Avoid Author Blues by having no fixed timeframe to find your literary agent

During the Vietnam War, POWs who said, “We will be out by Christmas” were more likely to suffer from severe depression than those who said (or thought) “We will get out sometime.” Now, as a writer, it can be a long time before you land a suitable literary agent. The moral? Don’t expect to find the right one in a specific timeframe. Just spend quality time to find the one who suits you, your book, and your future writing career. Good advice from the Vets.

Shaken not stirred?

Bob French says, “James Bond’s famous tag line is actually a reversal of the original quote from Fleming’s books. The author used the line “stirred not shaken” to add yet another facet to Bond’s cool image. If a Martini is shaken, the alcohol becomes “bruised”, which detracts from the desired flavour – something which agent 007 would of course immediately notice and be suitably repulsed by. It was decided that the line “shaken not stirred” sounded much better, however, and so was adopted for the film – thus creating a character with a good collection of sound bytes, but a slightly odd taste in drinks.”

Author Dr. Saumya Dave gives candid advice to aspiring authors when she recounts taking 10 years and 200 agent rejections before getting her 2-book publishing deal. Her training as a psychiatrist helps her give deep insight into the lonely world of writers. One thing she mentioned is the importance of allowing time for ideas to germinate—that is, stirred, not shaken! There is an inherent danger in expecting to progress as a writer to a deadline. Finding a literary agent is not ‘speed dating’! Saumya says, “Writing was the first time I’m my life that I had played with failure and rejection.” But, she never gave up (well, she almost did). Check out her inspiring interview with  here.

Ideas bigger than your life!

I came across a wonderful quote recently, by Gloria Gaither. She said, “You need to have ideas bigger than your life.” How profound and how ideal to sum up a writer’s goal. Novels, like paintings, can lift us above the ordinary and create worlds far bigger than our own lives; far longer than our histories and far removed from our world. Thank you, Gloria, for inspiring us to have ‘Ideas bigger than our lives’!

The Search for a Literary Agent

Searching for a Literary Agent is a bit like looking for your home in a snow storm. Why ‘home’? Because I am looking for an agent who fits me—who enjoys my writing and connects with me and wants to promote my work; the kind of agent who would feel comfortable at my place, and enjoy my company and conversation. For the textbook I wrote, the agent (and publisher) was professional, yet warm, and had a sense of purpose with humour. I liked that and it helped me stay on track and meet deadlines. Do I have an agent for my new book? Not yet, but I am hopeful for one soon. You, dear follower, will be the first to know! Meanwhile, I keep looking, which involves researching potential agents—looking up their profiles and youtube videos and twitter accounts, etc. to find the right fit. More on agent searching soon!

The Hook and the Divine Moment

Hello again! Publishers look for the ‘hook’ in a thriller, etc. As writers, we look for the ‘divine moment’ that gives us the hook, or at least an important plot. My second thriller (shh, no name yet) was inspired by a small newspaper clipping that mentioned submarines—which  explains the picture below :-). The article fascinated me and led to a world-wide hunt (including visits to the USA, Croatia, Gibraltar, etc.) for more information. I am grateful for contacts who expanded my ‘Aha!’ moment, and provide fresh insights to help put the book together. Yes, divine moments are key to my writing!

Sentence Lengths Revisited

The standard cliché regarding sentence lengths in a novel is to vary them, to keep the reader interested in the action. I agree, but with this caveat–the sentence lengths and variation should also suit the pace of the plot. For example, in my latest novel, sentences are longer when the pace is slower, and shorter when the action or drama increases. The following illustrates this contrast (using ProWritingAid). You can guess which chapter contains fast—paced action and which is slower? This will why I ignored the red dot warning in in chapter 15! Such analysis is a useful guide to writers.

Editing technique during writing

David McGowan, based in Liverpool in the UK, made the following comment during an interview:

From my first novel to my second, I have found that my writing is a lot more developed, but I think editing your work well is as important as writing a good story.

I also find that editing the last couple of scenes I have written when I sit down to write pulls me back into the story and helps me to focus and feel part of the world I have created.”

This is good advice gives cohesion to writing. Thanks, David. You can check out the full interview here.

Finding Characters!

How does an author find their characters? Here’s a clue—look around you when out and about, at the cafe or while shopping. Everyone you meet and everyone you see has the potential to be a character in your novel! I have used friends and even people sitting opposite me on a train (well, their shoes got into a novel). You can have fun when writing to invent a character who is a blend of a few people. Take someone’s nickname, another’s hairdo. Add a dress from a shop window, and a handbag from a google search. Next, add some details—a hook nose, bald head, unshaven, tattooed, limping, sunken eyes, etc. In my new novel, one of my characters wears lots of yellow. This may not seem significant, but it does later in the book when Sir Christopher Jenson (based a someone close to me) discovers a woman wearing yellow who is cuddling up to another character who has just lost his wife in a skiing accident. Yellow connects these two women for the reader and…I can’t tell you what happens!

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