Don’t Cut Your Own Throat

Hi, Gang.

It seems to me that the question of having an agent before you get a publishing contract is weighing on many of our minds lately. Let’s face it, some of us have become so enamored of the battle cry, “You must have an agent to get published!” that it is bordering on becoming one of the Ten Commandments.

I’m afraid I’ll have to call BS on that one. Yes, it is a good idea to have an agent, but if we honestly believe that we have to have one before we can even think of getting published; then how did all those other folks get published without one?

Steven King worked without an agent for three years after Carrie was published, and J.K. Rowling didn’t get an agent until after the first Harry Potter story―which she self-published―began to sell big. So, where did having an agent first factor into the two biggest names in writing getting published? That’s right… it didn’t.

I’m not certain exactly when, “Publish, or perish,” turned into, “Agent, or perish.” But, I do know that it is one of the biggest lies in this crazy business of ours. If either The King, or Ms. Rowling had bought into that lie, Steve would still be teaching High School English class, and Ms. Rowling would still be waiting tables.

Now, I’m not saying it’s a bad thing to have an agent. Having an agent is one of the best things a writer can do. In fact, I’ll go so far as to say that if you don’t have an agent―well, let’s just say you’ll deserve the screwing you’ll eventually get.

My problem lies with the fact that so many of us have bought into the lie. I have actually noticed aspiring authors ready to commit literary suicide over the fact that they couldn’t get an agent first. They honestly believe that if they can’t land an agent, their dream of being a writer is over. They believe that they must be a horrible writer if an agent isn’t willing to take them on as a client, and they should just quit.

I’ll admit that it is a very good thing to have an agent first, but with more an more agents ‘cherry picking’, this is just not as practical an option as it used to be. When added to the increasing number of writers who ‘found an agent’ after they had a publishing contract in hand, it should be pretty obvious that the old agent first fallacy is falling down like a house of cards in an earthquake.

Plain and simple, brothers and sisters, this is a t-o-u-g-h business. And if you are pinning all your hopes on acquiring an agent first, you are cutting your chances of ever getting published to the proverbial bone.

Yes, submitting to a publisher who accepts unsolicited/unagented material is a slower, and sometimes more ego crushing process. In short, you better bring your A-game. However, if you’re not getting any interest from an agent in the first place―Whaddya got to lose? And I’m not even going to go into the self-publishing/e-publishing arena. But it seems to me that if any of us are really serious about making it in this business, the last thing we would want to do is slam the door in the face of any opportunity to become a successful author.

One thing I can guarantee, gang: If you go into a fight with one hand tied behind your back, the odds are you’re going to get your tail whipped.

The other thing I can guarantee is: If you happen to take any legitimate opportunity to get published, and start making a name for yourself among the only people who really matter―the readers―both agents and publishers will be beating on your door with both fists.

How you got there isn’t nearly as important as actually getting there. No one will care how you snuck into the spotlight, so why cut off possible lifelines when you’re drowning anyway? Doesn’t make much sense, does it?

Later, Gang. 😉

Shinny and New

guest post by T. J. Loveless

Today we have a guest: T. J. Ls oveless.  She has a lot of wit and charm and a fun member over at AQC We are glad to have her here.  She has her own blog over at Writing From the Padded Room.  She agreed to a guest post, so here is TJ

As writers, we all have a love of gadgets to some degree. Whether it’s a shiny new writing program, pretty blog pictures or *gasp* a brand new laptop/PC/tablet *insert girly – manly sqee here*. Anything to make it easier as we spin those lovely yarns into words on paper.

Some of us need music playing in the background, others require quiet. And there are gadgets for that too. Personally, I need a good mug that will keep coffee hot and my music blaring in the background.

Yet, when we actually sit to write the first rough draft, we forget the one shiny, new object which started the whole thing in the first place. Our vaunted imaginations. The very thing that forced us to sit down and create a world in which fictional characters and their lives play out.

