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skippingstone
10-30-2009, 04:29 AM
So picture yourself years from now as an aged, literary fat cat. Your legacy is secure, your bank accounts are throbbing with coin. Your only concern is replenishing your supply of personal assistants because the most recent ones were much too slavish in their devotion. It wasn't always this way. You persevered through a lot of rejection to get to the top. What was it that helped you improve and carry on? Was it repeatedly swallowing the bitter potion brewed by legions of heartless critics or did you keep going because of the kind support offered by your friends?

Over the summer an agent kicked me with her stiletto heel right in the solar plexus, but I now feel like it spurred some important changes in how I write. Is this the norm? If so, where might you direct me to get a titanium solar plexus implant?

kellion92
10-30-2009, 05:19 AM
What happened with the agent? Were you repped, and got unrepped?

Amarie
10-30-2009, 03:45 PM
So picture yourself years from now as an aged, literary fat cat. Your legacy is secure, your bank accounts are throbbing with coin. Your only concern is replenishing your supply of personal assistants because the most recent ones were much too slavish in their devotion. It wasn't always this way. You persevered through a lot of rejection to get to the top. What was it that helped you improve and carry on? Was it repeatedly swallowing the bitter potion brewed by legions of heartless critics or did you keep going because of the kind support offered by your friends?

Over the summer an agent kicked me with her stiletto heel right in the solar plexus, but I now feel like it spurred some important changes in how I write. Is this the norm? If so, where might you direct me to get a titanium solar plexus implant?

While kind support made me feel warm and fuzzy, it was harsh criticism that pushed me to improve. Sounds like you already have the right attitude to do something with the kicks.

skippingstone
10-30-2009, 06:23 PM
Yeah, I guess what pushes you forward is the truth. Warm and fuzzy has its charms but it's rarely truthful. What sticks in my craw is that I don't want to give her too much credit for being this galvanizing force but on some level, I guess I should be grateful because it did make me attentive to things I had been cranky about before (cough-cough -- word count).

kellion92, I didn't get repped and then unrepped. I am unpublished. It was a case of interest in/encouragement/emails about my ms, over the course of several months, followed by the aforementioned kick. This is the second time, second agent, who's done this. I just wondered if this was standard operating procedure. Have other people had this kind of thing happen?

kellion92
10-30-2009, 06:29 PM
Did the agents ask for revisions and resubmission, and then not like the revisions? You might want to ask a question about that in the Ask the Agent thread. I don't know how common that is. One thing I read a lot on these boards is that the important part of a "no" is the "no," not the nice words surrounding it, unless they specifically ask you to resubmit after revision.

Were these agents you queried, or ones that you knew from conferences, the industry, etc?

skippingstone
10-30-2009, 06:53 PM
Straight up cold query on two of them. Personal referral on another. Still another -- this an agent's assistant -- who gave me great, extensive feedback, said she liked it, gave an assortment of "problems" that were really easy fixes (this section is too long, missing tags on some of the dialogue, perhaps cut this character out). But said she didn't want to see a revision. The other agent said yes, she would look at a revision but had an attitude like "you can send to me if you must." Very odd and hence, confusing.

Amarie
10-30-2009, 07:19 PM
Straight up cold query on two of them. Personal referral on another. Still another -- this an agent's assistant -- who gave me great, extensive feedback, said she liked it, gave an assortment of "problems" that were really easy fixes (this section is too long, missing tags on some of the dialogue, perhaps cut this character out). But said she didn't want to see a revision. The other agent said yes, she would look at a revision but had an attitude like "you can send to me if you must." Very odd and hence, confusing.


It sounds like you've got something worth working on, because I'd say at least 90%-95% of rejections from agents are straight form, no suggestions, no revise and resubmit, and no personal comments.

kellion92
10-30-2009, 07:23 PM
I agree with Melia. Those were actually helpful rejections, considering the deafening silence many get. Just send out a new query whenever you get a no.

skippingstone
10-30-2009, 07:51 PM
So we're back to need for the titanium solar plexus implant. Which I just ordered from Ebay. :) Can I also take solace in the fact that my ms was 185,000 words and I still got requests for it? The word count thing has really embarassed me. I had no idea that amount of verbiage would trigger most agents' gag reflex. My only defense is that I have been living under a rock off the coast of East Jesus, which is south and west of the Falkland Islands. (I used to wish for sheep as company.)

Jamesaritchie
10-30-2009, 08:21 PM
[QUOTE=skippingstone;4205036]What was it that helped you improve and carry on? Was it repeatedly swallowing the bitter potion brewed by legions of heartless critics or did you keep going because of the kind support offered by your friends?

QUOTE]

I think it was understanding that if critics knew anything, they'd be writers, and that kind support is meaningless.

Some of the first advice I read when I first started writing, and probably the most meaningful advice I've yet heard, was that the entire secret of being a successful writer was " have talent, read much, and write often."

