I dedicate this page to my fellow writers, especially those seeking traditional publication. Writing is a solitary pursuit–one that often leads to disappointment. As an aspiring author, I was desperate for any tips or insight from published authors. Below you’ll find some links I found helpful, along with my two-cents worth. Feel free to email me with any questions.
I wish you the very best of luck in your writing pursuits.
If you want to be a writer, consider the following:
1. It’s not enough to want to be a writer. You must want to write.
I have a friend who claims she wants to be a writer, but she hates sitting in front of the computer. This, my fellow writers, is a problem. You must love to write, which generally means huge chunks of time behind a computer screen. You must be able to write in solitude for hours…hours that turn into weeks, that turn into months, and sometimes years before you complete a single novel. And finally, once you’ve polished your work to a flawless sheen, the real work begins. Now you must research literary agents, systematically submit your query letter and pages, and be able to accept that your masterpiece will be rejected. Not once, not twice, but upwards of a hundred times. And when you finally put that manuscript in the desk drawer, prepare to repeat this process again, and probably again.
2. Take a writing class. Check with your local community college or community education programs. Devour anything on the craft–books, magazines, writing workshops, etc.
3. Seek a writing partner or writer’s group. Receiving feedback is invaluable…and so is the support from fellow writers.
4. Join a writing organization in your genre. For a comprehensive list, go to:
5. Subscribe to Publishers Marketplace—or if you’re frugal, like me, the free version: Publishers Lunch. http://www.publishersmarketplace.com/lunch/subscribe.html
Publishers Lunch will keep you abreast of current publishing deals. It’s also a great way to find out who’s selling what, to whom. When you read about a recent sale of a book similar to yours, check out the agent who made the deal and send them a query letter. And you can start the letter by congratulating them on their deal. Like anyone, agents appreciate a little personal detail so they don’t feel like one of the pack.
6. Persevere, but allow yourself to move on when you’ve exhausted all of your resources.
Sorry, I’m not of the camp, “Just keep trying. Never give up.” Sometimes I think we must give up, whether it’s a partially written piece that just isn’t flowing, or a fully completed novel that hasn’t garnered a single request for pages. If I hadn’t put away that first novel and started a new one, and then another, and another, I’d still be submitting a very primitive YA novel, filling my inbox with rejection letters. Sometimes it’s simply time to move on. But please, don’t move on until you feel you’ve gone the distance. Does your writing teacher think you have talent? Have you hired an editor to critique your work, and does he/she think this book has promise? Have you submitted to 80-100 literary agent–the ones who represent your genre? If so, give yourself a huge pat on the back. You’ve done something very few people have done. You’ve completed a manuscript and put it out there for critical review. Congratulations to you! Now, take a breather, grieve a little. It’s a loss, this “baby” you’ve created that doesn’t seem to be thriving, and you’re heartbroken. I think only another writer understands the pain. Rest assured that at some point, an idea will strike you that just won’t let up. Eventually you’ll feel like writing again. And when you do, you’ll be a better writer. It’s like anything else–the more you practice, the better you become. Move on to your next piece. And who knows? Once you get published, those gems in your desk drawer might just come in handy.
7. Don’t quit your day job.
Unless you are independently wealthy or have a spouse who doesn’t resent going off to work to support your hobby, I’d suggest you keep working. Besides the obvious economic advantage, I’m a believer that as writers, we need to be participants in the world. Observe. Listen. Engage. (And watching The Real Housewives doesn’t count!) To carve out writing time, you might need to hole up in a coffee shop or library on weekends and evenings, or rise at five AM. But it is possible—even the norm—to write a novel when working full time.
I hired a professional editor when I finished THE LIFE LIST, the wonderful Erin Brown. Erin comes with years of editorial experience at major publishing houses in NYC. More than anything, Erin’s feedback gave me confidence, and led me to persevere, even when the rejections began flowing in.
In case you’re interested, below you’ll find the query letter that landed me my wonderful agent, Jenny Bent, along with two other offers of representation. You’ll notice the original title for THE LIFE LIST was ANOTHER SKY.
Dear Ms. Bent,
What’s the downside of a successful thirty-something with the world at her feet who’s set to inherit millions of dollars? She can only get the money if she fulfills the naïve dreams of her teenage self, and that’s an order from her dead mother!
I love your blog Bent on Books, and would be thrilled if you’d consider my contemporary women’s novel, ANOTHER SKY (104K words).
Following her beloved mother’s death, Brett Bohlinger naturally assumes she’ll take over the family business. But she is stunned when her savvy sister-in-law inherits the lucrative company, and Brett is handed a yellowed, dog-eared life list. Brett had no idea her mother’s sense of humor was this twisted: her inheritance hinges upon completing the ten remaining goals on her life list—the very list her mother fished from Brett’s Beverly Hills 90210 wastebasket twenty years ago.
And that girl’s life wishes are insane! Have a baby? Not happening. Become a teacher? Surely she’s not expected to swap her lucrative salary and stock options for snotty noses and spelling bees. Buy a horse? The condo board doesn’t even allow fish. And a relationship with her father is out of the question. The coldhearted stranger died seven years ago!
But Brett’s biggest challenge is Andrew. When her driven, big-city boyfriend comes home toting a bottle of Perrier-Jouet to celebrate, she doesn’t have the heart—or the guts—to tell him she is not, and never will be, President of Bohlinger Cosmetics. And she’s sure as hell not telling him about that asinine life list. He’d be history if he found out about the humble, conventional life she’d once craved.
Entangled in a web of deceit, Brett is forced to examine the life she chose and the life she dreamed of as a teen. With a multi-million dollar inheritance at stake and nothing but her mother’s letters to guide her, she wades from her comfy Gold Coast neighborhood into the streets of Southside Chicago in search of a young girl’s dreams. There she faces challenges and victories, and loves and losses, that her youthful heart never could have imagined.
I’m a member of RWA-Pro and a local writer’s group. Like Brett, I work as a homebound teacher in an inner-city school district, though writing is my true passion. Along with my teaching degree, I have Master’s degrees in Speech Pathology and Guidance Counseling.
Pasted below you’ll find the first ten pages, per your guidelines. Thanks so much for your time and consideration.
Lori Nelson Spielman
Please feel free to contact me with any questions. I’ll do my best to answer them. Good luck and good writing!