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A Very Nice Literary Agent Indulges in Polite Rants About Queries, Writers, and the Publishing Industry

Three Tips for NaNoWriMo Success: An Agent’s Perspective

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12+ hour days this week. That’s how busy it’s been. I’m ready for this weekend.

Listening To:

A FACE AMONG THE CROWD by Jackie Greene

November is National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo), and the TwitterVerse and Blogosphere are alive with advice from writers helping other writers knock it out of the park. There isn’t much I can add there, but I can offer some advice from an agent’s perspective that I think writers will find enormously helpful. So here are three tips that may change how you tackle NaNoWriMo:

Tip #1: Write the jacket copy before you write the novel.

Why? So many writers focus on stories that don’t have a concept big enough to merit a novel. Knowing how your jacket copy could read before you jump in and write an entire novel forces you to boil your story down to its essence to see if your idea is solid. Then share your jacket copy with other writers. Ask, “Would you read this novel?” So much of success in this business depends on luck and timing. You have to have the right story at the right time for the market.

If you are indie publishing, don’t worry about this too much, but do ask your fans whether this a story they’d want to read. They won’t be shy about telling you!

Tip #2: Even if you don’t hit the NaNoWriMo goal (to write approximately 1,700 words a day, or 50,000 words in 30 days), consider yourself a success. Finish the manuscript, and then revise it!

Once you finish your manuscript (whether on November 30 or later), do tackle the next step, which is revision. We get a lot of queries every year on December 1, and for most writers, the first draft isn’t quite golden enough to snag an agent’s attention. Resist the urge to submit until you’ve made your novel the best it can possibly be.

Tip #3: Not everything you write needs to be shared with an agent or the general public. 

If you keep this I’m mind, it can set your writer-self free. Sometimes the largest block to writing is the fear of writing terrible stuff. I’ll let you in on a secret. Every author writes crap sometimes. Repeat after me: Even bestselling authors write crap sometimes. It’s a fact of the writing life.

Give yourself permission to write badly. That is what revision is for! Sometimes there is a gem of an idea that will turn into “the one” and jumpstart your career. But you can only find that if you write.

And my final tip? Have a blast writing. If you aren’t having fun, it’s not worth doing.

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3 Responses

  1. Elissa said:

    I’ve found tip #1 to be a very good way to keep myself focused. It’s easy for writers (especially “pantsers” like myself) to go off on tangents. I’m not good with outlines, but a paragraph or two to remind me what the book is supposed to be about gets me back on track.

    Of course, if I really like the change that’s come up, I go back and rewrite my blurb. 🙂

  2. Claire L. Fishback said:

    Tip #1 is amazing. As soon as I read that, I went off and wrote the back cover copy for an idea that has been lingering in my head for the past few months (while editing my current WIP, now with an editor at Harper Collins for consideration). This really helped me realize what kind of story it will be, what the stakes are, and how the story might progress. Tip #3 was also valuable. I read somewhere to give yourself permission to suck. 🙂

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