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Lunatique
03-01-2012, 07:41 PM
Do authors discuss the novels they are writing (or will be writing) with their agents and editors? I mean details such as plot, themes/motifs, character development, and so on (bouncing ideas off of the agent and editor and hearing their feedback). Or this is something that's not usually talked about, and the authors simply hand in drafts when they're done, get feedback, and then works on the rewrite?

Obviously, to get an agent, you have to first finish a book, but what about after you've gotten an agent and are starting on subsequent books? Do authors discuss writing strategies, the details of their next books, and career planning with their agents and editors?

ChaosTitan
03-01-2012, 07:46 PM
It depends on your relationship with your agent/editor and how you work best.

I know some authors who send their agent/editor a few chapters at a time, as they're writing. They bounce ideas and get feedback during the writing process, and this works for them.

I prefer handing in entire finished drafts. If I'm stuck on something, I have betas to bounce ideas off of. My agent/editors get the finished, polished draft.

When I had my first phone chat with my new editor, he actually asked which way I worked best (all at once, or feedback as I went along), because he was comfortable with either process. I really appreciated that he asked.

Calla Lily
03-01-2012, 07:52 PM
I run new book ideas by my agent to get his feel for the idea and the market for it.

I send him completed books and he sends me back suggestions the same way. I only send completed books to my editor and vice-versa with edits.

Erin Kelly
03-01-2012, 07:55 PM
It depends on the agent. These days, it's best (in my opinion) to have an editorial agent--one who discusses things with you and really delves into your manuscript. Publishing houses don't operate like they used to. Agents used to be more hands-off, but in this market, it helps to have one who will really work with you because you want your MS to be in the best possible condition when it hits the editor's desk.

Right now I'm working with two agents: my own agent and an agent who represents the co-author of a series I'm writing. My co-author's agent is the agent of record for the project, so we work together. She came back with changes, questions and concerns after the MS was done. After swapping back and forth, it's now being shopped around and we're confident it's in good shape. This is a stark difference from my own agent, who has been in the business for a long time and still operates in the old-school way. She's a good agent and a great supporter, but I feel it's best for writers--especially beginning writers--to have representation that is also editorial.

After the agent goes through the manuscript, you have to go through another round of revisions with the editor at the publishing house. They are certain to have changes.

Anyway, now that I have blathered on, the short answer is: It depends on the agent! :)

Torgo
03-01-2012, 07:56 PM
Depends on you, but as an editor I'm always happy to discuss WIP. I don't particularly want to do more than chat, though, until it's acquired - I don't want to do edits or write long editorial letters.

Lunatique
03-01-2012, 08:01 PM
I suppose it also depends on how the agent/editor likes to work? Maybe some don't want to be bothered with your synopses and half-baked ideas , babysit your writer's insecurity or help you figure out what's best for the book, and just want you to do all the work on your own, then deliver a draft that is as close to publishable as possible?

ChaosTitan
03-01-2012, 08:03 PM
I suppose it also depends on how the agent/editor likes to work?

Absolutely. It's important to discuss these kinds of things before you sign with an agent, so you don't learn down the road that your work styles are incompatible.

However, I don't know many editors who'd refuse to work with an author in developing the book along the way. It's part of their job; not so with agents.

Torgo
03-01-2012, 08:05 PM
I suppose it also depends on how the agent/editor likes to work? Maybe some don't want to be bothered with your synopses and half-baked ideas , babysit your writer's insecurity or help you figure out what's best for the book, and just want you to do all the work on your own, then deliver a draft that is as close to publishable as possible?

Well, we'd all like that, including the writers I think! In practice, it's a rare author who never needs any of that kind of support. You have to be a bit of a monster of insecurity or rudeness to really get an editor's back up.

Lunatique
03-01-2012, 08:25 PM
Thanks for all your replies.

I'm asking because as someone who is working on getting an agent, I often wish that I can have someone who is knowledgeable and savvy about the publishing world, who's also a good critic, and willing to listen to my ideas and offer advice. I can't get that with family and friends because they lack the experience and objectivity, and I don't have any writer friends that I can have in-depth discussion with. Acquaintances, yes, but not "real friends" I can be totally candid with. I also feel a bit odd openly discussing my WIP's in public forums full of writers (I've tried it, and it always felt a little uncomfortable to be discussing details regarding unpublished work).

