and she tried to smile a bit bigger. It was downright adorable how nervous she was. “What can I get for you?”

Liam glanced down behind the counter and saw the pieces of the shattered mug and a puddle of coffee on the floor. Her dark blue tennis shoes were soaked as well as the hem of her jeans. She visibly shifted her weight and attempted to hide her feet under the counter. He bit back a smile.

“What were you drinking before we rudely took you by surprise?”
Her cheeks turned a pink color and she glanced down at the puddle on the ground. “Well, usually I drink whatever coffee is oldest and we can’t sell. Uh, but that was, that was a snicker-doodle flavored blend. It’s been a rough day so I treated myself. But I’m not really supposed to…” She trailed off and then bit her bottom lip.

“Is there any more?”

“Uhh…” She glanced over her shoulder back toward various coffee making machines that Liam didn’t even try to pretend to know anything about. “Let me check. I think so…” She started walking and slipped a bit in the coffee puddle. Liam finally let himself smile as she froze and kept her balance. She didn’t turn around but Liam could bet his sword on her blush growing deeper. She then proceeded to slide her feet across the floor almost as if she was ice-skating. She fiddled around with a machine and then skate/slid back across the floor.

“I’ve got enough for one more. Not enough for you and your friends.”

“Well, I know that they would each like one of those lovely sounding pumpkin spiced drinks you have here on the board.” Liam rested his elbows on the counter and leaned forward a bit. “How about you save that last mug for yourself and fix me a cup of tea?”

“Okay.” She avoided his gaze and punched buttons on the cash register. “Your total is six fifty seven.” Finally she looked up at him. He flashed her his best smile, and she bit her lip and looked down at the counter again.

Liam dug in the pocket of his pants, a pair of mortal jeans he kept for when Rowan required them to venture into the city, and produced a crumpled ten-dollar bill. Usually, he simply glamoured some leaves to look like mortal money, but he liked this girl too much.

“Keep the rest.” He smiled at her once again and then crossed the coffee shop to take his seat on Rowan’s right side. He half listened to Rowan drone on about the increasing tension between the Dark Court and his brother, Ash’s court, the Unseelie Court. Liam was too busy watching the mortal fix their drinks.
Liam settled into his seat more comfortably once she brought out their drinks and handed them out before muttering a thank you and scooting back to the counter. She then proceeded to sit on a stool behind the counter and plop her head down. Liam took a short sip of his herbal tea and grinned. Not only was she cute, but she knew what she was doing.

Liam decided, as he turned his attention to his King, that maybe he could get used to the city after all.            

Step 1: How to Become A Better Writer

Practice Makes Perfect:
Building and flexing those writing muscles

So here we go. The first of 25 posts that revolve on ways to make you a better writer. 
What’s the one thing, the one piece of advice that every writer is told again and again? To keep writing. Write  everyday.  
Here’s what Chuck says on his 25 list:
“The easiest and most forthright way to become a better writer is, duh, to write. Write, write, write. Write regularly. Get on a schedule, whether it’s 100, 1000, or 10000 words a day. Writing is a muscle, like your biceps, your heart, or your private parts. Don’t use ‘em, you lose ‘em. And then they fall to the ground and rot like oxidizing apples and are in turn eaten by hungry gophers. Om nom nom.” – Chuck Wendig

Yes! This is something that I fail to do. I never make time for writing. And I should. I mean, yes, I sometimes count working on my blog as writing…but I don’t make enough time for creative writing. Further more, when I do make the time sometimes I don’t want to work on my WIP. Sometimes I just want to write something new, but I don’t have any ideas. 

If this problem plagues you as it plagues me I have found the cure. Writing prompts. Just google writing prompts and you’ll get a plethora of links. Here’s one that I liked: Creative Writing Prompts from Warren Wilson College.

And below is a prompt from my weekly Writer’s Digest e-mail. 

Writing Prompt
You’ve just moved into a new house and are fixing it up. In the process of painting you find an odd crack in the wall. As you explore further, you find out it’s a secret passageway—and you have no idea where it leads. You decide to grab a flashlight and go exploring.

So here’s my challenge: by the next post we will all have written a response to ONE of these prompts. If you want to include what you’ve written in the comments space below feel free! 

New Feature: 25 Ways to Become a Better Writer


Who doesn’t want to become a better writer? I mean, I know that I am always striving to write something better than the last time, and there are books chock full of advice. How to write your novel in 90 days, in your off time, how to write a fantasy novel, how to have better characters, how to create conflict and tension… I could keep going but I wont’. The point is: there are enough people who want to write better that there is a market for it.

So, here is a new weekly post that I’ll be playing around with: 25 Ways to Become a Better Writer. TADA!

Did I come up with this list? No. I did not. I found it here. 

What will this new feature include (you might be asking)? Well, I’ll take each of the 25 tips Chuck Wendig proposes, show them to you, and then give you some resources that go along with the tips. 

It will be fun, and awesome, and you are more than welcome to share resources with me, and the other readers, in the comment boxes. I’m super excited. Feel free to check out the list before hand… I’ll warn you, the first tip and corresponding resources have to do with practicing your craft. Something I am horrible at doing. So, we will grow together!

Just Keep Swimming

Sometimes I feel as if I have just shot myself in the foot.

I mean, I’ve loaded the gun. Lined it up with my foot. Pulled the trigger. And POW!

Foot has been shot.

That’s how this Harry Potter paper is making me feel. Like, I have all these ideas and plans and evidence from the texts and outside sources and a detailed outline all done. And then I sit down to write the paper and BAM! I run into a wall. I keep looking at my paper and get worried. All I see are quotes that I’ve strung together, my “original thought” sentences connecting the better phrased quotes together.

Sometimes I feel like I’ve tricked everybody into thinking I’m all brilliant and everything. Surprise! I’m not! Ugh.

But then I think: No. You can;t have fooled this many people. Not the acceptance board at my graduate school. Not my husband (who can read me like an open book). Not my parents. Not all these amazingly awesome teachers at my grad school. No. There is no way I fooled them all. So then the person I’m fooling has to be myself.

I am brilliant. I can write this damned paper. And it will be awesome.

So sitting here staring at the screen (not writing my paper), I think of some advice that author Ellen Kushner gave me this summer: Get the words on the page. Get a frist draft done. Let it be shit. Let it be a shitty first draft. Because that’s what it is: a first draft. You can’t fix nothing. If there are no words on the page – you can’t refine them. But I can refine shit. I can take a piece of coal and turn it into a diamond.

And then I think of Finding Nemo

Just insert “writing” for “swimming” and you could have my theme song.

So, what am I going to do?

I’m going to keep swimming. And so should you if you hit that awesome wall of self doubt.