Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Follow up to Yesterday's Post

I know, I know. I just posted yesterday. But a friend of mine sent me a message about the article that made me have to write again.

Here is her message:

I read the interview with those four child-like agents, and now I'm so depressed I can barely look at my keyboard. What were you thinking? What was I thinking in believing I could compete in a world where a single grain of sand on an endless southern California beach needs to stand out so significantly just to be published ... or at least know somebody in the mainstream literary business to have a chance of being noticed? Those young agents are getting referrals from friends or family, or prestigious university professors, and getting very few, if any, clients from the only way that I can try to reach them—with a query letter. “I’d buy a shopping list if it was written by Steven King,” said one of the elite youngsters. If they are a cross-cut example of contemporary literary agents then I need to moth-ball my computer and concentrate on another talent, something visual, something that doesn’t require a commitment to reading.

This comment made me wish I had gone ahead and written my own post yesterday anyway. What I was going to write was something to the effect of, “It’s not about who you know. It’s not about how famous you are. It’s not even really about how good your query is. It’s about the writing. It’s about the art. It’s about capturing a story so well that when you let others read it, it feels like showing them a fairy you caught in a jar.”

YOU are a writer. YOU are a great writer. YOU have a story inside you that the world wants to hear. Every day when you get up in the morning you say to yourself, “Today I will create something so cool that when other people read it, they will wish they had written it.” And you will. Maybe not on your first try. Maybe not even on your second or third. But eventually you will write something that shines. And when you do, you will want to know that agents are looking for your work.

So here are four of the biggest names in New York. These are agents most writers would kill to have selling their manuscripts. And what do they have to say? Read these quotes.

“I think everybody's looking for a book that you can't put down, that you lose yourself in so completely that you forget everything else that's going on in your life and you just want to stay up and you don't care if you're going to be tired in the morning.”

“But a really gifted writer will make me see things I've never seen even though I may have walked down the street a thousand times.”

“I generally find myself liking books that are not set in New York. Give me a weird little small town any day of the week.”

“I get most of my fiction through slush.”

“I found The Heretic's Daughter in the slush pile. The author had never written a novel before. She had never been in a writing class or an MFA program. She came out of nowhere.”

“The Squaw Valley writers conference.”

“I got a query through Friendster once. It was a good query, so I asked to read the book, and I went on and sold it.”

“That's exactly right. Clients come from everywhere and anywhere. And I think that's one of the biggest misconceptions about agents that some writers have. They think we're off in our ivory towers and our fancy offices in New York City. But the truth is that we're looking for them. We're waiting for them to come knock on our doors.”

WE ARE WAITING FOR THEM TO COME KNOCK ON OUR DOORS! Who is it they are waiting for?

In the words of Bill Murray, “Me. Me. Me. Also me.” Or in this case, “You, you, you, you!” You are a great writer. You have a story to tell. If you don’t believe that, you need to look in the mirror and repeat this mantra over and over. “I am a great writer. I have a great story to tell. The world is waiting for me.” Keep saying in until you remember why you started writing in the first place. Then get out there and sell your story.


The Scarlet Tart said...

Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Erin G. said...

You have no idea how much I needed this today. Thanks. :)

J Scott Savage said...

You're welcome TST and Erin. It really is true. So many others I know (me included) were literally at the point of giving writing up entirely when someone finally said, "Yes." Keep pushing!

J.N. Future Author said...


Erin G. said...

So, I've seriously not been able to get this post out of my head and I was thinking about this the other day at school. In my Human Development class my professor is constantly saying how the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over but expecting different results every time. So, does that mean we writers that send out queries trying to get published are insane? I think so. :)