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Sunday, 25 November 2012

Practice Makes Almost Perfect


After my last, slightly indulgent post about the agent hunt, I wanted this post to reflect where I am now. I am in reflective, creative mode again. It's strange how you grab onto things floating around that resonate with where your head is at a particular time. I came across this quote on Facebook a few days ago, one of those things that gets shared and spread around. It's a quote by Ira Glass, a writer and radio host from the radio program, This American Life.
This American Life is one of the things I forget to listen to living over here and I miss hearing it. If you've never heard of it, you can listen on-line at the NPR website. http://www.thisamericanlife.org/radio-archives

Anyway, I love what Ira Glass says here. I hope you mother writers, no matter what stage of the process you are in, beginner, intermediate, advanced, also find it insightful. I think the growing process is what makes writing so wonderful. You are never done learning.

“Nobody tells this to people who are beginners, I wish someone told me. All of us who do creative work, we get into it because we have good taste. But there is this gap. For the first couple years you make stuff, it’s just not that good. It’s trying to be good, it has potential, but it’s not. But your taste, the thing that got you into the game, is still killer. And your taste is why your work disappoints you. A lot of people never get past this phase, they quit. Most people I know who do interesting, creative work went through years of this. We know our work doesn’t have this special thing that we want it to have. We all go through this. And if you are just starting out or you are still in this phase, you gotta know its normal and the most important thing you can do is do a lot of work. Put yourself on a deadline so that every week you will finish one story. It is only by going through a volume of work that you will close that gap, and your work will be as good as your ambitions. And I took longer to figure out how to do this than anyone I’ve ever met. It’s gonna take awhile. It’s normal to take awhile. You’ve just gotta fight your way through.”

I like that he focuses on working hard and working regularly.  For me, I get into trouble when the focus is off the writing and on the external, like getting approval or recognition, both of which are important. but can distract me tremendously.  There is no mystique to it, you just have to keep writing and keep improving, no matter how great a writer you have become. It goes with new narratives of success being about lots of hard work and practice, and less about virtuosity. A recent documentary with Ian Rankin talking about his writing process also showed the same thing. He just works hard and gets his head in the zone on a regular basis. And he doesn't make any bones about how this in itself is kind of drudgery some days. But, he's Ian Rankin, so I think he knows it's worth it!

Until next time...get back to work!

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Don't Call Us, We'll Call You

Not too long ago, I was a single girl looking for The One and as I wait to hear back from an agent who has a partial of The Moon Garden, I vividly relate it to the feeling I used to have waiting for a boy I liked to call me.  Today, I've sadly reached the conclusion that agents, as with crushes, don't call if they're not interested.  And as obvious as that seems, let me clarify, if they don't call quickly, they're not interested.

In my limited experience in the agent hunt (I was represented with my first novel), it very much mimics dating.  If they like you, they like you right away and they let you know it.  If they're not interested in you, the clock on the wall ticks loudly and you grasp at excuses why they haven't touched base.  Maybe they really haven't gotten around to reading it, maybe they love it, but are so tied up with their other demanding clients, they haven't found a minute to email.  But, as days turn into weeks, the disappointment sinks in that it's time to keep looking and accept the facts, even as I clutch the computer screen saying, 'just call me, just email me!  I'm not over you!'  To further torture myself, I read success stories on Absolute Write Water cooler about writers who queried the very agent I love who has my partial and how he now represents them after a two week turnaround.  Why do I do it to myself?  I think it helps to move on, like seeing your crush flirting with some other woman.  I'm happy for authors and their success stories, but on the frustrated days, it's like hearing your friends brag about their perfect new boyfriend when you're still single, dating the same man-child in different bodies.

(There is, of course, the option of emailing said agent, but I find it better to at least have some hope than hear a definitive 'no', although I am quickly turning the corner on that one.) 

I didn't intend to write on the agent hunt today, but it's what has kept me from blogging regularly, being so preoccupied by it that I find it hard to get motivated to write anything lately.  So, I thought bringing it up for discussion might help because writing is the only way forward, isn't it?

What are your experiences with the agent hunt?  Those of you with agents, how quickly was the turnaround time for you?  What is the magic number when you decide to put your manuscript away and focus more on something new?  Fifty queries, one hundred, two hundred?  (I won't tell you my number yet.  I'll save that for when I get an agent.)

Keep writing, mother freakin' writers.