I'm not sure how this will sound, but I don't believe in "too much bitter potion brewed by legions of heartless critics." Of course, very few are heartless, they're just honest, and honesty is always heartful, not heartless.

But I determined very early on, with my first short story, in fact, that too much failure is an indication that you're in the wrong line of work. Life is simply too short to spend years and years and years failing, without at least a few serious successes along the way. There are too many other things I can do and enjoy doing to spend my life trying something that all indications say I can never do really well.

In a way, I envy those who go on forever without success, who live by the motto "Never, ever give up," but I sure don't understand it, and it isn't my way.

So I never worried about critics or support. Neither seemed to make any difference. I assumed I had some talent, I learned early on that I had at least enough to sell regularly, and I've always read much and written often. What else can one do?

suki
10-30-2009, 08:31 PM
Straight up cold query on two of them. Personal referral on another. Still another -- this an agent's assistant -- who gave me great, extensive feedback, said she liked it, gave an assortment of "problems" that were really easy fixes (this section is too long, missing tags on some of the dialogue, perhaps cut this character out). But said she didn't want to see a revision. The other agent said yes, she would look at a revision but had an attitude like "you can send to me if you must." Very odd and hence, confusing.

Honestly, and I don't mean this to sound harsh, but if you got any comments from agents/agents assistant toward improvement, you should be considering yourself lucky.

It's a disappointment, for sure, when an agent shows some interest and then ultimately passes. But your original post it made it sound like the agent jerked you around - yet the explanation above is far from that.

This process is hard and at time demoralizing, but when an agent kicks you you'll know it - this is the bitter disappoinment of coming close. And coming close means there's something there, whether it needs more work or is just a matter of time who knows. But be encouraged that your book was promising enough to garner comments, and keep working on it - especially with that word count.

Good luck.

~suki

skippingstone
10-30-2009, 09:28 PM
[QUOTE=suki;4207032]Honestly, and I don't mean this to sound harsh, but if you got any comments from agents/agents assistant toward improvement, you should be considering yourself lucky.

I agree and I do realize that. I guess what really threw me was the whiplash I got from getting encouraging emails for weeks and then blammo: she dispatched me. And like I said, this was the second time this happened. The first time -- a different novel and agent -- the agent went so far as to have her assistant CALL me and say how much she was enjoying it. A week later, I found the ms on my doorstep with no explanation other than "I'm sure another agent will feel differently...."

And yes, the word count is in the process of being reduced by more than half.

skippingstone
10-30-2009, 09:57 PM
"In a way, I envy those who go on forever without success, who live by the motto "Never, ever give up," but I sure don't understand it, and it isn't my way."

I totally agree. I often say, "Unlike some, I WILL take no for an answer." It's hard to know where to draw the line, however. I stopped writing altogether for a long while because I figured if I were any good, somebody would have noticed by now. But then despite coming to this conclusion, I couldn't keep myself from writing anyway and I began to wonder if I'd given up too soon, especially now that I see here on so many threads that sending upwards of 60-80 queries out is not out of bounds. I realized that perhaps my threshold of failure was way too low. It was the Three I's at work: impatience, immaturity, and ignorance.

I suppose I've already quit and couldn't make it stick so it does'nt matter. I set my writing free and it came back to me. I guess I'm in it for the long haul.

kellion92
10-30-2009, 10:30 PM
I just had lunch with one of college roommates who is a bestselling novelist. I'm trying to sell my first novel now. We were both creative writing majors. What's the difference between us? Well, she has written nonstop, and published eight novels, each building on the success of the last. I gave up, and just restarted writing three years ago. So no wonder she is where she is and I am where I am...

kuatolives
10-31-2009, 12:20 AM
In a way, I envy those who go on forever without success, who live by the motto "Never, ever give up," but I sure don't understand it, and it isn't my way.
Perhaps they enjoy the process more than the result. I suck at golf, yet I still play. And play. And play. And throw my clubs in the water and jump up and down flapping my arms in disgust. And while sometimes I convince myself I hate every minute of it, I play some more.

I've seen this same 'quit if you don't succeed' sentiment repeated by Stephen King and Christopher Moore and it's fairly immature thinking. It may sound cliche but life is about challenge and journey, not destination.
These men also contradict themselves. On one hand they are saying you have to (in order to be a writer) enjoy the entire process of writing from start to finish to succeed, but in the next breath say that enjoyment is for naught if some fuckin publisher somewhere doesn't see things my way.

Well what is it? The process or the result?

Tee time tomorrow at 6 am. I hope to crack 90.

skippingstone
10-31-2009, 03:39 AM
Golf hope springs eternal.

Here's hoping you someday hear, "You da man!" while teeing off.

Jamesaritchie
10-31-2009, 04:18 AM
Perhaps they enjoy the process more than the result. I suck at golf, yet I still play. And play. And play. And throw my clubs in the water and jump up and down flapping my arms in disgust. And while sometimes I convince myself I hate every minute of it, I play some more.

