Many of the people I know, or meet, are aspiring writers. A lot of them are working on their book, or thinking about it, or dreaming about it, or cleaning house in a desperate attempt to avoid THE BOOK. Seriously, everyone I meet seems to think they have a book in them. And some of them really do:
When these folks find out that I
found the holy grail signed with a literary agent–and not just any literary agent, mind you, but a SFF rock star–I am immediately inundated with questions. Which I do not mind at all; I’m so new to this game that my first book (sold by said rock star agent) won’t be released till next year. A very short while ago, I was one of those round-eyed aspiring writers. I’d drive down the road practicing my “Yes, I would be delighted to have you represent my book” phone conversation.
It was a good thing I did that, by the way; when I first spoke to my agent by phone, I was calm and professional. The moment I hung up, however, I lost my shit. Seriously, I called my first reader to tell her the news and she didn’t even recognize my voice.
Most of the questions I hear are along the lines of:
Question #1: “Are you rich yet?”
Question #2: “How do I get an agent and sell my book?”
Answer #1: Hahahahahahahahahahahahahaaaaaa *gasp* hahahahahahahahaaaa. snort. giggle. heh. Nope. I’m pleased with the advance I received from Titan Books; it was enough to replace the clutch in my old car, replace the appliances that quit working because I had money coming in, pay some bills, and buy a bottle of good whiskey. Median advances for a debut fantasy novel are in the $7k range, folks; that’s not going to buy a castle in Scotland. But it does show that my publisher has faith in my book’s potential, which makes me happy, and pays a bit of rent, which makes my landlord happy.
Answer #2: Have you finished writing your book? I know, because I’ve been you, that this is not the non-answer you really want to hear. And you’re not alone:
‘Some writers enjoy writing, I am told. Not me. I enjoy having written.’
~George R.R. Martin
You want to pick up the phone, describe your awesome story to the world’s greatest agent, who was sitting by the phone hoping you’d call so he could send the gold-plated contract that’s been sitting on his desk forever just waiting for your signature. Oh, and he’s got a dozen Big 5 editors ready to bid against one another for the chance to publish your book in a special gold-plated edition bound in human skin.
I feel your pain, I really do. But that’s not how this works. No agent is going to want to represent that book if it’s still in you, covered in your guts and mucus and DNA goo. You’re going to have to get that bitch out into the fresh air, and clean the slime off so it’s all shiny and pretty. It’s going to hurt, it’s going to drive you crazy, and it’s going to take more effort and commitment and sheer cussedness than you think you can take. I gave birth four times, without drugs, to babies who weighed in at just under ten pounds each. And that was nothing compared to writing my first book.
I didn’t think I could do it.
I did it.
And you can do it, too.
Now, I have some good news for you: writing a book isn’t all talent and inspiration and serendipity. As a matter of fact, if I were to make a pie chart called Writing a Book and demonstrate the percentages of talent/inspiration/dreamy shit versus time spent banging your head on a brick wall, tenacity, tendonitis, and building your skill set as a writer, the happy-skippy-muse stuff would be a smear of whipped cream on the bottom of the pie plate. Talent and inspiration and all that are wonderful if and when you have them, but most of the work of writing a book can be accomplished by SITTING YOUR ASS DOWN AND WRITING. And your writing skills can be acquired, built upon, and honed.
The bad news? Bullshit excuses won’t get your book written, and frankly nobody wants to hear them.
1: If you’re human, there’s a good possibility that you want to write a book.
2: You’re not going to get an agent or sell your book until you write the damn thing.
3: You’re probably not going to get rich selling your book, but what the hell, it’s still awesome.
4: It’s possible for you to write that book you’ve been dreaming of and get it published–or publish it yourself.
5: I don’t want to hear your bullshit excuses for not finishing your book, and neither does anyone else.
For those of you who keep your ass in the chair long enough to get this thing done, I’ll be writing about how I went about finding my rock star agent, and why he agreed to work with me.
Also…as great as you think it might be to finish that book, get an agent, and get published? You’re wrong. It’s so much better than that.
Jai tu wai,