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Wet Noodle Posse | Blog

Monday, June 26, 2006

Do you want to sell a book in less than a decade? by Theresa Ragan

If so, don’t work on your first book for four years. Write something every day. Don’t work on the second book for three years. Learn to move on. Don’t send everything to contests and nothing to editors/agents. Don’t take everything your critique partner(s) and/or contest judge(s) say personally. After you’ve been writing for a few years make sure cp’s and judges and agents aren’t stopping you from moving on. Don’t show anyone your book until it’s finished. Believe in yourself. Spend more time writing than you do reading “how-to” books. Once you get an agent don’t assume that you can sit back and wait for him/her to sell something. Don’t write two dozen proposals and get in the habit of not finishing the books. Make sure you always have something sitting on an editor’s desk. Don’t give up. Don’t let rejections stop you from writing for months at a time. Believe in yourself. Turn off that internal editor when writing the first draft and just write...all the way to the end. Revise. Polish. Submit.

Feel free to add to this list!


At 7:42 PM, Blogger Diane Perkins said...

Great advice, Theresa! I might quibble about not showing anyone your book before it is finished. I'd amend that to - Before your book is finished, only show it to trusted critique partners.
Don't revise your manuscript just because a contest judge, or a critique partner, or a rejecting agent or editor said to change something. Only revise if it makes sense to you. Trust your instincts about your story.

At 11:16 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Good addition, Diane. I find myself so easily stopped or slowed down if I get comments on my book while I am in the process of writing that first draft. But I guess you're right...if it's a trusted critique partner then that would be a different story.

At 9:27 AM, Blogger Stephanie Feagan said...

I'm in the don't show, don't tell camp! LOL! I'm sure, like everything else in writing - it depends. For me, it's better if I just write the book without any outside influences. It's kind of in my head, a world I created, and characters I know, so keeping it there makes it easier for me to get to the end. Once it's done, however, it is nice to get the manuscript in front of fresh eyes. Timing determines whose eyes look at it - the editor, or a friend who kindly agrees to take a look.

You've hit so many great points, Theresa! Great blog!

At 9:51 AM, Blogger Diane Perkins said...

I agree, Theresa and Stef. It really is individual preference. I like "showing as I go" because it helps me see that I'm either on the right track or I'm missing something. Sometimes when I'm writing I just have no clue if the story is interesting, if my pacing is right, if it makes sense. I like to fix as I go, so that my revisions at the end of that first draft are not extensive.
But I do agree wholeheartedly that the best thing is to finish the book! And not to get hung up on making it perfect. You learn so much just by bringing the story to the end.

At 9:58 AM, Blogger MaryF said...

I think showing people my stories can kill my love for it, especially if they say, "Do you think this could really happen?" If they ask that AFTER I finish, I can fix it, but the book's done and I don't lose my love for it.

Though I can see Diane's point about not HAVING to fix it.

At 1:58 PM, Blogger Stephanie Feagan said...

Well, it also kinda depends on the book itself - they're all different, just like kids. I've written books that made me nervous, wondering if it was all drek, or if it had any redeeming qualities. Yes, I loved the story, but maybe it wasn't really as good as I thought? Those are the ones I like to have someone look at before I plow through to the end.

Others seem to take on a life of their own, and I know, if anyone looked and said anything at all - good, or bad - it'd throw me off.

I think, as time passes and we write more, we find what works and what doesn't. I always feel for writers who get wrapped up in 'fixing' their manuscript for critique partners or contest judges - when they don't really want to, but don't have the confidence they need to say No. But hey, I did it, and lots more will do it. Maybe it's like a rite of passage.

Or like playing Doctor - I'll show you mine, if you'll show me yours! Hee!

At 2:41 PM, Blogger Diane Perkins said...

This is an interesting debate. I think you hit on the essential element, Stef. You have to have the confidence to stick with your own vision of the story, even if critique partners disagree. I'm lucky enough to be with crit partners who don't derail me and I am well able to ignore them if I choose.

At 4:25 PM, Blogger Theresa Ragan said...

Overall I'm pretty confident about my writing. When I'm done with a story I'm with Mary where I feel like I can fix anything that might be wrong with it. But one comment about it being implausible (which most stories I write are) or about the characters being too hard or too nice or too this or that, and I just stop writing on that book. I don't stop writing altogether, but I definitely push that particular book aside for too long (obviously I'm not as confident as I thought!) :) Ever since I stopped critiquing with other people my writing has been flowing and I feel like my stories are better, too!

And I agree, nothing better than having a friendly wonderful person offer to read the book when its done!

At 11:24 PM, Blogger Trish Milburn said...

This is an interesting discussion. I think I do a mixture, but I have found recently that I feel more free in my writing by not having it critiqued along the way. I guess we change and grow in what we need the longer we write.

At 7:52 AM, Blogger MaryF said...

It IS a confidence thing - you hit it, Stef! And I have some pretty overbearing cps - strong women, and I'm the only unpub. So I don't show till I've lost direction or something.


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