I've got about seven minutes to blog something of world-wide and lifelong importance.
....I'm drawing a blank.
I just joined a writing group - our first meeting is in January and I'm already worried about it. I think writing groups are amazingly wonderful things and suggest that writers join them. I actually prescribe to the same rules that Orson Scott Card set out for us: Stay in your writers group for a year, then find new people... people will get used to your writing and will stop being those fresh eyes that you need to make your work better.
Of course, he said it in a much more polished manner -- but hell, he's been a writer forever and I can still barely wrap my head around the fact that a book has to be entirely in one tense.
Erm, for those of you who don't know... I wrote a book. I sent it to my editor (Stephen Barbara at the Donald Maass sold it for me), and the first thing she said was: do you know that some of this is written in past tense and some in present? Do you know which you'd like the book in? Which is amusing, because about seven years ago I was in an online writers group and that's the same comment they'd always make. I think I might be tense-disabled because no matter how much I understand it when it is explained to me, I can't seem to pick out the difference in a manuscript. I will be sending flowers to my copyeditor.
I've never heard of MY clients having this sort of problem, so obviously it's a "slow" thing and not a "common" thing (boo hiss on me)... and it's really embarrassing. I'm used to people saying things like, "Nadia, YOU are a literary agent?" When I get really nervous I start speaking really, really fast and jumble up all my words. I like to think this is a pathological thing rather than a developmental thing... but if there is a way (or a dysfunction) that would allow me to blame this on my mother... please let me know. And usually I can tell when a person is like, "Really -- you work in books?" Yes, but I can edit emails. As long as you don't expect them all in the same tense, that is.
Anyway, I joined my first writers group since...forever... and it's all publishing people, which will either be amazingly awesome or scary. Right now it's two agents and two editors. Which feels a little bit high stress to me, but I'll let you know how that goes.
The reason for a writers group is because... well, because most agents/editors are unable to do the same job they were able to do thirty years ago (if they ever did it), which is to develop their author, work really closely with them and... well, be their first and best reader. So, now we suggest writers groups (hope you find a good one!) that will suffice instead. That kind of sucks.
I'm not sure if it's because... No, I know why it is: ok, here's my theory: there are more and more agents out there. There are more and more books being published that seem to sustain a certain amount of agent-industry growth... but agents aren't being trained/educated outside their own companies (it's still largely an apprentice industry, I actually just wrote NYU about this very thing... Hm... ), but the book market is polarizing between big books and small books. New agents fight over these books and these clients... and, in theory, make 15% of the already (probably) pitiful earnings their non-bestseller clients make. So, to compensate, we sign more and more clients. because 15% of one pitiful advance is really pitiful but one hundred times pitiful is less pitiful... it's... moreiful. (Just kidding, I wouldn't actually make up a word like that... Plus, I'd just tense it wrong).
So here, again, are our options: EGO & MONEY control everything... Are we good enough to pick less projects and work harder on those few projects than we could possible work on 50 clients or so? Yeah, I know a ton of agents who are this good. Ok, a dozen.
Can we afford it? Can our companies afford to pay us to make one HUGE deal a year (which can be fraught with "Oops, that fell through!")? Do we have the money and the ego to sustain us through the, "Oh shit...what if this doesn't work out?"
See what I mean? Yikes.
I think I need to think on this some more. I'm sorry I called your advance pitiful. I wasn't really talking about YOUR advance. I was talking about advances in general (charming smile).
Last night I went out for drinks with my favorite agent (well my favorite agent that doesn't work at Firebrand, wink wink, nudge nudge) and the coolest editor I know and another really cool magazine editor. But it was supposed to be a social thing.
Which didn't happen. We, of course, spent 85% of our time talking about work. and 15% of our time (haha pitiful time) talking about things that are too inappropriate to write here. But we got into a fun heated discussion about Option Clauses. And the amount of risk that agents/authors are taking vs the amount of risk that editors/publishing houses are taking.... and how limited an option clause can/should be.
We eventually got tired and slipped into the inappropriate conversation which was easier to handle and less charged. But I feel like my opinion of option clauses has changed slightly... but that's another post entirely as it'll be a long rant.
Ok, It's late, I need to work and respond to emails that seem to be breeding in my inbox like bunnies (really, where do they all come from?)
Look Mom, I posted twice in one week!
(My Mom doesn't actually read this blog. If she did, she'd be emailing me every day saying things like, "Did you use the word 'Shit'? Is that the kind of daughter you want people to know I raised?" or "Why do you make Mom jokes all the time? I don't get it?"... and that would ruin some of the humor, don't you think?)
(Just a side note... My mom got all serious over thanksgiving and asked if I had written her into my story...she asked if the mother in my book was really horrible or really nice, and she looked really, really nervous about it. I told her not to worry. My character's mother was dead...She was not pleased.)