So it's a relief for me that you guys are saying the kind of relationship I would like to have is possible. It makes me feel good knowing there's is someone I can turn to when I want to discuss ideas.

Now I just need to nab myself a good agent. :)

Toothpaste
03-01-2012, 08:39 PM
I definitely bounce ideas off of my agent, heck sometimes when I don't even have ideas we brainstorm together.

My fav story about this concerns my book out this fall. I came up with the idea in the fall of 2010 one evening. I kept thinking and thinking about it, couldn't stop planning and solving problems and I just knew I had something special. So I emailed my agent and said I had come up with this amazing idea and could we talk the next day.

We did, and I shared all my thoughts with her. She agreed they rocked and even added she knew of the perfect editor to send it to. So instead of writing the entire book, I wrote up a proposal and we sent it to this editor. She loved it, and then she and I worked together on the first 20K so she could pitch it to the rest of the house. And after a lot of hand wringing, I got the book deal. On proposal.

None of this would have happened had I not discussed the idea with my agent first. If I'd just written the book first, then yes, possibly I still would have gotten that deal etc. But what I like about this story is that sharing an idea with my agent resulted in me getting to work on shaping the tone of the book with my future editor. And that was pretty awesome. Plus, I'm sorry, but getting a book deal before you write the entire book is a really nice thing. There's no worry if all the work was for naught (I still have two other books making the rounds to tons of rejection). It is stressful in its own way, having to live up to expectations etc. But still, being paid to write as opposed to being paid for having written is very nice.


In conclusion. It seems you know what you want from an agent, so make sure that you don't compromise when the time comes :) .

Lunatique
03-01-2012, 09:04 PM
I have a question regarding trust. Let's say you discussed ideas with your agent, and one of the ideas is for a possible book long down the line, after you have completed the ones already in cue. Now, what if your agent thinks another author he/she represents can do justice to this idea just as well, if not better than you, and shares your idea with that author? There could always be the excuse that you two just happened to have similar ideas. Is this something that's ever happened before?

Torgo
03-01-2012, 09:09 PM
I have a question regarding trust. Let's say you discussed ideas with your agent, and one of the ideas is for a possible book long down the line, after you have completed the ones already in cue. Now, what if your agent thinks another author he/she represents can do justice to this idea just as well, if not better than you, and shares your idea with that author? There could always be the excuse that you two just happened to have similar ideas. Is this something that's ever happened before?

I haven't ever heard of that happening. If an agent did do that, I feel it would be a breach of trust unless they'd discussed with you sharing the idea, and you'd agreed to let it go to someone else.

I think in practice that isn't really how ideas work, especially not in publishing.

Toothpaste
03-01-2012, 09:11 PM
If an agent did that, then he/she is a bad agent and you would dump him/her.

Jamesaritchie
03-01-2012, 09:52 PM
I never discuss such things with an agent. I do with editors, though usually not to any real degree until after the book is written, and we're getting it ready for publication.

But sometimes an editor looks at a brief outline, knowing all the while I'm not going to follow it, but still wants to discuss the plot, usually because he has something in mind he thinks will work really well when the book is published a year to two years later.

It's always worth it to listen to such ideas, even if you decide not to follow them.

Really, unless the book is part of a series you're already writing, there isn't much point in discussing a book you're going to write somewhere down the line with anyone.

Anne Lyle
03-01-2012, 10:06 PM
I bounced ideas back and forth with my editor before he signed me, because he wanted changes before seeing the full ms. I found that very productive, and feel it led to a better book.

Since then, I just send synopses for sign-off, then the completed draft. Since I'm only on my second book, it's a bit early for me to have any further experience to share.

Jamesaritchie
03-01-2012, 11:09 PM
Bouncing idea sis one thing, but the moment you start letting an agent say what you should or shouldn't write, you're no longer a writer. I doubt there is a better way to kill a career, or, at best, have a mediocre, midlist, or lower, career.

Editors, on teh other hand, generally give advice after you've decided what to write all on your own. This works.

Old Hack
03-01-2012, 11:24 PM
Bouncing idea sis one thing, but the moment you start letting an agent say what you should or shouldn't write, you're no longer a writer. I doubt there is a better way to kill a career, or, at best, have a mediocre, midlist, or lower, career.

