Archive for the 'Editors & agents' Category

by Jessa Slade on March 15th, 2010

Currently working on: Done!
Mood: Done!

Did I mention I’m done with Book 3?  It was due today (hence my late posting) and it’s off my brilliantly insightful and lovely editor and agent.  Glory be!

“The End” are the most satisfying two words in novel writing, I think.  Followed closely by “The Call” and “The check is on its way” (which I know is more than two words, but is awesome nonetheless).

I had a rare opportunity with this book that might possibly change the way I write.  A writing friend invited me and another writer to share a condo on Mt. Hood for a weekend of intensive word production since we were all on deadline.

I’ve done brainstorming retreats with writer friends for years.  A bunch of us get together, rent a room on the beach (we swear the negative ions from the sea water waves keep us sane), and plot books.  It’s fabulous fun and borderline brain damage by the end of the weekend.  I’ve also attended many writers’ conferences which are wonderful chances to network and learn.

But I’ve never gone away to just write before.  Here’s where we were:


(Collins Lake Resort, Government Camp)

And ooh I liked it!

Yeah, perhaps it was stupid to wonder whether I’d like it.  But I was worried about not being surrounded with my stuff — my favorite craft books, my refrigerator full of snacks, my dog, my XY with his endless capacity for staring at me blankly while I rant about faulty worldbuilding, recalcitrant characters and dead-end plot points.  Turns out, the looming mountain (not pictured) in the background was perfect for the looming deadline.

Not that I had the chance to really appreciate Mt. Hood in all its slumbering-volcano beauty.  Because I spent three days looking at this:


(Book 3, Chapter 1)

Which, considering the deadline, had a sort of threatening-volcano fascination of its own.

Turns out, all I really needed for a pure writing getaway were these:

  • My computer with WIP (work in progress)
  • My 19″ monitor (the smaller keyboard of my netbook was fine, but the 10″ monitor wasn’t as nice for revising; it would’ve been okay for hot drafting)
  • Lots of water (peeing is an excuse to get up and stretch, thus staving off leg blood clots)
  • Okay, in the interest of full disclosure, it was water plus some wine and coffee
  • Snackage — And now a word from our sponsors… Book 3 is brought to you by: Whoppers ™ Robins Eggs candies, York Peppermint Patties™, and Froot Loops™ (Sorry, I’m a brand-name snacker)
  • Comfy pajamas and thick socks

Real food is unnecessary.  Real clothes are unnecessary.  Heck, a shower kit is unnecessary because we’re writing.  (Plus, I count the hot tub as ritual purification.)

Three writers.  Three computers.  Three stories.  One amazing weekend that has refreshed me for the next looming deadline (Book 4 proposal, due in April — zoiks!).

Much thanks to Kristina McMorris (LETTERS FROM HOME) and Elisabeth Naughton (the STOLEN trilogy and the “Eternal Guardians” series) for the long stretches of eerie silence interspersed with book talk, a.k.a. writer heaven.

Do you have a favorite getaway place?  Do you have a way to recreate that closer to home for every-day moments?

You’re Not Alone Anymore
by Our Guest on May 14th, 2009

As you can see from the posts so far this week, becoming published falls into the category of “be careful what you wish for.” The “CALL” is the most fabulous moment of your life, but it also means that as a writer you’re in for some SERIOUS change. The biggest one: no more writing in that happy oblivion where you and maybe your critique group gets to decide what works and what doesn’t. Because now, you’ve got people!


Yes, you’re part of a team now that consists of your agent, your editor and any assistants she might have, the copyeditors, the marketing, art and publicity departments, the sales reps, accounting, the typesetter — that’s no means an exhaustive list but you get the point. There’s now a whole mob involved in the thing you used to do all alone in a corner of your house.

The weird thing is, as the author you’re both at the top and the bottom of the food chain.


At the top: because without you, the rest wouldn’t have a reason to exist. There would be no product to sell, edit, market, typeset, etc., no readers eagerly awaiting your next release, no revenue coming into the company. We are the creators - the heart and soul of the industry, and as for all those other people, they’re kind of like your entourage, taking care of business and seeing that things move along smoothly so you can keep creating. Nice, huh?

Yeah, but…

At the bottom: On the other hand, until you hit the bestseller lists and start selling in huge numbers, you pretty much have to do what your told. When your editor says revise, you don’t argue about why you really shouldn’t have to. If the powers that be decide your particular subgenre isn’t selling well, you’ll either be “encouraged” (enticed, compelled, ordered - you pick) to switch to something else or…well, let’s not go into the alternative. And when times are tough, unfortunately it’s often the authors who first feel the effects of downsizing (once again we’re faced with that unspeakable alternative).

But let’s stay optimistic. Like I said, you’ve got people! And what do those people want to do? Figure out how to make your books sell like hot cakes. You editor really isn’t trying to drive you batty; she asks for those revisions to bring out the full gleam of your artistic brilliance, and she’s there to provide an objective viewpoint when you’re too deep into the woods to see the trees. On a professional level, it’s an oddly intimate relationship. She’ll come to know your inner workings as a writer in a way that no one else ever will, because she won’t read your books once or twice, but three, four, maybe half a dozen times or more. She’ll learn all your habits — both good and bad. She’ll know when you’re giving your all and when you’re not. She’ll be your toughest critic and your biggest fan, and she can make you want to cry - both when she asks you to revise and then again when you thank her as you accept the award for the book she made you revise.

Uh oh, have I scared you? I didn’t mean to. Actually, I always wanted to work with a hands-on editor, and darned if my wish didn’t come true! :lol:

So whether you’re published or not, do you like a lot of feedback as you write, or are you that free spirit who likes to take to the open road on your own?

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.