The Publishing Process, The Writer's Life

Exception Al

So there’s this unpublished writer. Let’s call him “Al.” (Stop rolling your eyes. It’s my blog. I can be as precious and quasi-clever as I want.) Al recently completed his third novel. His first, The Monkey on Her Back (which he never actually finished), wasn’t particularly amazing. Despite the clever title (the protagonist is a celebrated zoologist who loses her faith in evolution), the plot was predictable and the characters, plastic. The writing, however, wasn’t bad. Al had a natural gift. Al didn’t know much about publishing when he decided he was meant to be a writer, so he was…

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My Thoughts, The Publishing Process, The Writer's Life

Give Up Your Publishing Dreams

If title of this post makes you nervous, you probably shouldn’t read it. Or maybe you should. Before we go any further, I’m going to have to ask you to place your publishing dreams in the box marked “misc” at the back of the room. Be sure to leave all your unfinished queries and How to Get Published books & blogs and all those publishing-related inspirational quotes you taped to your bathroom mirror. Yes, even the quote that says J. K. Rowling was rejected twelve million times before becoming a kajillionaire. Now pick up a blank notebook and a pen.…

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General, The Publishing Process, The Writer's Life, Writing tips


Sit down. No, you’re not in trouble. This isn’t about dangling too many participles or ending sentences with prepositions. It’s not about your premise or your plot. It’s not about your characters (they’re all really very lovely). And it’s not about your craft. You want what? A drink? Sure. What would you like? I have tea and coffee and… Really? This early? How about just the orange juice without the vodka? Okay, where was I? Oh, right. You’re a good writer. Your novel is competent, smart and entertaining. You’ve obviously read lots of books on how to write. I bet you…

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The Publishing Process, The Writer's Life, Writing tips

Listening Room

A few years ago, back when I was a cubicle dweller, I had the privilege of representing my publishing house at a local writers’ conference. I stocked up on Altoids (licorice, because that’s just how I rolled back then), made sure there was a pitcher of water nearby, sat down at my table and awaited the first of twelve victims…um…I mean hopeful authors. I’m far from a conference expert, but my limited experience has taught me that the one-to-one meetings with unpublished authors can be endurance tests for both the editor and the writer. The editor, though hopeful to find…

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General, Meaningless Drivel, My Thoughts, The Publishing Process, The Writer's Life

7 Writing Myths I Just Made Up So I Could Debunk Them

Yes, there are lots of actual writing and publishing myths out there worthy of review. But everyone else writes about those. Surely you’ve stumbled across a post or two debunking such common myths as “literary agents are out to kill your writing dreams” and “first-time novelists don’t have a chance in hell of getting published.” You don’t need yet another post about those myths, do you? No, you don’t. What you do need is this post in which I make up some writing and publishing myths of my own. Just so I can debunk them. Isn’t this more fun anyway?…

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General, Meaningless Drivel, My Thoughts, The Publishing Process, Writing tips

Writing Advice You Should Definitely Ignore

The title of this post is not some clever reverse psychology trick. You really shouldn’t listen to this advice. It’s bad for you and it goes against everything you’ve ever heard from all those lovely and wise literary agents out there. The Chips and Nathans and Janets and the rest. (I’m not being sarcastic here. All the agents I’m thinking of are completely lovely and incredibly competent and smell like cupcakes.) So why am I writing this post? Because sometimes advice that’s perfect for The Many is perfectly wrong for The Few. I’m not saying it’s bad to be among…

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General, The Publishing Process

Good Agent, Bad Agent

Let’s pretend for a moment that you’re a really brilliant un-agented, unpublished writer and you’ve recently finished final edits on a truly brilliant novel. Yesterday you queried a bunch of agents and today you got five “The Call” calls. Don’t laugh. We’re playing “let’s pretend,” remember? How do you decide which agent will share 15 percent of your inevitable Very Nice Deal? By gleaning great wisdom from this handy-dandy agent guide, that’s how.* A Good Agent…will have some difficulty managing her excitement about representing you, occasionally letting slip words like “amazing” or “lyrical” or “compelling” in the course of her…

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