Actually, James, I know a couple of writers who routinely discuss what they're going to write with their agent. They work out which books to work on next, how to write them, and how the books should be plotted and so on. They do all of this before they write and while they're writing, and they are both firmly in the best-seller lists. They usually sell a couple of thousand copies or more of their books in the first week after publication, in hardback. I don't think that's killing their careers, do you?

Anne Lyle
03-01-2012, 11:55 PM
I would certainly want to know what my agent thinks - I wouldn't write purely to his guidance if it wasn't something that inspired me, but if I had two ideas and wasn't sure which of those would be more attractive to editors, I would appreciate some input.

However my first book isn't even out yet and I'm still working on the next two books I'm contracted for, so that's a conversation for another day...

Medievalist
03-02-2012, 12:02 AM
Bouncing idea sis one thing, but the moment you start letting an agent say what you should or shouldn't write, you're no longer a writer. I doubt there is a better way to kill a career, or, at best, have a mediocre, midlist, or lower, career.

So much for the careers of Fitzgerald, Hemingway, Heinlein, Arthur C. Clarke, and the four Hugo award and Nebula award winning best-selling authors I just sent links to your post who profoundly disagree.

Do you realize how rife with irony your assertion is?

Agents sell books. They can't sell in a vacuum. They know what editors are looking for right now, and what will be bought right now, even with the knowledge that the book won't be written for six months or a year or even longer.

Amarie
03-02-2012, 12:48 AM
Thanks for all your replies.

I'm asking because as someone who is working on getting an agent, I often wish that I can have someone who is knowledgeable and savvy about the publishing world, who's also a good critic, and willing to listen to my ideas and offer advice. I can't get that with family and friends because they lack the experience and objectivity, and I don't have any writer friends that I can have in-depth discussion with. Acquaintances, yes, but not "real friends" I can be totally candid with. I also feel a bit odd openly discussing my WIP's in public forums full of writers (I've tried it, and it always felt a little uncomfortable to be discussing details regarding unpublished work).

So it's a relief for me that you guys are saying the kind of relationship I would like to have is possible. It makes me feel good knowing there's is someone I can turn to when I want to discuss ideas.

Now I just need to nab myself a good agent. :)

It also sounds like you might want to explore how to find a critique group of other writers. Every writer/agent relationship is unique. I bounce ideas off my critique group, but only send in polished chapters to my agent. I would discuss changes in plot or character with my agent once I had a good finished draft, but it would muddy my thinking too much to do that ahead of time.

Lunatique
03-02-2012, 09:03 AM
Bouncing idea sis one thing, but the moment you start letting an agent say what you should or shouldn't write, you're no longer a writer. I doubt there is a better way to kill a career, or, at best, have a mediocre, midlist, or lower, career.

Editors, on teh other hand, generally give advice after you've decided what to write all on your own. This works.

I think that's a bit severe. Agents and editors have vast experience dealing with the market, and have developed a sharp eye for spotting problems that the author probably can't, due to being too close to the story for prolonged period of time, thus losing objectivity, as well as having possible personal biases that result in blind spots. They might notice plot holes the author didn't, or recognize eyebrow-raising personal biases, or even common cliches in plot devices and character development. The vast amount of critical judgment they have to do on a large number of books throughout their careers, as well as their knowledge of the market, is a valuable resource that I think authors would be wise to utilize.

We have all read books and watched movies/TV shows that made us think, "Geez, it looks like the writer didn't even discuss the story with his agent/editor/director/producer, because it's full of plot holes, inconsistencies, cliches, and annoying/frustrating personal biases."

I'm not saying writers shouldn't do their best to work those problems out on their own. What I'm saying is it's smart to take advantage of the sharp, critical eye of experienced agents and editors, because they know things you don't, and it would be arrogant and foolish to think you're above them and that they have nothing to offer you in the form of helpful critique and suggestions.

Obviously, you have to draw the line somewhere. If you are completely spineless and would buckle at the slightest criticism, then you probably shouldn't be a writer. If you know for sure that you happen to have an esoteric/niche voice that appeals only to a small segment of the market and have no hopes of becoming a bestseller, and the agent/editor is trying to broaden the appeal of your book by making it more mainstream, then it's a decision you have to make for yourself--whether to stick to your guns and embrace the fact you'll likely never be a big selling author, or make compromises and take their advice.


