Multiple Offers from Literary Agents

This is a crazy thing that can happen (and happened to me) where multiple literary agents have offered you representation. That offer is exciting and thrilling and terrifying, but how are you supposed to choose between them?

Provided you only queried your dream agents (it’s best practice to only query agents in small batches), then you have a tough decision ahead of you!

I made this video which has 7 things to consider when you’ve received multiple offers. These things ALSO apply to single offers!

Let me know if you have any additional suggestions for questions to ask literary agents!! Or if you have any favorite resources!

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Practice Being Creative (like you practice math)

Practicing being creative might not sound like it makes sense. But it does. When you’re learning math, you learn how to approach a problem (let’s say, solving for X). You learn all of the beautiful things equations can do. You learn how to add, multiply, distribute, expand and condense exponential equations, substitute, and estimate. All in search of X.

Question: How is doing match similar to practicing creativity? (also, math is dumb, I hear some of you complain)

Answer: X is the idea. X is the story. In order to solve for X (in order to produce something creative), you have to learn HOW to manipulate the equation first. In short, you have to learn how to think about the world creatively before you can create something creative.

Example:  If the prompt is “someone cooking for the first time”, you might want to write a story about a budding chef at a shiny culinary institute, while someone else might want to write a memoir about the first time they boiled pasta as a ten-year-old.

 

Math Language: The simplest solution will be the one you find first. But there’s more than one way to get to the answer.

English Language: Don’t settle on the first idea you come up with. Keep thinking. Keep solving the problem. Keep inventing new paths to go down.

When you’re given a writing prompt, don’t just start with the first idea you land on. Ask questions, dig deeper, go down more and more tangents. Go where the white rabbit leads you.

Example Prompt: Someone cooking for the first time.

What are they cooking?

  • Obvious first answers: lobster, pasta, a cake
  • Less obvious second answers: burnt toast, cereal, competitive soufflé
  • Lesser obvious answers (where you pay attention to details and intentionally try to twist the interpretations): poison for a villainous villain, a batch of explosives, a potion to cast a spell, cooking up a dastardly scheme

Of course, genre gets tangled up here somewhere, but it’s up to you to fall down whichever rabbit holes you like! (You’ll see my examples tend toward the fantastical.)

Who is cooking?

  • Obvious first answers: someone who hasn’t had the opportunity to cook before, such as a child, a new college student, a chef learning to cook new things
  • Less obvious second answers: a spoiled rich person who’s maid just quit, an alien who’s trying to pretend to be human by cooking a thanksgiving dinner
  • Lesser obvious (even ridiculous) answers: a grasshopper who just got turned into a human, a witch casting her first spell, a tempest spirit brewing a hurricane to send at the pitiful mortals

As you can see, the more strange and more tangential solutions you can come up with, the stranger your story will become. The more creative you can be!

The final question: Why are they cooking?

(why does anyone do anything: either they want to or have to or did it by accident, or a combination thereof)

  • Obvious first answers: They are hungry, someone else is hungry
  • Less obvious second answers: They’ve been tricked into preparing poison for the person they love, they’re trying to win back an old girlfriend by cooking a romantic meal
  • Lesser obvious (verging on the absurd): They’re participating in an execution competition where they’re preparing a criminal’s last meal, they’re searching for the ingredients to a vaccine for a earth-changing virus, they’re trying to placate the first god of time by preparing a meal at the dawn of ages (get it, cooking for the first time?)

So what might have started as a simple prompt, write about someone cooking for the first time, has origami-folded itself into a more complicated story.

Here’s Your Motto: Aim For Absurd

There is literally nothing at stake when you’re just brainstorming ideas. So don’t hold yourself back or stay within your comfort zone. Aim for absurd. Push yourself to think outside of what you’ve always done, because that’s how you’ll surprise yourself.

And once you’ve hit the bottom of the rabbit hole, you can emerge with your strange idea. Then you can make your pitch:

Sasha never cooked anything more complicated than homemade alfredo. Now, she’s been invited to the home of Chronos, god of time, to help prepare a feast that will stop the temporal god from wiping the universe from existence. But here’s the thing about Chronos: He goes by Ron, he’s ironically impatient, and he doesn’t want a menu of complicated pastas. His feast will be a collection of the most painful and beautiful moments from the chef’s time on earth. Ron will consume the best and worst parts of Sasha’s life–and the lives of three other unlucky chefs–in order to determine whether time itself is worth saving. But can Sasha face the horrible things she’s done to the people she loved in order to save them? And is the god of time really just a cranky, impertinent deity, or is there something else he’s after? The more memories Ron consumes, the more human he seems to become. And the more time begins to unravel around them. (spoiler: probably Sasha becomes the next god of time, because that would be awesome)