Not everybody loves to edit and revise. In an attempt to make it easier for ourselves, we edit as we go and forget the rough draft is named “rough” for a damn good reason. It’s supposed to suck, have badly written scenes, repeated phrases and actions, often followed by flat characters and dialogue that would make Rodney Dangerfield wince.
“Danger! Danger!” *I know you did the robot arms reading this. Don’t lie.*

When the wonderful, new, shiny idea forms, the main idea is to put it on paper, or in our case, whatever writing program currently in use. Let it remain shiny, unexplored and filled with plot holes, passive writing, redundant phrases, info dumps, scenes that make absolutely no sense whatsoever.

Let the shiny and new have it’s day on paper. It can be tweaked, repaired, upgraded, and winced about later.
And when you write “The End” – celebrate. However you want. Whether it is a glass of wine, some expensive chocolate, or bragging to all of your best one hundred friends on Facebook and three hundred followers on Twitter. Let your shiny and new idea have it’s day on your harddrive of choice.

Just back it up. Repeatedly. The nightmares of losing all that work is enough to make me shudder writing this.
My rather rambling point is this: revisions and edits are the spit and polish. The scrubbing, the new avenues, the tweaking, the rounding of characters, filling of plot holes, laughter at the one scene with a character in a pretzel kicking the butt of some intergalactic robot. But before that, let the Shiny and New be just that – Shiny and New. Your imagination has the right to a day of perfection.

//

What If

Riding off of a phrase E.F. Jace said last week, we are going to focus on ‘What if’

ImageOne question I see turn up in many different author interviews is. “How did you get your inspiration?”

Every story is written with two questions:

“What if…”

and

“What happens next?”

It’s the drive of every fiction writer, not just us Speculative Fiction.  The bonus of Speculative fiction is that our boundaries are so much wider. 

Such as:

Two people walk out of a building.  There’s your start. 

Then you ask the usual questions:

Who, What, Where, Why, When, How.

Next you work in the ‘what if?’ and the ‘what happens next?’  Adding the Spec. Fic twist:  It doesn’t have to be held down to humans, on a normal street.  It could be dragons walking out of a cathedral, headed for the spaceship to help some aliens with a wraith problem. Tehehe. And just like that, a literary fiction has been transformed into a Speculative fiction mesh.

Anytime you get stuck with an idea for a story, all you need is a what if. 

Clarion Workshop for SpecFic Writers

This will be a short one guys (and I promise this has nothing to do with the fact that I have a bunch of class assignments staring at me, promise).

😉

Moving right along, all of us here at AD&W are SpecFic writers and I like to think that a large portion of our readers are as well.  If so, there’s an upcoming event that I think you all should be aware of and if you don’t try for it this year, at least you have the information for next year =].  It’s called Clarion.  I almost didn’t do this post because I thought, Jace, c’mon.  You were the only dork that had no idea what Clarion was before someone told you, everyone else is on the ball here.  But then I thought, what if?  What if someone’s never heard of it, like I hadn’t?  And isn’t that what gets us SpecFic writers going, the big ‘What If’?

Clarion is a 6-week workshop specifically for Speculative Fiction writers!  Each week a different published author (or editor, I believe) teaches a seminar or lecture.  There are actually a few different branches of Clarion, each with a different line-up of instructors.

There’s Clarion San Diego, which, unsurprisingly, takes place in San Diego.  You can read up more about it HERE.  And then there’s Clarion West, which happens in Seattle, and you can read more about that HERE.  (Clarion South happens in Australia but have been unable to locate a suitable venue for a little while now and is indefinitely on hold.)  Both events take place from June 23rd to August 2nd/3rd  And the deadline to apply for both is MARCH 1ST, 2013.  So read up, read the FAQ, read the application instructions and, if you’re like me, read the Scholarship information several times because it does cost money but there are scholarships and financial aid that you can apply for geared specifically to help people attend these workshops.  There are application fees to both (around $50) that is pretty unavoidable and, of course, nonrefundable.

I realize March 1st is in only 3 weeks so that doesn’t give your (or me) much time, but like I said, it’s information definitely worth storing for next year!  I do hope at least someone found this post useful.  Who knows?  What if someone reads this, applies, and gets in!

There’s that ‘What If’ again. 😉