I've seen this same 'quit if you don't succeed' sentiment repeated by Stephen King and Christopher Moore and it's fairly immature thinking. It may sound cliche but life is about challenge and journey, not destination.
These men also contradict themselves. On one hand they are saying you have to (in order to be a writer) enjoy the entire process of writing from start to finish to succeed, but in the next breath say that enjoyment is for naught if some fuckin publisher somewhere doesn't see things my way.

Well what is it? The process or the result?

Tee time tomorrow at 6 am. I hope to crack 90.

"Never ever give up" is what's immature." A hobby such as golf is one thing, but any writer expecting to actually go full-time and earn money from it is just being dumb if he continues long past the time when he shuold have stopped, if he waits until it's too late to move on.

If you want to keep writing for fun, that's fine, but you're a damned fool if you don't also get a good education and get into an occupation that actually gives you a good living plus the staisfaction of doing something you love.

"Journey and enjoyment" are great things, but you have to be able to pay for that journey, and if it's only enjoyment, you'll die a loser.

Of course you should enjoy the process. I wouldn't have spent ten monutes writing unless I enjoyed teh process. It's truly dumb spending your life doing something you hate.

But life is also about more than waking up fifty years later and realizing all you did was fail at one thing because you were too stubborn to find something else that you were good at, and that you also enjoyed.

Those writers aren't contradicting themselves, their simply talking about a profession, rather than a hobby. There's nothing special about writing or writers. Writing is no different than basketball. If you enjoy playing basketball, you play in pickup games until you're ninety, even if you can't make a layup under teh rim with no one guading you. But if you want to be a pro player, there's a time and a place when only a damned fool doesn't realize it's never going to happen, and he needs to look for something else to do with his life.

The only difference is that just about everyone who tries writing firmly believes that sooner or later, if he just tries long enough and hard enough, he can be Good Enough to compete with the best out there, that with enough practice, he can make a thirty foot jumper four times out of four with Kevin Garnett in his face. It just isn't so.

Hobbies are one thing, professions are something else entirely, and I've known too many old writers who let life pass them by because they simply refused to accept the fact that they weren't good enough, and never would be good enough, to make writing a profession. It is not a pretty picture.

kuatolives
10-31-2009, 05:57 AM
I agree with you but the critical distinction to be made is recreation vs profession.

skippingstone
10-31-2009, 05:53 PM
I suppose the United States could establish a Bureau of Weights and Measures of Talent in an attempt to settle this question once and for all -- whether we should quit or keep going, I mean. But even then there would still be people who'd slip through the system, either for good or ill.

My feeling is that bad writers and good writers have one thing in common: they both start out as bad writers. It takes a long, long time to get good at writing. If, however, after each book, article, essay you're showing improvement, then you should keep going.* If you're just churning out the same level of dreck year after year, then stopping would probably be advisable.

I think it's also possible that any art requires a romantic swan dive into the abyss. It occurred to me in recent years that this whole writing thing requires a lot of serious effort -- effort that might be channeled into the pursuit of more lucrative endeavors -- and that's a really frightening prospect. But, well, that's called commitment. (Alas, commitment is also the term we use for an involuntary stay at the nervous hospital.) I say if you'd rather fail at writing than succeed at anything else, by Gosh, you're a true believer. Just try to keep your sense of humor about the whole thing, lest you evolve into the sort of person Mr. Ritchie describes.

*This improvement principle does not hold true for golf.

Phaeal
11-01-2009, 02:37 AM
Yeah, I guess what pushes you forward is the truth. Warm and fuzzy has its charms but it's rarely truthful. What sticks in my craw is that I don't want to give her too much credit for being this galvanizing force but on some level, I guess I should be grateful because it did make me attentive to things I had been cranky about before (cough-cough -- word count).

kellion92, I didn't get repped and then unrepped. I am unpublished. It was a case of interest in/encouragement/emails about my ms, over the course of several months, followed by the aforementioned kick. This is the second time, second agent, who's done this. I just wondered if this was standard operating procedure. Have other people had this kind of thing happen?

LOL, if only. I only get form kicks. ;)

Phaeal
11-01-2009, 02:50 AM
"
The only difference is that just about everyone who tries writing firmly believes that sooner or later, if he just tries long enough and hard enough, he can be Good Enough to compete with the best out there, that with enough practice, he can make a thirty foot jumper four times out of four with Kevin Garnett in his face. It just isn't so.

Hobbies are one thing, professions are something else entirely, and I've known too many old writers who let life pass them by because they simply refused to accept the fact that they weren't good enough, and never would be good enough, to make writing a profession. It is not a pretty picture.

Whether you can sink a basket, and how often, and under what circumstances, is objectively quantifiable. Once you've mastered the basics of grammar and spelling and gotten a grasp of the elements of fiction, whether your writing is good or bad becomes increasingly subjective. There's the respect that makes calamity (or victory) of so long (writing) life.