The only platitude I’ve heard repeated as often as “show don’t tell” is “you need a thicker skin.” Nonsense. You need a better rebound.
I talk a lot about finding the right agent for you, rather than just any agent. You want someone who gets your vision, who knows how to sell books like yours, and whose personality gels with yours, which means finding the right agent is a pretty personal task. That said, there are a few consistent qualities we should all be looking for:
If you want to sell your book to a major New York publisher, you need an agent, no question. As with anything in life, there are rare exceptions, but do you want to drastically narrow your chances in hopes of winning the lottery? If so, why? A good agent has relationships with editors and publishers, they know who’s looking for what, they know how to sell a book, they know how to negotiate a good contract, and
You’re trying to juggle a dozen things at once – an unforgettable first line, a fresh voice, an original theme, complex characters, mood and tone and conflict and a sense of mystery, and so on and so forth. In so doing, there’s a good chance you’ve inadvertently lost the most important element of all – clarity.
Once upon a time, I was a magazine editor with an inbox full of pitches from writers and publicists. Many of the senders probably submitted those queries and imagined me waiting for them to come in, reading through each one carefully to decide whether or not it had merit.
Here’s what was really on my mind each time a new pitch pinged through:
Triage. I didn’t come up with this myself. I heard it from the editor Sol Stein, who likens revision to battlefield triage - treating patients in priority order, not first come first serve. For a book, this means tackling the big stuff first. The stuff that is most likely to make a huge overarching impact on the book.
We’re talking about things like character arc, plot, point-of-view, entirely new scenes...
Most people I know have a strong opinion one way or another. I have two strong opinions. First, I think self publishing is of tremendous value to readers, writers, and the publishing field. Second, way too many writers self publish for the wrong reasons.
Here’s what I love about self publishing: It allows writers to find readers, and that’s the point, right? Before the internet and e-readers, the barriers standing between writers and their readers were preposterously high. No other art faced such obstruction.
If you just need a tool to organize a long document, you can change your life in a couple of minutes. Totally worth the investment, even if you never take advantage of all the bells and whistles.
One of my clients is in dire need of organizing a seriously complicated project, so I made these quick screencasts to show him how I use it and how to get started. They’re nothing pretty, but they’ll let you see if Scrivener might help you.