Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Lauren Abramo lists “10 Things Every Aspiring Author Should Try This Year”

Well, it’s the start of a bright and shiny new year. And with a new year, comes the perfect excuse to make some resolutions. While we here at DGLM brace ourselves for the busy month ahead with all its post-holiday urgency, we’ll be making resolutions to read our slush faster, find the next big something or other, and perfect our mind reading techniques so we can pick the best possible editors for our clients’ projects.

It’s not just a good time for our resolutions. What better time for writers to motivate themselves to really get going and take their careers in bigger and better directions?

With that in mind, here are 10 Things Every Aspiring Author Should Try This Year:

  1. Write an amazing query letter. Really work hard on getting this new project out the door and putting your best face forward. Miriam’s got some advice on how you can do just that.
  2. Read Publisher’s Weekly , industry blogs , and the New York Times Book Review. Pay attention to the best seller lists and the trends. Know what’s out there, and think about how your book fits into the big picture of publishing.
  3. Head down to a bookstore or surf over to one online and check out what’s going on in your category. Know your category, know how your book will fit into the marketplace, and figure out why a reader might buy your book instead of the others on the shelf. It can’t just be the words themselves, because something has to get ‘em reading in the first place. If you can’t find a reason why, then you’re going to have a hard time convincing an agent that your book is the one that’s worth his/her efforts.
  4. Attend a writers’ conference. Do some research into the many, many conferences that happen every year, and keep looking till you find one that works for you. You might learn more about a side of the publishing business you’d never given any thought to. You might make some new writer friends who can act as your support group and sounding board. You might even meet your future agent and/or editor in a pitch session. If you don’t have the time or means to get to an actual conference, look into writers’ groups in your area.
  5. Stop over thinking. This seems like a popular one among my clients. One has decided to stop worrying about writing what he thinks he should write. Another plans to stop going over and over her ideas and just get something on the page. It’s important to really think things through, but don’t let yourself get bogged down in it at the expense of making progress.
  6. Write something, anything—daily or weekly or whenever you can fit it in your schedule. Set a word limit or a time limit, but give yourself a goal and stick to it. As one of my clients pointed out, it doesn’t matter if it’s useless—in fact, most of it probably will be. But you never know when idle thoughts on a page will set you off down a path you wouldn’t have expected.
  7. Be honest with yourself. If you know in your heart of hearts that your book isn’t working and isn’t going to, don’t be afraid to admit it to yourself. Research the (perhaps a bit demoralizing) statistics on what sort of advances are typically out there, how many books earn out their advance, and how many copies an average book actually sells. If you can face the reality of this business and still want to be a part of it, more power to you! But until you face the realities, you’re going to have a hard time getting anywhere. If you really want to succeed, you have to know the odds are stacked against you and feel compelled to try it anyway.
  8. Calm down. A tough one certainly for the naturally high strung among us, but critical to peace of mind in the often difficult world of publishing. Resolve to take things in stride. If your manuscript isn’t working, or you can’t find an agent or publisher, you can and will keep going. Just try not to be disheartened when that time comes—you have to have faith that if this isn’t the one, the next one will be. As one of my clients put it, “I should resolve to stop valuing myself on whether my novel has found a publisher. I'm a decent person whether it does or not and I need to remember that.”
  9. Find your place to write. Buy a really comfortable chair. Stake out a favorite corner at the local coffee shop. Buy soft throw pillows to prop up against the wall. Rearrange some space in your home to make an office. Wherever you do it, find a corner of the world that’s all about writing.
  10. Read. It sounds so simple, right? Curl up on the couch with some hot cocoa, shove something in your bag for the subway, get in bed just that little bit earlier with the book you bought three months ago but haven’t taken out of the bag, or carve out a couple hours on your weekend to hide yourself away from the world. Just do it. Reading is why we’re all in this business together. It may even help you to check off a few of the resolutions above!

