Wednesday, January 11, 2012

AT: Hard Yet Encouraging Truths, Pt 3

Welcome to the 3rd edition of Agent Tweets, a weekly post that highlights and responds to
 publication-centric comments from agents and editors, gleaned from Twitter.

The past two weeks I have posted articles on 
"Hard Yet Encouraging Truths" including the following topics:
AT 1: Sometimes You Still Hook 'Em & There is Life After Failure
AT 2: Writing in a Saturated Genre

Here is part 3:

We'll tell the truth but always hope we can give SOME good news instead of just CHANGE EVERYTHING! Which may be honest but not so nice to hear
Why this is hard: This makes it sound like any critique will inevitably have cons outweighing pros. Moreover, it indicates that there are times when the "change everything" directive is given. *shudder*

Why this is encouraging: The clear statement that (a) there is specific feedback to be had and (b) agents want to be able to give that feedback. 

Bottom Line: As a teacher, I know that there are times when you look at a student's writing and find it so tangled, with so many issues that need addressing, that sometimes it's just easier to start from scratch. Other times the precision of language is there - just not the substance; or the vision is there, but the grammar and spelling are atrocious. Those are the times when I can give specific tips, saying "Fix this, but leave this alone."
     Agents and editors obviously see the same scenarios, but on a very different playing field. They have to look at what's presented and think: "Is this engaging? Does this make sense? What's the substance here? Is it accessible? What does this offer readers today?" and so on. If you are one of the lucky ones who get specific feedback at this stage - especially if it's from an agent who says they'll look at it again if you make certain revisions - it is your (or my) best interest to at least consider that. After all, they are giving you a glimpse of their view on the publishing world, and how you can win your way into the inner circle.

Sad but true - Great quote to new writers 'You are always going 
to be told it's a bad time in publishing'

Why this is hard: No one wants to be told that book sales are waning - even if they are.

Why this is encouraging: I find this encouraging in the very fact that it hasn't changed at all over the years. While the economy may be worse at some times than others, or e-books have scrambled the numbers more than at other times, it's still a consistent truth. It is always tough to elbow your way into the inner circle with the big dogs. But the persistent ones get there.

Bottom Line: Never give up. 

Q: How would you rank: killer high concept, impeccable craft or stellar platform
A: For fiction? Impeccable craft

Why this is hard: A lot of the advice out there now emphasizes platform (including making the most of social networking and blogs). Moreover, the tendency for a lot of new writers is to "piggyback" on the market - that is, to write whatever sells at the moment, even if the market is saturated with it.

Why this is encouraging: The reminder that, in the end, good writing sells - and good writing sticks.

Bottom Line: Yes, I know - we can all name books that have sold a gazillion copies that, in the end, proved to be badly written, high-octane fads (*cough*Twillight*cough*). But this agent seems to imply that if the proposed manuscript is lacking a platform or isn't the most over-the-top-WOW idea, it might still be a workable situation.
     Battle plans are in abundance to attack the first two items if there is a deficiency in that area; but nothing replaces good writing except for long, arduous hours of writing. And more writing. And editing and writing. And writing and editing. Then more writing. Edit some more. Repeat ad nauseum.
    Discouraging? Yes. But that doesn't get around the fact that good writing is foundational to everything else. There's no point in pitching an idea, establishing a platform, and being the most visible soul on every social media known to man if there isn't solid, substantive writing behind it. As writers, we all need "impeccable craft."
     How we do that, however, is another discussion entirely....

This wraps up the first series of "Hard Yet Encouraging Truths" from the Agent Tweets series.
Coming next week: Part One of the "Blunt Honesty" tweets.

Questions, comments, insights? Let me know!


  1. Thanks for blogging this series. I really enjoy reading all this wonderful information!

  2. " Sad but true - Great quote to new writers 'You are always going to be told it's a bad time in publishing' " <-- this is my favourite one so far!

    Great series, keep up the awesomeness :)

  3. ""Bottom Line: Never give up. ""

    So true! Keep pushing forward and never give up!

  4. Hey, Angela. I nominated you for a Versatile Bloggers award. :)

  5. This is my favorite series on your blog, awesomeness!

  6. Aw thanks guys --- thanks for reading!!! These tweets have really helped me out too, so it only made sense to pass it on for others to see.

    Daniel: THANKS. *scampers over to visit Daniel's blog*