by Gina Welborn
Every so often, here at Inkwell, we share tips and advice for writers because, let's face it, some of our readers are writers. Recently in one of my writing groups, someone was bemoaning the lack of responses s/he was getting from agent queries.
So I thought it would be fitting to share the Secrets Published Authors Know About How to Hook an Agent. These are not copyrighted so feel free to share.
1) Join writing groups
Now I don't necessarily think a writer would have to join Romance Writers of America (RWA) because American Christian Fiction Authors (ACFW) provides what RWA does, just on a more Christian-writing-industry focus. Depending on what genre you write, if you aren't a member of, say, ACFW-romance, then join. Find out if ACFW has a chapter in your area. A specialized group like that is smaller and will be able to give you more specific help. However, have you looked into all the "helps" ACFW provides? Online workshops? Website? Blog posts? etc?
(I know you're thinking "how does this relate to hooking an agent"? Be patient.)
2) Join critique group(s)
One of the many things RWA does well is have very strong chapters. Faith, Hope & Love is the inspirational chapter. We have a data base for members looking to find critique partners. We also have a Finish the Book e-mail list for member who need challenge and encouragment to finish her manuscript. I took this piece advice to heart and joined Charlotte Dillon's Romance Writer's Community that has an online crit group. It's not a Christian one, but even the ladies who were writing steamy stuff were able to help me learn craft. I'm not advising joining RWC as a necessity. Nor am I advocationg RWA as the answer to everything. ACFW is an EXCELLENT organization that has a lot of resources that you're probably not taking advantage of.
Just saying if you're not in a crit group, get in one. If you're in one, join a second one.
(I know you're still thinking "how does this relate to hooking an agent"? Be patient.)
3) Enter writing contests
The experience gained through entering writing contests helps you learn how to write better, accept "unbiased" criticism, and grow a thicker skin. If your manuscript can't final in a contest, then the odds are it's not written well enough to hook an agent. Yes, rare cases occur where authors hook agents or sell to editors without ever entering a contests. But that's not common practice. ACFW's Genesis is a fabulous contest, but if it's the only contest you're entering, then you're not getting the maximum benefit from the contest experience. (Keep reading, please. Secrets have layers.)
4) Judge writing contests
Oh, I know writers will say "I'm not qualified." Whatever. Listen, every contest judge began with one entry--began NOT being qualified. Because, as someone who has coordinated numerous contests numerous times, that an author is published does not automatically make her qualified to judge contest entries. Judging well takes practice. Just like writing well takes practice. Judge because it teaches you to recognize GMC, characterization, weak/strong dialogue, etc.
Very few writers are gifted writers. Most of us are learned writers.
5) Stop revising and revising the same manuscript
I know you utterly love your characters and story. But if you really love it, let it go. Putting it down doesn't mean you can never go back to it. Your mind needs a holiday from that manuscript. Write something new. Write something outside your comfort zone. Write, write, write, and don't worry if you're breaking any writing rule. One of my writing friends attended a screenwriters workshop. The instructor said each one of us has ten bad manuscripts in us. So write the ten bad ones so you can get to that eleventh good one. Please!!!
6) Invest in studying the craft of writing
Many authors have websites and blogs that contain writing tips. Kaye Dacus and Camy Tang are two that immediately spring to mind, but there are MANY others. Other authors have writing groups where they mentor authors in craft. Organizations like RWA and ACFW, and their chapters, provide conferences with workshops. What was the last craft of writing book you read (and finished)? Read, read, and read some more different craft of writing books because while reading published fiction is great, it doesn't teach you how to write.
For minimual cost, buy one or more of these:
For no cost at all, read one or all of these:
The sad truth is many writers who receive rejections from agents are writers whose craft isn't strong enough to be published. So why waste your time, emotions, and finances, trying to hook an agent? Finishing a manuscript doesn't mean you're ready for an agent.
If agents are rejecting you or you're just not getting any response from them:
1) your writing needs work
2) your queries and proposals need work to better convey your story
3) your manuscript isn't marketable
Odds are, the real reason for the rejections is #1. Sorry.
REMEMBER: Very few writers are gifted writers. Most of us are learned writers. So learn to write well. Because writing well is the real secret to hooking an agent.
~*~Years—okay, eons—ago, Gina Welborn worked in news radio scripting copy until she realized how depressing human tragedy was, so she took up writing romances and now only thinks “It is time for a dead body?” when she’s at a lull in her newest manuscript. This Oklahoma-raised gal now lives in Richmond, Virginia with her youth-pastor husband, their five Okie-Hokie children, and a Sharpador Retriever who doesn’t retrieve much of anything (but he can sit really well). Her first novella, “Sugarplum Hearts,” part of the HIGHLAND CROSSINGS anthology, is out now. 2012. Her second novella, “All Ye Faithful,” in A CASCADES CHRISTMAS release later in 2012 but is available for pre-order now at Amazon, Parable, and Barnes and Noble.