Archive for 'editors'

Different, but Good
by Annette McCleave on May 12th, 2009

Like Jessa, I’m still pretty new to the agent/editor working relationship. This time last year, I had neither. I was still in the thick of the query process, having recently finaled in the RWA’s Golden Heart contest.

I think the most significant discoveries I’ve made since signing with my agent and then subsequently with NAL have been 1) the cheerleader effect, 2) real deadlines, and 3) new expectations.

1. The Cheerleader Effect
For years and years, I wrote just for myself. Yes, I had critique partners and chapter-mates who encouraged me and educated me, but like most writers 99% of my writing time was spent alone and that meant the only person cheering me on was myself. I don’t say that to generate pity; I actually believe this is a critical skill for a writer—developing the unshakable need to succeed. Without it, I’m not sure you can finish a book, let alone make it out of the trenches and into the publishing world.

But when I got a very enthusiastic response from my soon-to-be-agent last spring, my world flipped upside down. Suddenly, someone else besides me thought I had talent. Not those few nice paragraphs that I had received from agents before, but a WOOHOO, I WANT TO SIGN YOU excitement. A few months later, I got another enthusiastic response from my new editor. Wow. The world sure looks different from this point of view. Very pretty, very sparkly.

The high didn’t last, of course. My usual raft of self-doubt has returned, but at least now it’s tempered by little whispers of ‘yeah, but your agent really likes it’ and ‘yeah, but your editor thought your book was worth buying’.

2. Real Deadlines
After I signed my contracts, I had new deadlines to meet—some short, some long, none of them moveable. I actually didn’t have any problem with this part until I hit number 3.

3. New Expectations
My agent is very interested in my work. So interested, in fact, that she wants to know how things are going and wants to read the chapters of my new book when they’re polished. Of course she does. She’s wonderful. Problem is, she now represents an expectation I didn’t have to meet before. I used to be able to write whatever the heck I wanted—in fact, before starting a new manuscript, I frequently gave myself permission to write crap, so that I didn’t have my internal editor sitting on my shoulder saying: not good enough, do it again. But now I had my agent, sitting quietly in the background, waiting for my manuscript.

I also had my editor, who loved my first book, waiting with eagerness to read the second. Plus, the second book now had to satisfy any readers (no matter how few they might be) of my first book. Worst of all, I wanted to write a better book than the one I wrote the first time. I wanted to develop as a writer.

Dear me. Expectations. Lots and lots of expectations—where before there were none.

It took me a long time to leap the hurdle of those expectations and settle into my writing routine. I began my second book at least fifty times, never satisfied that it was right. But eventually, I was able to stop obsessing and move on. All I had to do was let my characters speak through my keyboard and let their lives take over mine; all I had to do was fall in love with my new hero (sigh) and cheer on my new heroine. All I had to do was remember why I write.

My overall conclusion? Being a writer with an agent and an editor is different, but good.

That’s about as philosophical as I get. :smile:

I’m sure I’m not the only one who has let someone else’s expectations tie them in knots. Am I? Reassure me. Tell me your story.

Playing the professional writer
by Jessa Slade on May 11th, 2009

Currently working on: More freakin’ revisions!!!
Mood: Dangerous

This week’s topic here at Silk And Shadows is ”Working with editors and agents.” I’m technically a professional writer now and should be qualified to discuss that topic, but even typing the headline makes me laugh. And it’s a nervous laugh.

Because I still don’t feel very professional, and I dread the day my editor and agent realize I’m a fake.  (The even more terrifying truth, of course, is that they already know; but we’re all politely withholding that news from me for the time being.)

I have a journalism background and worked on newspapers for years, so I thought I’d be relatively prepared for the business side of writing.  After all, reporters have to churn out daily copy, consider column inches a necessary evil, become working experts in many fields, meet deadlines and dropdeadlines and deadasadoornaillines — all vital skills for a professional writer.

But I also worked as a telephone psychic for a little while, and I think what I learned there is more applicable to being a professional writer than being a professional writer was.

What I learned as a telephone psychic that might help anyone trying to fake it until they make it:

tarot51. Being a waitress is important too.

I never was actually a waitress, but working as a telephone psychic made me think I should’ve tried being a waitress.  Real waitresses, of course, are snickering at me right now, because they know anybody who sits at a phone all day, taking one call at a time, could never manage a six-top, three two-tops, a grease fire, and the kitchen manager’s mental breakdown, all before 9:30 am. 

Being a psychic dreaming of being a waitress taught me that being a writer dreaming of being a… well, a bestselling writer is kind of pointless.  You do the thing you are doing, and you find the beauty, the art, the Zen of what you are doing.  Out of that comes a certain grace that will carry you through the rough patches.

Also, be polite and positive to everyone if you want a tip.  And get them their fries while they’re still hot.

2. Believe in yourself. (Or at least let others believe in  you.)

I have no idea why I decided to apply to be a telephone psychic.  I’d read Tarot cards for myself and a few close friends, but that hardly seemed like a career path.  (Hmm, kinda like writing stories for myself, yes?)  But I went to an informational meeting, and the psychic in charge picked out me and a man who totally looked the part (slender, bald, intense pale eyes) as having excellent potential.

Woohoo, she thought I had potential!  (Hmm, kinda like that high school English teacher who liked my stories, yes?)  So I bought a scented candle, shuffled my deck, and started taking calls even though I’d never seen a dead person or found a lost dog.  But I pick up a  lot of strays, which counts, I think. 

If the clothes make the man, then the scented candle makes the psychic, maybe.  Or at least that’s the way it worked for me.

3. Of course you’re a fake. So what?

I mean, how many people are truly psychic?  And how many are playing one on TV?  Whenever I took calls, I always explained that I believe the power to fully understand the energy at work in your destiny (much less change it) didn’t lie with me, or with my Tarot cards for that matter. Only the caller had that ability. Which, honestly, didn’t make me much of a psychic. More a conduit.

And that’s what I’m doing now, as a storyteller. I get the words down, so that technically makes me the writer, but the story…  Sometimes the best I can hope for is to take what’s given to me, say please and thank you, and scribble faster.

Have you ever had to “walk the walk” when your knees were shaking?  How’d you pull it off?  Did you have a (ahem) friend with a fake ID?  How did she play the part?  Inquiring good girls want to know.