What about all of you? Any great resolutions to share from years past that really got things moving for you? What are you planning to tackle this year?


  1. My goals for 2007:
    1.) Finish the trilogy I've been working on for two years. This should be relatively painless. The first drafts are all done, and some second and third drafts. I've about 6 months worth of work left.
    2.) After the trilogy, start and finish at least the first draft of a novel that keeps popping into my head.

    I'm not asking for publication in 2007, nor necesarily acceptance by an agent. Those are goals I'm shooting for in 2008. But I'll take what comes. :-)

  2. I'm a published author but all my books thus far are for a small segment of the market (religious fiction). My goal for 2007 is to find an agent and/or a publisher for the novel I've written which is for a national rather than faith-based audience.

  3. Where and When to write?

    I WISH I didn't get the urge to write as soon as I'm in bed - and then find I'm still awake at 4:00AM!

    I'm going to try the throw pillows in a corner of my office, as opposed to sitting in a chair, groaning with back ache...

  4. 1) Meet Sienna Miller;
    2) Write about the meeting;
    3) Achieve global fame.

    That's all.

  5. I really, really, really love this post, especially the "Read books!" advice. So many times, we authors forget why we got into writing in the first place -- because we love to READ.

    My goals for 2007:
    1. Schedule my days better.
    2. Stick like glue to said schedule.
    3. Surf 'net less. (see goal #1)

  6. Lauren,

    Thank you for prompting me to compile a list. I do find that when I create lists of things to do that there is a greater probability of me accomplishing those tasks and not just hoping to "get to it" in the nebulous future.

    With that in mind, I've compiled a detailed list. Here it is:

    My goals for 2007, not necessarily in this order:

    1. Have my manuscript polished enough to send out to agents and publishers.
    2. Continue to seek readers for my manuscript from varying backgrounds such as historians of the medieval period and French history, Muslim culture, as well as fans of fantasy and classical romance to get feedback as to what works and what doesn’t.
    3. Correct any mistakes or trouble spots in the manuscript as they are identified.
    4. Volunteer at the San Francisco Writers Conference and be prepared to schmooze.
    5. Finish compiling the itinerary of places to visit in France for researching fine historical details for my novel.
    6. Make travel arrangements.
    7. Be more diligent in my French lessons.
    8. Travel to France and take copious notes and pictures.
    9. Embroider previously mentioned fine historical details into existing text without interfering with the narrative flow of the novel or adding excessive length.
    10. Decide on map making software and translate the maps I created from Google Earth into illustrations for my novel.
    11. Cultivate a fanbase by
    A. Reconnect with those who left positive reviews for my online Harry Potter fanfiction
    B. Become a member of the Society for Creative Anachronism
    C. Scour the internet for fans of Orlando Furioso
    D. Reach out to online fans of Arthurian legends who might be interested in the legends of Charlemagne
    12. Create a website to promote my forthcoming novel. Include pictures from areas of France that are in the novel as well as deleted nibbles from the writing process that slowed the overall narrative flow.
    13. Update my literary blog at least weekly.
    14. Read other literary blogs to keep abreast of the industry and what other writers are thinking.
    15. Force myself to read more fiction, and not just nonfiction research
    16. Fulfill my obligations as president of my writers club until June.
    17. Entice someone else to run as president of my writers club so that they can have a similar wonderful experience as I have had for the last two years.
    18. Secure a literary agent / sign a contract with a publisher
    19. Begin work on the highly detailed day by day calendar-based outline for the sequel.
    20. Start writing the sequel.

  7. Ahh....
    This is a good list!
    May I add another?
    Sleep. You can't write if you're exhausted.

    and in regard to reading... read deep and wide. Go outside of the genre you're most comfortable. Tackle things that in the past you've deemed 'too hard' to read. Don't get stuck in one genre, or limit yourself to a handful of authors. Love reading, think of it as your time to indulge your senses and intellect.

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