Wednesday, June 08, 2005

Answers to Some of Your Questions

Becky has renamed our NES in such a way that we can still call it our NES. The initials currently stand for: Now Ended Saga. Very clever, my dear.

Well. I asked for questions, I got ’em. Some will require full posts to tackle the subjects. Others are smaller in nature. I’m taking a few of those smaller ones for today.

Before I get started—Jason, thanks for leaving your comment yesterday. I appreciate your thanks for the NES, and it’s always great to see a new name pop up. You have officially risen from the SL (Silent Lurker) mode to one of the AWs (Above Waters). There are still a great many more SLs than AWs out there. Ooh, yes, Blogger knows all. I may not see your names, but I do see your shadows . . .

Now for the questions.

1. Since Mt. Hermon wasn't your first teaching experience, I'd be interested in how you came to speak and teach that very first time. What conference, what position? Was it something you sought out or were you approached? –Becky

I started teaching through ACFW (then called ACRW). I taught (and emceed) by invitation at their first conference in 2002, and have taught/emceed at ACFW since then. My book Getting Into Character was published in spring of 2002, and I’m sure that had a lot to do with my being asked to teach. I also have this vague memory of leading a workshop at an ACW conference in Sacramento some years back.

2. Do you think having an agent is necessary, especially if a pre-published author does the work to meet with editors and is offered an unagented contract? –Becky

Yes, I’ve always thought having an agent is the right thing to do. Just make sure it’s a good agent, as they’re not created equal. Even if you’re fortunate enough to be offered a contract via your own doing, a good agent will negotiate that contract far better than you would. Contracts run page after page, and you should never sign one on your own. So even if you choose not to go the agent route, you’d still need to hire someone to look over the contract for you. The problem is that negotiating a contract yourself puts you in a tugging mode with the person who’s going to be your editor. I wouldn’t want to be in such a situation with my editor.

Agents typically earn 15% commission on domestic rights, 20% on foreign and film rights. That might sound like a lot of money out of your pocket, but a good agent will pay for himself/herself by getting you a better deal.

Finally, a good agent isn’t just for the current, pressing project. A good agent will help you plan your career. What will you do next? How will you build your readership base? Better to be lead by someone savvy in the beginning than make mistakes on your own.

But—you must research the agent! A bad agent is worse than none at all.

3. When do you write? Is it in one chunk of time or in several a day? –Cindy

Boy, I wish I could write in one dashed-out chunk of time. I tend to go hard for a few pages, then my mind just loses focus. So I’ll check e-mails, do something else for a few minutes, then go back to it.

As for my work schedule in general, I’m in the office basically all day, as soon as I come back from taking my daughter to school until 6-7 at night. (I get up at 6:00 a.m. to run my five miles when it’s daylight. In the winter, I’ll run at the end of the afternoon.) I try not to have appointments during work days, as that really breaks into my time. But so many days life does get in the way. During the day I spend quite a bit of time (too much) going about the business of writing. Dealing with e-mails, dealing with marketing issues, writing the blog post, answering reader letters, etc. And, oh, yeah, somewhere in there I write a book.

4. Does blogging enhance your writing? —Cindy

I can’t say it enhances the writing itself. Blogging actually takes a lot of time, which detracts from the writing. But I didn’t start to blog to help my writing. I started to blog in order to be in more intimate communication with my readers. And in that way, the blog is working well.

5. I'm curious about the tight publishing deadlines you find yourself in. Does a time crunch hinder creativity and quality? Or do writing skills speed up to make the deadline? —Grady

It’s a very good question. In one way a deadline hinders creativity. The pressure itself can cause creativity to stop flowing. Then again, without the pressure, I wouldn’t finish the book.

Now I know you’re thinking, wait a minute, you finished books before you had deadlines. True, but writing was easier then. The more you learn of the craft, the harder you become on yourself to meet higher and higher standards. Plus if you’ve had x, y, z number of books published, you’ve already done certain things and need to find new plots and new ways to say things. Like in suspense—how do I create intense scenes without using the same words and phrases book after book? It becomes harder to be newly creative. And I’m always pushing myself to do it better. So with all this going on, I simply wouldn't choose to be as productive if I didn’t have the deadline to push me. Heck, I'd be sneaking out to matinees.

When I signed my current contract (7 books) I thought long and hard about how much time I needed between books. My husband and I discussed it—what would be good for our family. I didn’t want to be pushed too hard for that many books in a row. Contract negotiating time is key time for figuring out your schedule. And you have to remember that you’ll likely be starting one book, then have to stop and rewrite the last one, so you have to allow time for that, too.

Thanks, BGs! More questions/topics taken on tomorrow. If you have further questions—you know where to leave ’em.


Kelly Klepfer said...

This is great, thanks.

Have you only written or sought to write books or did you start out with mag articles and work your way into novels?

What is more difficult to write and why? Fiction, non-fiction, short stories, novels or articles?

You may have shared this in the bowels of the NES, but how do you PREFER (I know you haven't always had the luxury) to birth a book? (With powerful pain killers jk :)) Do you start with character or plot? Do you do the "famous snowflake" treatment, or time line or do you just dive in and start writing?

Conference question. If a newbie, such as myself, had 3 solid ideas and starts on 3 very different novels and was dying to go to a conference and wants to do it right, what would you suggest the focus be and would you suggest 3 proposals to pitch or a tight focus on one?

You may be sorry you opened this up for questions. You could also refer to the NES as Never Ending Segue since they all start another conversation!
Thanks again!

Becky said...

Thanks, Brandilyn. Your comments on agents agrees with other counsel I've heard. (I have to admit, though, the process seems a little daunting.)

So your speaking/teaching came because of your natural charisma. Well, that and the timing of the release of your first book. Hahah. Actually, I find it interesting that you didn't seek out that role. You are an excellent teacher (in person and via blog).

Domino said...

I am in search of the right agent for me. I went to Mount Hermon and met two agents there. I plan to go to Nashville and meet more there. If only one chooses to represent me, I don't have much of a choice. But if more than one wants to represent me, HOW do I pick one? You said research, but how?

Bret said...

Great information today. I would like to see you touch on POV. It's so important to storytelling and it's irritating when a writer bounces around from character to character in the same chapter. (I'm sure you could spend many days on this one.)

C.J. Darlington said...

Love hearing your insights. Thanks.