 

To be fair, that idea is half-baked, spiced with whatever was in the back of the spice rack, and served up on the shiniest platter that I found outside this week.*

To be honest, it’s absurd. And that’s okay. Once you can find your way to absurd, you’ll know that your ideas are fully stretched and that you’re getting some great practice in. Creativity is a skill you can hone, but it’ll require thought and effort and time. Just like, say, if you were to cook something for the first time 😉

 

*all puns are cooked to order–consumption of undercooked puns may result in loss of time or blackouts or inexplicable, unstoppable laughter or hiccups

NaNoWriMo 2017

Sometimes I win NaNo, and sometimes I fail.

This year is a bit different.

I have a book deal for two books (THE NAMELESS QUEEN and a sequel), and I’m in the middle of doing edits with my editor.

I haven’t heard back yet on the first round of edits, and I’m already about 79k words through the sequel.

 

Things standing in my way of being productive this NaNo:

  1. Job. Job. Job. I work as a technical editor (day job), and we’ve gone from 3 writers on staff to 1. Not for any nefarious reason, just that one intern went back to school already and the other took a contract position elsewhere. There will be a NEW full-time writer come January-ish, but then there’s a long process of training and such. Meanwhile, we’re currently doing 3 major projects and I’m the lonely writer. Sooo basically my life is going to be busy at work. Might be working long hours.
  2. Fragmented transcription. Some parts of my story, I dictated and then transcribed. Contrary to how I normally handle this, I didn’t necessarily smooth over all the scenes that I typed up, so there’s an occasional hard bracket section which denotes a gap in the story. Nothing is more fun than seeing this as you scroll through the document:
    • [] Something something clever line. [smooth over transition btwn these scenes. sorry about the fuss, Future Me.]
  3. Edits. If I hear back from my editor during this month (which is likely, because I sent the edits to her at the beginning of September), then that will take priority. Not much to do about this one except to treat edits with as much reverence and rush as they deserve. ❤

 

Things that will not stand in my way of being productive this NaNo:

  1. Job.
  2. Fragmented transcription.
  3. Edits.

Because even though these things take up my time and are important, they are just a part of a given day.

  1. Yes, my job is important, but as long as I leave work at work, I have a whole evening to myself. Back when I did the first draft of THE NAMELESS QUEEN, I was working 50-hour weeks. I basically had one or two hours of writing time per day. And let me tell you, when you only have 2 hours, you are a hell of a lot more productive than you’d be when you’re staring at a blank screen all day.
  2. Yes, fragmented scenes are tough to work around. I’m at a point of writing where I’m not sure which characters are present. Is it just 3? 4? Or is it as high as 8? *shrug* I’ll pick my favorites, and if a time comes where I realize I need some of the others, they will appear as if by magic. I’ll let Revision Rebecca deal with that issue, aka Future Me Who Has To Edit The First Draft.
  3. Yes, edits are the top priority. If they come in, I will drop the sequel like a hot potato so I can dive into the fire of revisions. But you know what? Edits on book 1 are just as important as writing book 2. So if I end up spending NaNo doing edits, that’s fine by me. Productivity isn’t prescriptive. You don’t have to accomplish exactly what you set out to do. You just have to accomplish something. So even if I “fail” NaNo like I did last year (I’m looking at you, Pitch Wars and Getting an Agent/Book Deal), that doesn’t mean I have failed.

 

Then again, the biggest test will be today, the first day. Typically Day One of NaNo is one of the most productive, so if I set a good tone with today, I’ll get a good sense of if I’m in a good spot to keep moving forward.

 

And hey! If anyone else out there is doing NaNo this year, let me know!! We can be buddies!

 

Have a question on any of this?

Ask me!*

*yes it can be anonymous!

The Value of Line Edits (and when to do them)

I was recently asked:

Do I pay attention to every single word when I’m writing?

