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Wednesday, March 17, 2010

The Humble Writer: Offering Up Your First Born for Sacrifice

For those who have completed an outstanding novel and are about to submit to an agent, for those who feel like you’ve written the next bestselling phenomenon, for those who have slaved over a manuscript, crying under the strain of your own misunderstood genius and rejoicing in the brilliance that you will now share with the world… I’m about to crash your victory party and eat up all the food.

No matter how many weeks, months, or years you’ve been working on your epic masterpiece, I guarantee you some editor/agent is going to rip it a new one with the stroke of a red pen. Not once, not twice, not even three times. In fact, you’re going to get sick of looking and re-looking at your own work.

I’m not trying to scare you, but to tell you that it is ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY. You’ve been looking at your work for WAAAAAAY too long and you need new eyes. Professional eyes. Eyes that have seen every corny, cliché, ridiculous piece of drivel out there. Your friends, your family, your ex boyfriend, your AA sponsor, your parole officer, your personal trainer, the kid in the mailroom at work, and your sixth grade English teacher aren’t going to cut it. You need a pro.

That’s where the TRUST comes in…

Those who are looking for representation should know this going in. If— scratch that —WHEN you get signed to an agent, the first thing they are going to do before the ink dries is hand you revisions, or what I like to call a list of demands—hostage negotiations, if you will. You need to learn humility and be open to suggestions. If you throw a temper tantrum over every stupid issue, then this tells the agent two things:

1) You’re hard to deal with

2) You think waay to much of yourself

None of these are a good look for any writer to wear, so leave your ego at the door. Don’t be a Yes Man either. Express your concerns with decorum and respect and you will get it in return. I completely understand the anxiety with writers. It’s a nerve-wracking and almost cruel violation when someone marks up your pride and joy. I once told my agent (the lovely Kathleen Ortiz) that having people revise my work feels like giving my newborn son to a palsy-ridden doctor for a circumcision: Shaky.

There’s a whole lot of trust involved in this process. Trust that the agents and editors are trying to make your manuscript better. If your work was BAD, you would have never got past the partial submission stage. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect. But it CAN be. Just be aware that this process is an eye-opener that will knock you off your pedestal quickly.

But with the support from the right people who know what they’re doing, they will put you back up there better than when you started.

7 comments:

  1. Jaime, you're absolutely right. This part of the process is often quite a shock to new authors. But as you say, we can't do it without perceptive outsiders to help us. The important thing is to cultivate a good relationship with your agent and editor, so that your feel supported and able to make the book as good as it can possibly be.

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  2. I'm not at this stage yet - still finishing off the ms - but I freely admit it terrifies me a little :) I've started preparing myself now so I'll be ready to handle it when it happens!

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  3. Jemi Fraser,
    It's scary to take the opinion of a total stranger, but it's also the best. They have no past with you,no bias, so there's no sugarcoating. A good agent will help you iron out the wrinkles. just focus on having a solid and original story. Good luck!

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  4. Well said! I used to be a magazine editor, and there was nothing worse than the prima donna writer. You don't get hired to write a piece unless you're good. But you don't get a second chance if you can't learn to take the advice of a good editor.

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  5. KEEP BLOGGING !!!!!!!!
    THESE POSTS ARE AWESOME!

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  6. I'm like Jemi - still finishing my MS. When I get my critiques back -- I LOVE the red pen. It only makes my work better.

    Keep up the great posts!

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  7. Nuh uh. Not me. I say, here's my sweet, first baby and I call 'em Shark Bait. I'm throwin' him into the deep end of the editing pool in his swimmies. Here editors! Here ya go! Try and catch him! (You don't have to worry. Shark Bait's fast paced and has some pretty wicked plot teeth)

    ReplyDelete

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