It also sounds like you might want to explore how to find a critique group of other writers.

I'm used to be a part of a writing group back in the late 90's in San Francisco, where the members would meet regularly. But I haven't been able to find an online group--partly because I feel a little uncomfortable when it's not face-to-face with people I can see and feel their vibe. I would love to find a group of people I can fully trust and feel comfortable around, but it's much harder on the web than it is in real life. I visit the AW Chat sometimes, but people come and go, so it's never a set group, where there's a pact made between all members--a formal group of some sort. The SYW and beta resources at AW have a similar issue where it's a bunch of strangers instead of a small group of people you know and trust and feel comfortable around.

Anne Lyle
03-02-2012, 12:12 PM
What genre do you write in, Lunatique? The SFF world has quite a lot of online critique groups, but I don't know if other genres have anything similar.

Lunatique
03-02-2012, 12:35 PM
What genre do you write in, Lunatique? The SFF world has quite a lot of online critique groups, but I don't know if other genres have anything similar.

I cross/combine genres a lot, but I do have a strong focus in speculative fiction, while with literary aspirations mixed in.

Anne Lyle
03-02-2012, 12:55 PM
In that case you might want to try Critters, or the Online Writers Workshop. I haven't used either* but I've heard good things about them.



* I live in a city full of geeks - you can't throw a stone without hitting a wannabe SFF author!

Lunatique
03-02-2012, 01:47 PM
In that case you might want to try Critters, or the Online Writers Workshop. I haven't used either* but I've heard good things about them.

Thanks! It looks like those sites are close to what I'm after, but much larger in size/membership.

I was thinking of starting a small, private group for serious writers, where members all respect each others' writing, are people with real identities online (as opposed to strangers with anonymous nicknames), and can discuss ideas without the fear of plagiarism (members have to sign an agreement, and all discussed ideas are logged and credited appropriately). I even thought of a point system for giving and receiving critiques. But after looking at those sites you mentioned, it looks like I'm trying to reinvent the wheel. Those guys have been doing it for a long time and have established systems in place already. The only difference is that I prefer a small, tightly-knit, private group, where the members all know each other and feel totally safe/comfortable around each other.

Anne Lyle
03-02-2012, 03:10 PM
In that case you might want to try somewhere like Forward Motion (fmwriters.com) - they definitely have private critique circles. I tried joining one once, but it wasn't really my thing. YMMV.

(I'm still a member there, as 'redfox', but I mainly hang out on the goals forum.)

seun
03-02-2012, 04:49 PM
My editor at Musa and I definitely worked on a couple of ideas together. There was a specific scene which he thought stretched credibility (pretty good going in a horror story) and after reading through it with a reader's eyes, I realised he was right. We went through a few ideas on how to change it and as it turned out, the finished version was a little different to the one we actually agreed upon. We both liked the scene as it became and I ended up with a better scene and book.

As for the agent issue, I'd be happy to discuss current books and future books with an agent. I'm struggling to see how doing so would harm me as a writer.

heyjude
03-03-2012, 03:50 PM
I'm late to this party, but it's been a really interesting discussion. I've only bounced pages off my agent once, to make sure the MC wasn't totally horrible (turns out he is :tongue), but in general I don't like to share until the book is finished. Something about getting other opinions knocks me off course and I have trouble writing. Not in terms of editing, that I can handle, no trouble, but in the first draft creation.

Nakhlasmoke
03-03-2012, 07:26 PM
.... Something about getting other opinions knocks me off course and I have trouble writing. Not in terms of editing, that I can handle, no trouble, but in the first draft creation.

I know this feeling, but I am having to adjust my style of creation. Too much time spent writing books only I want to read. Heh.

HopeWelsh
03-03-2012, 07:58 PM
Luna, it's going to be hard to find a group where they have all signed agreements to be members.

Once you're writing your book--or have written it--it's yours. I'd suggest if you're worried--you find one good critique partner--then some beta readers.

There are few plots that haven't been used--its how you write it that sells the book.

priceless1
03-03-2012, 09:39 PM
However, I don't know many editors who'd refuse to work with an author in developing the book along the way. It's part of their job; not so with agents.
This. Some of our authors are working on subsequent books, and they run ideas past me all the time. It's an invitation I welcome.