On Writing: Advice from an Agent That Changed My Life

You Cannot Write in a Vacuum

Guest Post by Renee Charles

advice from writing agents

Image credit: stock.xchg/gerard79

You know the drill; write, revise, repeat. We all do it, we sweat over each word till it’s perfect and then the next, and then the next, building sentences into characters and worlds that breath all their own. Tedious labor of love, and once its finished we are so proud …for about 5 minutes.

Then begins the arduous task of querying. And when the publishers and agents don’t respond, or worse respond with a form letter, our high sense of accomplishment wanes. Why is this? If I have studied Strunk and White, and read the greats, and subscribed to the newsletters and magazines that teach and mold, why am I not hearing back? What key component am I missing? I was determined to see it through. I figured if I throw enough spaghetti at the wall eventually something would stick.

Then it happened an agent answered the phone when I called to get the name to send my query. He actually answered his own phone. I stuttered then managed to give him enough info about my WIP that he actually asked me to send him my book. Woo hoo! I just knew I was in. When I got his no thank you letter I was devastated. So after the five stages of grief, I summoned the courage to call him again. And yes he answered his own phone again. He remembered both our previous conversation and my submission. Then he told me the thing that changed my writing life.

“You cannot write in a vacuum.” He told me to find other writers, to critique and be critiqued. To network and become part of the writing community.  At first I didn’t understand the value of his statement. By nature writers write alone. Community? But I knew I was at a standstill and desperate to break out of the stagnate pond that I had been swimming circles in. So, I did what he told me. With my first critique I understood. Think of it as the difference between studying medicine from a book and cutting into a cadaver with a scalpel.

Within six months I had a writing contract. I have writer, agent and publisher friends on Twitter, Yahoo groups, and Facebook, all from whom I learn at least one new thing each and every day that pushes me ever forward toward my dreams (supporting myself and my family with my craft). It all started with one timid request to join an online critique group. They were patient and kind. Although I am still a loner by nature, the connections I have made are invaluable. The great thing about technology is you can try a group and if you don’t click, find another. Have coffee tweeting with writers across the nation and learn from them. You will be a better story teller in the end.

“You cannot write in a vacuum.” I will never forget those words, or the man who took a moment to change my life and my craft.

What words changed how you write? Who has impacted your craft so deeply that things will never be the same?

About the Author

Author, Renee Charles believes all love is legendary. Being the only female in a house full of giants (husband and two teenage boys) she tends to lean toward the macabre, but inevitably the softer side shines through.

Whether life leads her to a snow covered mountain top, sun dappled forest, or the bottom of a ravine (yes, ditches happen) she always has a pen and note pad ready so wherever the next adventure takes her, she can take notes.

Her own romance began in an insane asylum. Luckily, both she and her husband only worked there. But it makes sense her romance novels have strange beginnings that lead to passionate endings. Romance with a twist.

In the face of zombies, werewolves, and big foot she always seems to find a happily ever after to leave you with a sigh at the end.

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About Jen Barry

Author of Young Adult novels. Reside in Nashville with my husband, a gorgeous Irishman. Drink too much coffee. Online way too much.

2 thoughts on “On Writing: Advice from an Agent That Changed My Life

  1. […] On Writing: Advice from an Agent That Changed My Life […]

  2. Wow, are you lucky to have found that agent! But I do agree–critique groups or critique partners are so very helpful in the writing journey. Mine are absolute diamonds. Congratulations on nabbing that contract so quickly, too.

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