Monday, February 11, 2008

Back-up - I'm up to Christmas Emails!

I have a question for you about writing said in a previous post to not include writing credits unless they're for something substantial, like a short story published in a reputable magazine. For a while, I've been trying to revise my short stories so that they're ready for publishing, so that I can include the writing credits in a query letter. Honestly, it would be nice to have a short story published, but my passion truly lies with novel writing, so I'd be doing it more as a means to an end. And I also wonder if some of the reputable magazines are looking for writing credits as well, which I of course don't have.

So my question is this: should I even bother getting a short story published, if my main motivation is to have writing credits? Or should I focus more on writing a query letter an agent would have a hard time passing up?

Absolutely focus on writing the query. Even great writing credits will not get you past me if the novel doesn't sound very good, and I'll put it in the maybe pile if it sounds great and has no credits.

For those of us who don’t live in NY or LA and are not in a position to leave a paid job and spend a year doing free labor at a literary agency, can you recommend any way to learn to business of literary agency? Are there no classes, workshops, books, events, external internships….?

If you want to become an agent (which is the reason to learn the business), you basically have to live in NY or LA, or work for an agent who lives in your area for a long time. If you want to learn about publishing in general, there are plenty of on-line, low-residency, and normal graduate-level courses available at universities across the country.

Whatever would I do without you to answer my most burning questions? Here's a new one: I've queried widely regarding my first manuscript for the past few months, gotten a few partial requests and a couple of fulls, too. However, I haven't landed an agent yet. So, in those few months I was querying the first manuscript, I've had a chance to write and polish an entirely new project. I feel much more confident about this one and can't wait to start sending some queries out to see what will happen. My question is, how long should I wait between querying an agent about the first project before sending a query for this new project? It has been a couple of months, but I wasn't sure if that was long enough. Then again, I hate to sit and cool my heels when I feel that this one is polished and ready to go. What's your expert advice?

For an entirely new project? I would wait about a week between submissions. Usually after a week or so we've forgotten your name, if that would even make a difference to us, which it probably wouldn't. We only care about what you're currently submitting.


Anonymous said...

"So my question is this: should I even bother getting a short story published, if my main motivation is to have writing credits? Or should I focus more on writing a query letter an agent would have a hard time passing up?"

"Absolutely focus on writing the query. Even great writing credits will not get you past me if the novel doesn't sound very good, and I'll put it in the maybe pile if it sounds great and has no credits."

I sometimes wonder if I'm missing something when I read these things. And it's why I don't usually read this blog. But I hate to see writers treated shabbily, even if it's subtle and innocnet.

First, to the person asking the question: Do you even know if you can write a short story and get it published? You sound awfully confident about it. It's not that simple my dear. I'd be curious to see if you actually could write one, and have it published with a decent publisher who has viable sales.

Second: The point of writing in general is to keep getting better so you can get published and get paid. Short stories are a venue, where you can meet editors from good publishing houses, and where you don't need an agent to get published. I do it; I know it can be done. Which may eventually lead to a single author title. Magazines pay very well, and you don't need an agent for this, again, make contacts and promote yourself during the process. You become a commodity with a publisher because you've proven yourself, to a certain extent, and you can do this without an agent. And that's a lot better than sitting at home with your thumb up your A%$ and writing query letters to someone who may or may not even bother to read more than one sentence of the query.

You know, this is basic, sound advice, about the craft of writing and building publishing credits. And I don't see how on earth anyone can benefit by putting aside writing a short story or a magazine piece to sit and write query letters when everyone in publishing knows that most unsoliscited query letters are a waste of time.

This really is the best I've heard. No. Don't write a short story, to work your craft, to see if someone will like your voice, style and wit enough to publish you a on a smaller scale. Ah, send me query letters so I can put them in my maybe pile. I'd love to hear you say this to a group of editors and writers, at a public forum.

The Rejecter said...

I already discussed short stories and how I feel they're different from writing novels and how you shouldn't do them just for credentials when you're not a good novelist in the first place in a previous post, so does anyone else want to answer Anon 8:06's question here?

Anonymous said...

