It’s a sunny late August morning here, warm but with that refreshing taste of freshness in the air that I love. I feel re-energized at this time of year, and a good thing that is, because I’ve decided to try once again to Get An Agent. As you may know, I wrote four novels over the past few years. That was great fun, but here the poor things lie, languishing on the laptop. I’d much prefer I people like you were able to pick them up and read them. A literary agent could help to make that happen, but first I have to interest one in my work. That can be a complicated process. You probably already know this, but in case someone reads this who doesn’t, let me first explain about Literary Agents, what they do and why.
Imagine that you want to sell your house. You want to reach the largest possible market in the least possible time, so you decide to list it with a Real Estate Agent. Since they make their living by selling houses, you’d think they would welcome you with open arms, right? But imagine this: What if these realtors were besieged by people asking them to sell dog houses, mansions, grass shacks, condos, outhouses, townhouses, treehouses, un-surveyed lots, tool sheds, heritage homes, house-plans, ranchers … etc. You couldn’t blame them if they look at you askance as you walk in the door, could you? That’s what it is like for Literary Agents, poor things.
Unfortunately, as a writer I don’t know for sure whether my work has value or not. If I query a literary agent and they reject it, what am I to think? If I’m confident in my work, I’d think, “Pshaw! Your loss, agent-dear.” In the distant past, when I was running on zero confidence, I thought, “I just not a good enough writer.” (Oh what a grievous, depressing bummer!)
By last winter however I’d done a lot of work on myself and on my writing and had come to believe that the novels I was writing were actually pretty danged good. They deserved an audience. So I wrote a few query-letters to a few agents. “I wrote a novel about blah-blah!” I said, and invited them to have a look.
Oh dear. It was not a good experience. All I got were variations on the theme of ‘thanks but no thanks’. When I got one of those within 24 hours of sending my query, I threw up my hands in surrender, concluding that while I might be able to dash off a decent novel, I was hopelessly hopeless at the art of interesting an agent. Feeling bruised, I put the project away and went back to my preferred activity: novel-writing. That’s another story, one I’ll tell you another time; meanwhile, one more thing about my big Get An Agent Project: Just as I gave up trying, what should magically appear in my email Inbox but a promo-letter from a guy whose work nowadays is all about helping writers get taken on by literary agents.
Well, knock me down with a feather! Magic Happens!
I studied Mark’s websites and signed up for a coaching call. Golly, did I ever learn a lot! His websites are outstanding, but the coaching call? WOW! I cannot begin to say how valuable it was. And not just because he said, "your writing is strong", although that was sweet music to my ears. More importantly, I learned how to compose a pretty decent query letter. I found out that once an agent is ‘grabbed’ by a brilliant q-letter, they often want a 400 - 700 word Synopsis of the whole novel, so I drafted one of those as well. Then I went through Mark’s free, exhaustive listing of Literary Agents and made up a list of some 300+ names of possible agents.
On Sept. 1st I launched the Great Get- an-Agent project with a battery of query letters. My plan: Keep the barrage happening until someone says, "Yes please Elaine, I want to work with you!"
Watch this space … I promise to keep you posted on what happens next.
I've been applying 'the seat of my pants to the seat of the chair' if you'll pardon the cliche, pretty steadily over the past couple weeks, building about one chapter per week. The manuscript is about 70,000 words long. An 'average' novel runs somewhere around 100,000, so at a wild guess, I'm 3/4 of the way through. That's good, because that's about how much plot is left.
Carol and Courtland's on-again, off-again relationship is off again, due to what amounts to a silly misunderstanding, but isn't that typical? How often a little bit of information masquarades as a whole truth!
It reminds me of when we first moved to this lovely house where I live and write these days. We took possession in August.
Looking out our new sliding glass doors to the back fence, all we could see beyond it was a massive wall of trees, cottonwood and fir, cedar and maples. Our new home was in the country, at the end of a narrow laneway of a road, so we made an assumption: All that lay on the far side of our fence was the derelict track of the old E&N railroad and more of "the bush" as we call it here on the Island. Acre for acre, this Island is a lot more 'bush' than it is streets and houses and human habitation, so it was a not unreasonable assumption.
Nothing Here But More of the Bush
That was in August
Come September, the leaves began to fall. By October, the wall of trees out back had become an airy screen, a tracery of green and gold. At night, we began to see glimmers of light. Instead of the 'nothing but bush' of our August assumption, we discovered hay field, barns, houses, pastures with horses, cattle and even a couple llamas on the far side of our wall of trees.
People are like that too, aren't they? We might think there's 'not much beyond what we can see' but when the season changes, much more is revealed.
And then the season changes yet again...
k One of the joys of being a novelist is that I enjoy the illusion of being omniscient: I know more about the characters than they know about one another, ha-HA!
Carol may think she has discovered a fact about Courtland that reveals the entire subtle mystery of his character, but as the writer, I know differently.
My question is how the heck is she going to discover her mistake? That's where my so-called omniscience collapses out from under me. I haven't a clue how that discovery is going to happen, but in order for this part of the plot to wrap up in the next 30,000 words, I'm going to have to come up with something!
Luckily, I've got some other folks to write about before I get back to Carol and Courtland. I trust that by the time the others have jumped through their necessary hoops, I'll know how to move those two forward.
I began with a cliche, so I'll end this note with another: It is said that writing is "90% perspiration and only 10% inspiration" but oh my goodness! I'd be in the ditch without the 10%! I can only hope it will keep showing up. If it does, I promise to do the other part, and get this latest novel out to you as soon as I can.
All the Best Always, Elaine
You may have seen on my Facebook page that I've entered my first Chesney Creek novel, All of These Secrets, in a "cinemagraphic novel contest". They're looking for unpublished or small-circulation novels that could be turned into a Hollywood movie.
It's an Exact Match for my Dearest Dream and Sweetest Fantasy!
I've been imagining this for years, fantasizing lunch with the Director, being interviewed by the pundits, walking the red carpet (behind the Movie Stars, but still....!) I've even gone so far as to tell a few trusted friends about this fantasy of mine, and how it could happen:
"First," I tell them, "First, I have to finish the #4 novel and find an agent who is willing to take it on. She or he will find a really hot publisher who will throw all sorts of money at marketing it, and the rest of the series. Then some Hollywood-type who is looking for a new project will discover my work and voila...! A movie contract! Fame and Fortune! Glory and ...."
It's just a fantasy. Fantasies are fun. And who knows, anything can happen, even miracles!
I found the Contest, I entered the Contest.
The rug, that red carpet of fantasy
has been jerked from under my feet.
The little voice in my head is whispering so softly that I can't even hear it, "Fat chance sundance! No way your pissy little novel is going to win. Get a fluffin' grip." I can't hear it, but I can feel the effect. It's pushed me straight into the old familiar pit of Despair, Discouragement and Hopelessness. That's how the trap works: First, you're waltzing along on the red carpet, la-la-la. You feel Fantastic, so you do something bold and unusual - you enter a contest. BLAM! The rug's gone, you're falling, SPLAT!
All of which is true, but here's what I know: If I let my unruly mind moan along like, I'm almost assuredly going to attract NOT WINNING. I get that. I know it's how the world works: We get more of whatever we focus on.
Focus on what makes me feel good, attract more to feel good about.
And the corollary, au contrarire:
Focus on what makes me feel like ****,
Elaine H (for Hannah) MacDonald is a fiction writer, grandmother, mother, homemaker, gardener, baker, seamstress and more, not necessarily in that order. She lives on Vancouver Island off the west coast of Canada.