Friday, May 16, 2008

Writing Exercise #2 - Jodi Picoult Month

This exercise is something I intend to do myself (I’ve done all the writing exercises I’ve suggested in this blog), but you can, as always, try it too! You do need a completed manuscript before you start.

Open up the latest edition of Writer’s Market. I like to go to the library and use it there since it saves me something like $20 a year. Browse literary agents until you find one that might be fitting for the manuscript you’re prepared to submit. If it’s an agency, call to ask who’s accepting manuscripts. If it’s an agent, write down his or her contact information.

And that’s enough for one day.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Writing Exercise #1 of Jodi Picoult Month

Picoult advises writers to have a thick skin when it comes to getting their work out there. Let's practice.

For the next week, tell everyone you meet that you're a writer. When they ask, tell them what you're working on. You may want to prepare a cool-sounding spiel first. If any conversation you have turns remotely to any type of work, share the kind of work you do. Follow up with anyone who might be a good contact for you, the writer.

Here's an example of how NOT to do this exercise. I emailed someone in our new area who has small children to find a time and place for us to get together. She said she had heard I was writing a book and she wanted to hear more about it (she must have found out through her husband, who works with my husband). She mentioned she was an artist. So when I emailed back, I answered the questions about our meetup with the kids and totally ignored the writing part. I kind of figured we'd talk about that in person. But I also kind of got scared to talk about it. Didn't want to sound like this: "Oooohhhh, I'm a wriiiiiiiiter, you know."

I pledge to answer that email again before tonight is done, this time with details about my novel.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Jodi Picoult Month

Here we are at the polishing and agent-finding stages, during the month that I'm following a very exciting writer’s advice. Let me revise that a bit: "I'm following" should be changed to "I read"..."before packing up my entire house, husband, and toddler and moving from Maryland to Florida." To be honest, this blog is not my very first priority at the moment.

I'm also waiting on four or so people's feedback before I do any polishing.

But back to the point, please.

Jodi Picoult, who is a vivid, marvelous spatter of paint across the canvas of contemporary writers, has four specific people to read her chapters as she writes them. She incorporates their feedback in various drafts and says she's done when she just can't stand to look at the thing again.

Easy to understand. Revise until I can't stand it anymore. Got it.

It took Picoult three years to find an agent to represent her. She went about it in what she calls the traditional way, writing to a big publishing house to find which agents were accepting submissions and then contacting them. She emphasizes the importance of a thick skin and perseverance in this process.

Then, when she did find an agent, it took about three months to sell the book, which is a tribute to the quality and excitement of her work. Not sure that we should all expect that kind of turnaround (I type sarcastically).

In an interview with Writers Write, she says, "If it takes you 3-5 years to get published, you're still ahead of the game."

Though I get the feeling that with Picoult, it's always full steam ahead. It really is hard to fail like that. Even without her talent. For examples, just read a couple Hollywood biographies...