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Questions About Writing? The Process? Anything?

You there!

As I said, now that I’m on track to being something of a writing insider, I’d like to do some writing about writing that will be useful for you, assuming you have any interest in writing, or publishing, agents, etc.

Rather than plunge in I want to just ask you first: what are your questions? Let’s take today and maybe tomorrow and compile a list in the comments.

If I can respond briefly, I will. If it requires a longer answer I’ll file it away for an upcoming post.

If I can’t answer it because I may not be allowed to, I’ll say so. If I just don’t know the answer, I’ll own up to it. If I think I can find out, I’ll say that and then I’ll try to go find out.

And if any of you are writers or who have insight into this process that I don’t, please feel free to answer each other’s questions as well.




Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Casey B November 1, 2011, 9:57 am

    How do you deal with thoughts. I sometimes find myself writing something and I keep jumping back and forth between what is spoken and what is thought. Have you ever run into this? Do you have any strategies? I ended up using italics, but I don’t know if it was totally successful.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 2, 2011, 10:11 am

      Casey, I usually go to italics. I’m sure that’s based on the perception I have that most authors in books I’ve read do the same. I don’t even know if that’s true, honestly, but it seems like it is. As far as “totally successful,” who knows? If it makes sense to you, I’d keep doing it until you have a reason not to, like an editor who says “knock that off.”

  • Sarah November 2, 2011, 7:48 am

    My questions mostly have to do with the process of finding an agent and writing a pitch. Those types of letters have always plagued me, like cover letters on resumes. I never know the style to use or what to say exactly. And what’s the best place to look for reputable agents?…

    What level of editing should you have done before you send sample chapters over? Should you have edited it to death or just have it servicable? I’d assume it should be in a form you’re happy with, at least, but there’s always room for improvement so I continually second-guess myself about when it’s “done.”

    Okay I think that’s enough for now…hah!

    • Josh Hanagarne November 2, 2011, 10:12 am

      Sarah, do you mean specifically pitching an agent on why they should represent you?

      • Sarah November 3, 2011, 9:20 am

        Yeah, that’s what I mean. I would assume that once you find an agent to represent you, they do the pitching from then on, right?

        • Josh Hanagarne November 3, 2011, 1:42 pm

          Yes, an agent typically does the pitching at that point. For me, however, that point was a 220 page proposal, being available to participate in phone calls, and more.

          But the agent is the one with the contacts. The agent can open the door. The agent can make the suggestions and just happen to mention you over a lunch with another book person or editor or agent or whatever.

          I never had to query an agent, but I’ve done a few query letters for short stories. The letters are absolutely maddening for me to write. I think it’s both good and bad to obsess over them. Good because hopefully that gets you to make it as perfect as possible. Bad because even though you’re pitching to someone who probably does this for a living, they’re still fallible and there’s an element of subjectivity to every step of the process.

          There seems to be a real art for an agent in knowing who to pitch something to, whether that project is right for that editor or house, when to pitch, etc. The more I see of this process, the more difficult making a run at it without an agent looks to me. I know that some people do it. I never would have. Reply

        • Josh Hanagarne November 3, 2011, 1:43 pm

          Have you actually done any queries?

          • Sarah November 7, 2011, 8:25 am

            Not yet…I’ve never taken the plunge. But I’ve got a few serious projects in the works that may take me to that point, so I’ve been curious about the process for a while now. The timing of your good fortune and this blog series is pretty darn good 🙂

  • Wanderlust November 2, 2011, 8:45 am

    I would echo Sarah’s question (about seeking an agent). Also, what sort of a reach are agents wanting writers to have through their blogs and other social networking sites, if that can be quantified. Thanks!

    • Josh Hanagarne November 2, 2011, 10:16 am

      First I have to say that I got lucky: I never tried to get an agent. I was put in touch with one and then that agent asked to represent me.

      That said, I’ve learned a lot about how it works since I’ve spent the last two years working closely with my wonderful agent. (Hi Lisa!).

      What she has told me is that it works best when you approach them in the way they want to be approached–see their submission guidelines on their websites or on Media Bistro or on Writer’s Market–and write something that they cannot figure out how to say no to. It was very interesting to hear her say that she does not read with an eye to dismiss. She wants to love everything–there’s just not time to make the effort to love everything if it’s not immediately intriguing.

      As to the blog and social networking side: I’d say that bigger is definitely better, but it ultimately comes down to whether you have an audience that you can mobilize. Is it just a big raw number that looks impressive, or are there people behind that number who will buy your book?

      More to come. Please ask for clarification on any of that if you have more questions.

  • Wanderlust November 2, 2011, 10:23 am

    Excellent, thank you! Would you ever consider doing an agent interview or guest post? Would be interesting to hear their perspective.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 2, 2011, 10:26 am

      Lisa agreed once to answer a few interview questions. I’m going to remind her and see if I can hold her to it:)

  • Ed L. November 2, 2011, 10:27 am

    Are Literary Agents simply people with a BFA or MFA along with a narcistic attitude with respect to the publishing market? I’m starting to view them as such.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 2, 2011, 11:49 am

      “Are Literary Agents simply people with a BFA or MFA along with a narcistic attitude with respect to the publishing market?”

      Well, it can’t be that simple. What exactly do you mean with respect to to the publishing market?

  • Josh Arnold November 2, 2011, 10:51 am

    I’ve always wanted to know about the editing process. Specifically, the relationship between author and editor and how they hammer out all the details, tighten up the manuscript, etc. Thanks.

    • Josh Hanagarne November 2, 2011, 6:43 pm

      Hi Josh. I know it varies with every editor, but I think that would be a good idea for a post. Stay tuned!

      • Josh Arnold November 3, 2011, 2:09 pm

        Thanks! I look forward to it!

  • Ed L. November 2, 2011, 1:03 pm

    Follow up: Do Literary Agents have big ego’s when reviewing a writers’ manuscript? Do Literary Agents simply think that he/she knows it all when reviewing a Writer’s manuscript?

    • Josh Hanagarne November 2, 2011, 2:06 pm

      I won’t speak for All Literary Agents. That hasn’t been my experience at all. My agent has become a great friend to me, gives me her candid opinions about my work, and listens to my own opinions. I’ve never felt like either of our egos has come into it at all.

      I’m sure there are plenty of crappy, narcissistic agents out there, just like there are crappy, narcissistic writers out there as well. Every group has its good and its bad.

  • cinderkeys November 3, 2011, 1:05 am

    Casey B: I’m not a fiction writer, but I’ve seen a lot of manuscripts and can articulate another insight about thoughts.

    If you’re going to write your character’s internal dialogue instead of simply narrating what they’re thinking, make sure it’s believable as a thought. You don’t have to make it exactly the way a real person would think it — human beings tend to jump from thought to thought chaotically and not entirely in words — but if it sounds writerly, it’s the kiss of death.

    Sometimes it’s better to just narrate. For instance …

    Micah shuddered. What is it about her that creeps me out so much? he wondered.

    Not believable. If you don’t agree, imagine yourself being right in the situation and thinking those words. Probably wouldn’t happen.

    Now try it this way:

    Micah shuddered. He could never put his finger on why, but there was something about that woman that creeped him out.

    OK, that wasn’t particularly great writing either, because I’m not a fiction writer, but hopefully you see what I’m getting at.

    The above is way outside the scope of your original question, but I’ve seen this done wrong so many times and wanted to throw in. 🙂