Monday, April 11, 2011

Finding An Agent

So I finally finished the rough draft for Dark Mountain Mean.  I am now working on my query letters and am searching for agents.  I am looking for an agent to represent me, not necessarily my manuscript.  This manuscript is just the first one I have completed.  As an author, I am more than the sum of one manuscript.  This will be important as I search for an agent that fits my skill set.

I want to chronicle my journey from rough draft through querying, waiting on responses from agents to beginning a new manuscript. Actually, the process of working on the next project(s) has already begun in my head.  I have over 30,000 words written already and a chapter outline for another novel.  I also have about 12,000 words written (mostly junk--it was an aborted NaNoWriMo project) of another germination of an idea for an epic fantasy novel.  I also have another great idea that I want to expand on for another fantasy world for which I am excited to start writing a synopsis, character biographies, and a chapter outline.  It feels like a trilogy, several hundreds of thousand words.

And then there is five years' worth of research I did for a historical novel I want to write about Aaron Burr and Blennerhasset Island in West Virginia.  Oh, and about a half-dozen short stories that I want to self-publish to develop a platform and a readership.  So much work to do, so little time (and discipline, evidently).

And while we are on the subject of time, let me just say, I want to spend more time here on this blog.  And that is why I am going to use this as a place to chronicle my journey.  I am starting here, the end of my third edit of my first complete manuscript, Dark Mountain Mean.

 Week One:
 Discovered I wasn't finished editing.  When I found that some agents were requesting the first 5 to 10 pages (one wanted 50!) of my novel, I panicked.  I re-read the first 50 pages and removed about 50 words, clarified two passages and found one glaring typo (EGADS! I thought I had gotten them all!). 

I found four agencies that fit my personality.  Among the many books I have read about the craft of writing over the last thirty years (I've been doing this too long) I have read two books that were written by agents.  These books have helped me tremendously in my writing journey.  I had even used one for a writing curriculum for my teenager we homeschooled.  Writing the Breakout Novel and Writing the Blockbuster Novel are very different, despite being similarly named, but both were excellent and I can highly recommend them.  Working with Maas or Zuckerman as agents would be incredible.

I read the agent bios, looked at their client lists, viewed their recent sales and checked out their submission guidelines.  It struck me how different agents require different indicators of value.  The one clear similarity was the query letter.  I am doing my best to craft a letter that sparks interest in my story.  I am trying to be as creative within the formula for the query as possible. 

One image I am keeping in my mind is that scene from A River Runs Through It where Paul and Norman's father is teaching Norman how to write.  Norman brings him his assignment and dad marks it up and says, "Half as long."  He repeats the exercise three times.  It is fun and challenging to treat three paragraphs with so much attention. 

One final observation:  I noted that some agencies had more than one agent that might work.  I tried my best to determine which agent would work best.  In one instance I struggled with the idea that it might be better to query first the agent that was "actively seeking new clients" rather than the hoary-headed principle with which I felt an affinity.  Time will tell if my decision was a good one.