Does It Get Easier?

Muskoka Novel Marathon 2014 first 10 pagesHaving an agent interested in my writing is a momentous step. Any writer would be excited to have the door open that tiny crack for them. In fact it is common thinking (and I have thought this myself) “If only I could get an agent’s attention, things would be that much easier.”

Wrong.

In actual fact, it makes things exponentially harder. Well at least for me. Now my brain says, “If they liked that, you really have to match that quality or, better still, exceed it, in order to hook that elusive representation.” I am now afraid to write a “shitty first draft” because I can’t afford to.

Some compare this process to fishing, where the pitch is the bait and the hook to catch the attention of a literary agent or a publisher or both. But if we are going to use this allegory, then we must also acknowledge that these are crafty fish indeed. One might say, in some cases, overly picky or just not hungry, fish.

My view is that the bait we often use is not indicative of the whole. It is a pale morsel crafted to what we think they like. Sometimes it works and sometimes we come up empty. And through it all, we have to trust that our quarry will see it the same and dig deeper.

This is wishful, but not impossible thinking. Yes, there are still a large majority out there too busy to look deeper, but for every ten of those, there is one agent or publisher that would rather sit down and talk to writer than to look at a pitch. True storytellers are a rare breed. Quite often they are incapable of encapsulating their rich and complex story into 140 words. They work hard and are always striving to be a better writer. This is what comes out in a one on one.

I love to talk. I love to talk about writing. I love making people react. I consider myself a storyteller. No I am not grammatically correct, and yes my English use is a Frankensteining of old school English and Newfoundland/Scottish influences. I tend to write the way I talk. The advantage to that? I’ve been told it makes my writing instantly relatable, like the reader is hearing me tell the story to them personally. The downside? Some people don’t get it. The references too obscure, the sayings too old, the word choices, sometimes archaic.

This is why I prefer the face to face approach when pitching. I want that personable vibe that is, most times, elusive to ink on paper. Much like sarcasm is lost in texting. That and the fact that I write visually. I see the pictures in my head and, as I’ve said before and as other writers will attest to, getting those pictures onto paper by way of words, is not an easy task. Even my best writing I consider a pale comparison to the pictures in my head.

I read the same way. The books I love tend to be authors who can make the words on the page disappear and fill my head with pictures. Books, that when I read The End, I don’t remember turning the pages.

In too many books, nowadays, the author leads the reader through the story. Holding their hand the whole way, telling them what they see and how they should feel. I suppose there is a market for those books and that style of writing is hard to break free from, but for those writers who do, well, the words disappear. They don’t lead you down the path, they merely show you the entrance. Their guidance is subtle. They let you see the characters on your own. They let you feel how you want to feel and in the end you may hate them for it, but you love the book.

That is what I want the agent or publisher to see. And that is next to impossible to do in 140 words or less. And don’t get me started on synopsis and how it distills the tapestry of the story into a bulletin board of facts, just the facts, ma’am. With storytellers, the meat of the story lies in how these facts are presented or dressed.

A story isn’t just the proper order of words. It isn’t just good spelling or proper syntax, it is the ability to make the reader see.

So, to answer my own question, no, it doesn’t get any easier. Writing never gets any easier. Having an agent makes it infinitely harder, but so much more fun. The effort is worth seeing or hearing the readers reaction.

And right now, I have an agent interested in my Christmas story, Archibald and the Gentlemen Three.

So, keep your fingers crossed.

To paraphrase John Legend, I need an agent that wants

All of me
Wants my genres and my edges
All my perfect imperfections
They should want all of me
All my ends and my beginnings

 

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About Dale Long

Writing ambushed me from the shadows. At first I pushed it aside as nonsense, but luckily my wife and two girls saw the potential. Since then I have had an article published by Metroland, placed as runner-up and in the top ten in humour writing contests and various other contests. The icing on the cake was placing as runner-up in the WCDR's Wicked Words contest (130 entries) and having my entry published in the contests anthology of the same name. My entry was an exerpt from my upcoming novel, Echoes.
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4 Responses to Does It Get Easier?

  1. Crossing fingers for you, Dale!

  2. Ooh good luck!! How exciting.
    I love books that “sound” like the author’s telling it to me in my head.

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