Posted by on Dec 8, 2006 in agents, novel writing, submissions | No Comments

What am I doing again?

One of the biggest problems for any fiction writer is getting their head above the daily issues of making a living to fix on their long term ambitions.

Most of us want to get a novel published. That desire has three concrete steps.

  1. Write novel
  2. Edit novel
  3. Send novel to agents/publishers

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? But I genuinely believe that 50% of the writers I know AREN’T writing a novel, and of the remaining 50%, around 20% either AREN’T editing an already written novel or AREN’T sending it out to agents or publishers.


Sometimes it’s fear, often it’s disillusion. Most often though, it’s just the daily grind of what is beautifully called ‘scut work’ – the disagreeable tasks we have to do to pay the bills. I try to avoid this trap, but I’m no better than the average. I looked at my files today and discovered I haven’t sent my novel out for two weeks. Okay, I have excuses: NaNoWriMo takes a lot of my time in November, the serial whose deadline was 11 December had to be revised before going to the publisher, my greenhouse articles took some researching … but excuses are purely that. If I want to be a published novelist, the novel should come first, not last.

I have two techniques that work for me.

The first is that I am part of a workshop where, every week, we all say how many submissions, rejections and acceptances we’ve had in the past seven days. If it gets to Friday and I’ve done nothing about sending work out, I feel so guilty that I can usually find at least one piece of fiction and one venue to put together as a submission.

The second is that I’ve told everybody that the novel is finished and I’m sending it out to agents. This means I get asked, quite often, how the agent search is going – especially by people who haven’t seen me for a while. It only took a couple of occasions where I had to say ‘Oh, I haven’t done anything about it since I last saw you’ for me to learn the lesson of shame. Now I can always say how many times I’ve sent it out (and how many times it’s come back!) since the last time they asked me.

So today, to make up for the past two weeks, I sent the novel out to three agents. And next week I will send it out again …

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