Thursday, January 31, 2008
On Writing & Crushing Ants with your Bum
First of all, I would like to say whoever it was that googled "butt crush ants" and landed on my site, I hope you found what you were looking for.
With that out of the way, I'd like to blab briefly about what has been preoccupying me for the past week and also answer one of the commenter's questions from earlier. Namely, writing. Well, more particularly, agents. Those who read this blog regularly know that my young adult fairy novel, LAMENT, is being published by Flux (ooh, passive tense, tacky) and you now know that I sold it without an agent. People ask me a lot what you have to do to get a novel published, and why you need an agent, and there are lots of intelligent sites out there that will answer those questions. But. For the casually interested, here's the general process.
1. Write a novel. If you haven't done this step, I wouldn't worry about the rest. Getting to "The end" is actually a somewhat difficult process.
2. Write a query letter. That's a one page, tantalizing letter that talks about your book and lures the editor or agent into wanting to read the rest of it.
3. Make a list of agents (if you're targeting the major publishers) or editors (if you're tackling smaller houses) who are interested in the genre of novel you're hawking.
4. Send your query letter in small batches to these folks. Warning. You will get enough rejections to create a full-scale paper-mache battleship. The business is subjective and plus, your query letter probably sucks. Mine did. And then I rewrote it. And it still sucked. And then I rewrote it. . . . (sensing a pattern here?)
5. Agents or editors will ask you for partials or fulls. You wait.
6. Eventually, someone takes you on and a whole new fun of revisions and nail-biting begins.
The question from Sherrie in the comments was something along the lines of "you sold a novel already, why do you need an agent?" It's a good one. I didn't need an agent when I sold the first one because I was selling to a smaller imprint of a large house. The editor didn't require agented submissions. Most of the larger houses (Random House, Simon & Schuster, etc.) do. Agents also negotiate your contract, get you higher bucks and preserve your subrights, as well as having a multitude of contacts in the business that speed the submission process up. A good agent will get you into a nice publishing contract that preserves a lot of your rights and maximizes your profits. A great agent can make your career by landing you a stellar deal at a large house and hawking your film and foreign rights. Competition is fierce for these senior agents that know their stuff; the pickier ones only sign a handful of new clients every year, out of thousands who query them.
I just signed with one of these.
I found out today, and I'll share more info as soon as the whole thing is zipped up tidily. I'm so excited, I'm actually crawling out of my skin (it's not pleasant looking).
And, because Vivien insisted, here's an except from one of my rough drafts (so it is indeed rough drafty).
It took me four years to realize that the wolves in the wood were all werewolves.
That first winter, I remember laying in the snow, a small red spot of warm going cold, and they were licking me. Or eating me. I couldn’t tell which. I just knew that the huddled bodies of the wolves, ice glistening in their ruffs, blocked what little heat the sun offered. The musky smell of their coats made me think of wet dog and burning leaves, simultaneously pleasant and terrifying. Their tongues melted my skin; their teeth tugged at the clothing that held me together. I was lost to a sea of cold, and then I was reborn into a world of warmth.
I saw him again after that – the wolf who had prodded his nose into my hand and against my cheek instead of stealing my warmth with a greedy tongue – standing at the edge of the woods in our backyard. In between day and night, a time that lasted forever in the long Minnesota winter, I would cling to the frozen tire swing until I felt eyes on me. No matter how long I waited, holding my breath, I would always turn just in time to see him melt into the undergrowth.