Though I am a self-published writer, I try to write as good as those who go the traditional publishing route. Here is some excellent advice for opening any novel. Even though I tend to write literary, I still think this is good advice. This literary agent knows her stuff! When I tried to go the traditional route, I did notice that some literary agents didn’t seem to know much about writing, but this agent really seems to understand the writing craft and what interests readers.
As a caveat, I would encourage writers to write from your soul and don’t write with the goal to just follow the trends. If your writing is good enough, even if your book is not “in” right now, it will be original and quality enough to catch someone’s attention. I am more in sync with the first video than the second, since I rarely write just for the market. But if you’re interested in getting a literary agent, the second video will be relevant to you.
I used to think I was “above” all literary agents, but I’ve changed my tune. I’ve decided to pay more attention to what literary agents are looking for, because a good literary agent is really tuned into what makes quality writing, or writing that captures a reader’s interests. Though I agree with this agent that we shouldn’t totally emulate writers from another era that we admire. I think it’s okay to be inspired by them as long as we remember to create our own unique voice in the book we write. Learn from the classics, but definitely create your own, unique voice!
I think the third video where several literary agents talk about why they reject manuscripts is really important. The third video is superb advice to writers. Check out my page where I review writing instruction books! They all mentioned voice and I think this is so important!
When Steven Spielberg read the Silver Skies I wrote in the 1990s, I was pretty much doing most of the things these agents admire in a book, with a strong voice, strong showing versus telling and strong and interesting characters. Also, the conflict centers around issues that a lot of people care about.
When I rewrote the book in 2009, I had forgotten a lot of my writing skills and destroyed the book in the process! I won’t do that this time. It’s like, yeah, if you forgot your writing skills, you may need to give yourself time to relearn them. Go reread all those writing instruction books that inspired you when you wrote that masterpiece and get back into the mindset you had back then. This won’t apply to most people cuz they haven’t reached the “masterpiece” stage yet. But, if you, like me, suffered from long bouts of writer’s block, this is something you need to remember.
Having said all this, I understand how writers feel about their “darlings”. When I couldn’t get representation for my awful rewrites to Silver Skies in 2009, I assumed all the agents were Jesuits and that no matter what I wrote, they’d hate it. After all, Spielberg had already made a movie. What I forgot was that Spielberg read what I wrote in the 1990s, when I was paying attention to all the stuff these agents talked about. I don’t know what made me think I could ignore all that in the rewrites (which I did in 2009 after forgetting all my writing skills) and to expect the agents to love my Silver Skies as Spielberg did, when Spielberg read a superior draft to the one I sent out to the agents!
So, yeah, writers, get mad at the agents and say they just overlooked your masterpiece, but ten years down the road, read that “masterpiece” again and it may give you a different perspective. If it’s truly a masterpiece, it will still seem good to you, when you pick it up ten years from now. And when I mean good, I’m not talking about fancy prose, I’m talking about a book you can’t put down, because it grips you. Cuz in 2018, when I picked up what I submitted to the agents in 2009, I was bored to death. And I just thought it was because I already knew the plot. I then realized, it was because what I wrote in 2009 was inferior to what I wrote in the 1990s. So I am relearning the writing skills I mastered in the 1990s and now applying that to my Silver Skies. I do recall, I did a tremendous amount of research and approached the writing of Silver Skies in the 1990s as an impassioned writing professional. I paid attention to craft and took the time to learn it!
I think if I was a literary agent, everybody would hate me, because I think most writing today stinks. What seems to be missing is a strong, passionate voice that grips me so much and speaks to my soul so that it literally transforms me as I read the book. I can’t find that today. I think writers lack the courage to write great today. I’m hoping that what I write will fill that hole in today’s literature. Write about what scares you! If you don’t do that, your writing is not worth reading. And then when you’ve delved into your fears – stuff that made you lose some sleep, stuff that gave you nightmares – show us the courage or love you found to overcome it. That’s what I try to write about.
Copyright © 2020 Gail Chord Schuler. All Rights Reserved.