Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Random Writing Tips

We're all tired of hearing how the odds are stacked against writers, and how selling a first novel is impossible in this economy. We're saturated with pessimistic ponderings from publishers and literary agents. We know the bad odds, and yet we keep on writing, working hard and waiting.

So, while we wait for things to "get better," how about some hopeful stuff to read? According to agent Kristin Nelson of Nelson Literary Agency, the news for debut authors isn't all bad. In a recent blog post she advises, "I would be concentrating on writing the best freaking novel you are capable of writing because lots of debuts astound the market." Read the rest here:

Author/blogger Holly Kennedy thinks we should all get a bottle of Bum Glue and get busy. [I know some of you already saw her post because I read your comments over there. I think you'll agree it's an inspiring read.] Check out the blog entry and see if I'm not telling the truth:

Along with these two ladies' thoughts, I'll share some good tips I got from a writing conference not too long ago. The NYT best selling authors were generous with their tippage too, so here's a few tidbits to file away for later:
  • Successful writers run the business of writing like any other -- with a business plan. Update it every six months or so, but definitely annually.
  • Start and keep a perspective agent file with research notes, including who gets the big sales and large advances. Look for agents who love what you write; don't waste your time on those who don't.
  • A good friend and successful author who's writing book 5 or 6 now advises using the "shotgun" approach to finding an agent. When your synopsis and query packet is as good as it can be, send it far and wide.
  • When your manuscript is accepted, or while it is making the rounds, begin work on your second.
  • Check the shelves of your favorite bookstore (brick & mortar, as well as online) to see what's hot in your genre. Check the acknowledgment pages while you're there to see if agents are mentioned. If so, add them to your list.
  • Branding is important and should extend to your website, logo design, blog, etc.
  • Follow the rules and preferences of the person(s) and place(s) to which you plan to submit. If you don't, you'll likely end up in the slush pile.
  • Have a log line/hook line/tag line for your book, and one for your writing style-- a short, catchy description that will help an agent or editor grasp and remember your book. [Ex. "Ledbetter writes as if she is the love child of Wally Lamb and Dorothy Allison."]
  • Your synopsis should explain what the emotion of your story is.

Okay, we all know that after five minutes of a lecture or a page of notes, our brains turn off. In the interest of mental health, I'll stop here for now.

So, how's about some tit for tat? What's the best writing, publishing or agent-finding tip you ever got?


Lori said...

Yep, I need bum glue. I pry myself out of this chair every day after 5 pm and the thought of being back here doing something fun - well, that doesn't enter my brain until morning. Oy. I can't tell you how far behind I am in the Nano contest!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Lori, ever try writing in longhand in a nice different setting far from an office? Might spark some good writing and/or increase your NANO count. :)

Kathryn Magendie said...

Write for yourself first.

Don't cheat _ I always know when a writer cheats...what's cheating? You know when you write it.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Good tip from a good editor, Kathryn. Thanks.

Shammickite said...

Bum Glue? I think a nice comfy chair and lots of spare time would do the trick!
And if you're writing longhand, a lovely smooth fountain pen that's easy to hold and spouts a gorgeously vivd blue ink.

giddymomof6 said...

Ugh! I'm getting a comment complex... for some reason my comp is having issues with responding on blogspot. Grr... at least I can today.
So! I LOVE this post! I love Kristen Nelson's blog and also Nathan Bransford! Both are so informative it's amazing... and it was with the help of them, i was able to land my own AWESOME agent!
Also, gotta say, I've been fortunate enough to be able to not need bum glue.. LOL! My bum has been glued here since March--I'm so addicting to writing I can't stop! LOL! I LOVE IT! Ahem, enough comments--i'm back to my YA romance.. *Sigh* the life of a teen is sooo emotional! LOL! Thanks Angie! LOVE YOUR BLOG!
--Jenni James

Terri Tiffany said...

I was over on an agent's site this morning (rachel) and she has been one for a year--in that year she negotiated I think 8 of her 11 or so contracts for new authors. I numbers are probably wrong here but it was encouraging how many were new!!

Angie Ledbetter said...

Sham, I love good and smooth writing pens too. :)

Jenni, thanks so much. Now...I'm gonna be writing you an email to pick your brain. Wanna hear more! And you are living proof, if a mom with her own baseball team of children can write, ANYBODY can!

