Tuesday, September 27, 2011

What I've Learned Thus Far

So, here I am, two years in to this journey, and I do feel slightly farther down the path than when I started. Although I still have not found that perfect agent, nor had the thrill of holding my published book in my hand, I have learned so much, and in the end, it can only stand to make me a stronger, better writer.
JUST BECAUSE YOU'VE FOUND THE PERFECT AGENT DOESN'T MEAN THEY'RE PERFECT FOR YOU These past few weeks, a couple of friends of mine have taught me a lot about the realities of having an agent. When we're new, we query everyone we can in the hopes that someone will bite. Admittedly, we are just so excited to see our words in print and our dream realized that we are not truly as selective as we should be. Finding the perfect agent has been likened to a marriage - you want to be in this relationship a long time, so you should be able to look at the world the same way, to communicate effectively, to get along well and mutually get what you need from one another. You would not pick a guy to date simply because he's the next guy to walk through the door, so why should you pick an agent simply because they are the next name on the list? Take the time to research them, to know what kinds of books they like, to hear feedback on their personalities and the ways they communicate (or don't), and assess if they would truly be the right fit for you. THEN query. And what if you find your dream agent and they don't want YOU? That's the part that's the toughest of all - to remember that it may not be THIS project that brings you together, and that you must keep writing, and with each book comes a new opportunity to connect.
YOU MUST KEEP WRITING It's hard to let go of a project, or put it on the shelf, when you've invested so much time and energy into it. But sometimes it's necessary. The reality is, if you do not keep writing and have something new, when you get "the call," an agent is going to know what else you've got and if you have nothing, that may not be what they're okay with hearing. After all, at the end of the day, publishing is a business, and they can't make money if they don't have a project to sell. Nor can you. So, although some days I just want to dive in and re-tweak just one more scene, or just query, or not write at all, I remind myself of the harsh reality that THIS book may or may not be the one, and I need to keep moving. I currently have two books I'm working on, and we'll see which one makes it to the finish line first.
IT'S IMPORTANT TO SURROUND YOURSELF WITH WRITERS I cannot stress enough the importance of having writer friends and surrounding yourself with them, whether in person at the local coffee shop to write together, at a conference, or online in forums, on blogs, or any other social media site. We are a strange breed, and can understand each other and it often helps to have that extra boost of support when we need it most. They are a wonderful resource to find out about upcoming events, promotion of your work when it's ready, information about agents, publishers, and the industry in general. And when you're talking about writing or sitting and actually doing it together, you're much more likely to feel inspired and keep on keeping on. Writing is a solitary business, and it's easy to let the self-doubt creep in, especially in an industry where things move at a snail's pace and you might not hear a peep for months.
WRITE WHAT YOU LOVE If you write what you love, chances are, it will show in your writing. There is something authentic and true that shines through when a writer is passionate about their subject matter. Although I enjoy reading a well-written paranormal now and then, I write (and love) contemporary romantic/humorous YA. I like characters I can relate to, situations that I may have been in or would love to be in, young romance that makes me swoon like I was sixteen years old all over again. For many teens, a good book is an escape, and if I can make someone laugh or look at their world in a different way, I have done all I set out to do as a writer. I know where my strengths are. That said, it's not that I don't advocate moving out of your comfort zone to challenge yourself by writing something that isn't your norm - I think that's a GREAT exercise to do - but write for YOU. Write what you love. Don't worry about getting agented and getting published for now, or what the latest trends are and how to meet them. Like fashion, everything comes around again in its own time, so write what moves you.
DON'T GIVE UP One of my most prized possessions is the signed title page from Laurie Halse Anderson's novel TWISTED. Laurie did a one-on-one critique for me at the SCBWI LA conference, and she told me she absolutely loved my book and I should have no problem selling it. She told me I'd nailed the voice and the writing was nearly flawless. I laughed and told her from her mouth to an agent's ears. She made me promise I would never give up, that I clearly had talent as a writer and must remember this is a process, and a long one at that. And she signed her book for me "To Robin: Who is not allowed to stop writing Love, Laurie". Every time I feel that niggling self-doubt filling up the silence and the dead space, every time I stare at that blinking cursor and wonder what the heck I'm going to write next, every time I stare at that inbox longingly in the hopes it will light up with great news, I think about that. It may well be one of the greatest gifts anyone has unknowingly given me in my lifetime, and it is truly then that I realize how subjective it all is and press on.
Me with Laurie Halse Anderson, amazing writer and fellow band Mom, who continues to inspire me daily.

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