I think it depends on the individual and the circumstances. To me, I wouldn't hold off on querying for a novel because I wanted to get a short published first...but, AFTER the queries are out there, or while you're waiting for an agent to read a full (espceically if you grant exclusives, which I don't), I don't see anything wrong with submitting short stories. If you'd rather do that than write the next novel, that is. But it is a way to get some credits--plus, let's be honest--if you have a fantastic short story that you just have to share with the world, then you'll know. If you're making one up just for the sake of trying to get a "credit," that might show in the work.

But I think overall, it comes down to what you'd rather spend your limited writing time doing most--writing novels, or writing shorts. If you ask me, there's only one way to get good at writing novels, and that's by writing novels. And second to that--reading novels.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous 8:06: I understand your frustation, but I think you misunderstood the purpose of this blog. The Rejecter is giving us perspective based on her experience... I appreciate her honest and concise answers to questions. While the answers may not always be nice, most writers need to develop a thicker skin anyway; it will help when the rejection letters begin rolling in...

And in the instance you referenced, I think she answered the question well... the writer was passionate about novel-writing and wanted to know which would increase his chances more: having the writing credits or having a stellar query. The Rejecter provided the simple truth... credits are great, but if your query is good enough, they aren't necessary. If his ultimate goal is geting a novel published, why should he waste his time attempting to publish a short story?

Anonymous said...

I would think that writing short stories as "a means to an end" of getting a novel published (which was the original question) is the wrong way to go about getting a novel published. Novels and short stories are not the same thing. They are BOTH hard. It's not like you can hack off a few short stories and expect the literary community to give you a book deal because of it.

But I firmly believe it's only in writing a BOOK (i.e. not short stories)that you will discover if you are capable of writing a BOOK.

However, I do understand Anon 8:06's frustration. Queries are a dime a dozen and are tossed to the wind so quickly. Working on craft so you have something that is publishable seems to escape most people in the business -- they think their query is the problem, not their book. I've given up on a lot of publishing blogs recently as well. There are a few that are so offensive to me -- of self-important agents -- either fawning over their clients ad nausuem, or literally, ripping apart their own clients because they dared to send an email, that I'm stunned they have any clients after posts like that.

Desperation makes strange bed fellows.

Anonymous said...

Depends too, on what type of book one is writing, yes?

If your goal as a writer is romance, myserty or other genre books, that is not the market where an editor/agent is going to much care about a short story you got published.

If you are writing lit fiction and also have short stories published in The New Yorker, then that's different, correct?

Maybe I'm naive, but lots and lots of publishing blogs, and the commentors that flock to them are interested in writing commercial fiction. Not literary masterpieces. The level of craft needed for a thriller is not the same type of writing "skills" you'd need for lit fiction.

While I'm not making value jugments on whether lit fiction or gentre is better/worse, the Rejecter has stated previously that as a MFA student, she's learned to abhore lit fiction as navel-gazing and self indulgent.

Her blog is skewed as such, because this is a blog of her opinons. BookEnds blog is the same way.

Adrienne said...

Like others have said already, I believe the Rejecter was saying that if you as an author don't like or want to write short stories, if you are only writing them in order to increase your publishing credits, you needn't bother.

I had no previous publishing credits before I got an agent. I don't mind writing short stories, but it is definitely not my passion, I also had no desire to publish a short story. My focus was my novel. I don't think my writing has suffered for not having "practiced" by writing short stories, I have improved my writing through my writing various novels, plays etc over the years.

The point is, that with a query letter, the most important thing is the story, not the credits. Sure if you are well published that's pretty cool, but an author with absolutely no credits and a good story can get published as well. And I think that's a pretty uplifting message.

To accuse the Rejecter of not liking quality work, or to accuse other authors that their work must not be quality because they don't write short stories, well is just a bit . . . close minded.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clarifying the etiquette regarding wait time between submissions.

I waited about a week one time with an agent, and later read Nathan Bransford's recommendation to wait closer to six months. I was like, egads! So it's reassuring to hear about different time frames.

Anonymous said...

You mentioned that if you want to be an agent, you need to live in NYC. What else do you think is necessary to get into the business?

Anonymous said...

So, in your last paragraph you said in a week, you've forgotten all about the submission, our name, the whole smash. Dare I ask if you remember us long enough to send a rejection letter?

This truly does give hope to all writers with proposals out for agency review. Sheesh!