Terri, that's wonderful news indeed. Glad it's not all gloom & doom. Ug!

Janna Qualman said...

LOL! Great tips, Angie. Thanks for sharing 'em.

Melissa Marsh said...

More great tips, Angie! I loved Holly's post, too. I really needed to read it. So last night I followed her advice and just sat down and wrote. I think it was all pure crap, but at least I can fix it.

So for writing advice, the best I know is this: "You can't fix nothing." Write it down, fix it later. Just get it on the page.

Ang said...

Great tips as always. I have to agree with Melissa's advice but my choice quote has always been, "The worse thing you write is better than the best thing you didn't write."--Unknown

colbymarshall said...

I am all for the shotgun approach. Querying one at a time takes WAAAAY to long, and you never know who'll like it. I sent out a couple sure that agent wouldn't be into my kind of thing, and a few of those netted requests, so you just never know until you try!

Rachel Burton said...

Thanks for the encouraging links; it's easy to get down trying to get published, especially in this ecomony!

The shotgun tip reminded me of Miss Snark's mantra: query widely.

Angie Ledbetter said...

You're welcome, friend Janna.

Melissa, good advice. Can't fix what ain't been writ yet. :)

Love the quote, Ang!

Colby, you're right. Load up that gun and blast away to hit the most targets.

Rachel, those really were two good blogs to read for encouragement, huh? :)

Carrie Wilson Link said...

"Tippage." Perfect Angie word! Best advice I ever got? Know the rules so you know when/how to break them.

Ms. B1tch is tired tired tired...but very hungry said...

Ms. B is still distracted by the delish chicken salad talk below.

Ms B1tch thinks writers should get Mad and start STOMPIN around and not put up with all the poo-poo-doodle! Demand Success!

Amy Nathan said...

I blogged about branding today! Great minds think alike. And great tips too.

I think we have to keep a good thought, or else, we'll stop writing.

Anonymous said...

I have always been told to write or talk about something you love or know . Not always the same thing. We all have our passions and our hopes. Good material in both of these

Angie Ledbetter said...

Carrie, not coincidentally, that's one of my favorites too. :)

Ms. B, demanding success is like demanding a chef make you the perfect dish. Sometimes it just ain't happenin'! LOL

GMTA, Amy. I loved your post today. Soup or nuts? hehe

Thanks as always, Oren.

Nita Lou Bryant said...

These words (along with others from the same author, David Duggins) help me keep things in perspective:

"You have found your passion. This is the thing you do because you love doing it. It isn't publishing you love. It's writing."

from "Never Give Up" at

GardenAuthor said...

Took several online writing courses from author Eva Shaw... I imagine the "chair glue" to which she referred was another name for the same product. However, she also stressed the importance of much-needed breaks and had us go on a creative date with ourselves... gardening, reading, whatever we desired, for a change of scenery.

I chose writing poetry in my garden office, sharing the garden bench with my trusty hound. Came back in, ready to tackle the next assignment... I still take creative breks, to this day.

Thanks, as always, for the great tips. /Deb

Angie Ledbetter said...

Nita, great quote. Thanks for the URL. Going visit it. (Loved your chameleon story today.)

Deb, switching scenery and writing poetry are some of my "secret weapons" too. I think the creative dates idea is good too, and they played heavily in The Artist's Way book/workbook. Happy writing to ya!

ChristaCarol said...

Great advice and linkage, Ang. Reminds me I need to work on my one line pitch. *rolls over laughing* To think how long it took me to finally get my query right, now I have to condense it even more? Kill me now. ;) Thanks for the inspiration! (in all honesty)

Angie Ledbetter said...

CC: the writing life is oh so fun, huh? I've been enjoying your blog, BTW. Thanks for stopping in.

Christina said...

Don't get put off by rejection.
Consider it a game, you win some, you lose some. You can write a great piece, but if you hit the wrong market with it -- it won't get published.

Always write your best, but target your market. I like to carpet bomb publications and contests with short pieces. I tweak if feedback says "I liked it, but it didn't earn its ending." I really don't get bugged by rejection anymore. I was just in Vegas and those serious players -- they expect to lose a lot before they score a hit.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Christina, thanks for most excellent advice!

Labels (Posts, not Peoples)