When I’m doing a first draft, no. It’s basically all get it on the page, move on, and keep going. When you’re writing a first draft that may end up being 150k on the first draft, you’ve got to make sacrifices. Self-editing as you go is one of those sacrifices. If you keep stopping to evaluate and re-evaluate your work, you’re not making progress—you’re getting stuck.
But when I’m revising? Hell yeah. I try to, anyway.
I overshoot the optimal word count in my first drafts. It’s a hazard of putting yourself on a daily word count goal. Sometimes you write a bunch of fluff, but hey, at least you’re writing.
But paying attention to those words on a micro level is something you naturally end up doing if you’re trying to condense word count. It makes your prose tighter, more efficient, and stronger. That’s why I do the Show Don’t Tell series, where I provide examples of bad writing and show how to make it shine a bit brighter.
I hear agents say it all the time: you can fix a bad story, but you can’t fix bad writing. So I try to make sure my story is as strong as it can be on my own. I only go to others when I feel like I’ve really reached my limit. (note: this does not count the number of times I go to people to rant at them about plot-related issues, which is always.)
What I try to do, and what I always advise others of doing, is to be mindful of wanting to extend your limits, learn, and do better.
So far, my editor and agent have taken steps to help me make the story flow better so it makes more sense on a macro level. We haven’t gotten to line edits yet. But honestly? Other people can only really tell you what isn’t working as opposed to how to make it better.* They can give suggestions, but it’s ultimately up to you to decide what works best and how you want to put your plan into action. You need to be your and your story’s best advocate.
And maybe I’m a weirdo, but I love LOVE line edits. If I can make this passage make sense just because of the way it’s communicated as opposed to big picture changes, perfect! If I can whittle down the word count without losing the story, then I should. In fact, I often find that when there’s a misunderstanding of plot, it doesn’t always stem from the plot itself but can stem from a text-level miscommunication.
The best way to illustrate this is when someone says: “I don’t understand why X happened.” Your gut response might be to say: “It says so right there on the page! Or: It’s implied by this moment/scene right here!” Chances are that you know what you want to say, but you’re not saying it right.
I’m a big big BIG believer in the power of line edits. They make the story stronger. It’s tough to reshape a story without paying attention to both the bones AND the meat.
In fact, I’ll often do a round of line edits *before* big picture edits, because it’s easier to get at the bones of the story when there’s less fluff.

So when should you do line edits?

If you’re like me, you might start right after finishing the first draft.
First drafts are ugly beasts that need lots of TLC. They’re like a golem that slipped in the mud and broke its arm. Yes, you want to treat the injury, but you might need to clear away some mud before you can see the extent of the damage. You have to clean a wound before you can treat it.
There’s an added benefit to doing them right away: it gets you into the story, it allows you to get that easy, low-hanging fruit like typos and tense issues out of the way, and it’s a good way to get into your story and read it again.
But you definitely want to do your line edits before submitting your work anywhere, because it’s easy to overlook a bad story, but it’s difficult to overlook great writing. Great writing = great revision.
*and let me tell you, when your editor occasionally underlines one of your sentences and puts two or three exclamation points beside it because they loved loved loved it—that’s the moment when you run around like a maniac with a dopey grin on your face and proclaim to the world: LOOK AT THIS BEAUTIFUL SENTENCE. I WROTE IT AND IT’S AWESOME AND AND ANDD I AM A WRITER—LOOK AT ME WRITE.**
**this is of course followed by a note  a few pages later that makes you question an entire thread of the plot, which in turn makes your stomach sink and your mind fall into a pit of buzzing bees until you can find a solution***
***and then when you find a solution, refer to asterisk #1

Camp NaNo 2016 April — Update 1: Starting NOT at the Beginning

campnano2016-1

My Camp NaNoWriMo word count graph will lie to you. It says things like, “Wow, you wrote almost 40k in the first day!”

Nope. I started with about 37k the first day. And I’m transcribing dictation I did a week ago. Hopefully I will catch up soon and be dictating/transcribing in real time. But the graph is there to mark my progress, which has as much to do with dictating as it does with transcribing.

I’m 100% okay with the slightly skewed statistics I have, because this month of April is all about making progress! It’s all about moving forward and doing the work. For this month, I’m not starting at the beginning of a story, because I already started.

But we don’t have to start at the beginning. This goes for tracking progress AND starting your story.

Even if you’re starting at zero words, who says you have to start at the beginning of the story? Beginning is a difficult task. Sometimes you want to jump to the action (which, to be honest, is probably where you story starts anyway). This post is just to say that when you’re starting out, whether it’s at the beginning of your story, before the story starts, or jumping ahead to where inspiration strikes… it’s all OK.

As long as you get to work and work hard!

Previous: Camp NaNoWriMo 2016: How to Track Revisions, Short Stories, And Unreliable Word Counts