My Writing Life

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Advice an Agent Gave Me that Changed My Writing Life

By Renee Charles

You know the drill: write, revise, and repeat. We all do it, we sweat over each word until it's perfect and then the next, and then the next, building sentences into characters and worlds that breathe all their own. Tedious labor of love, and once it's finished, we are so proud ...for about 5 minutes.

Then begins the arduous task of querying. When the publishers and agents don't respond, or worse, respond with a form letter. Our high sense of accomplishment wanes. Why is this? If I have studied Strunk and White, and read the greats, and subscribed to the newsletters and magazines that teach and mold, why am I not hearing back? What key component am I missing? I was determined to see it through. I figured if I throw enough spaghetti at the wall eventually something would stick.

Finally, it happened. An agent answered the phone when I called to get the name to send my query. He actually answered his own phone. I stuttered then managed to give him enough info about my WIP that he actually asked me to send him my book. Woo hoo! I just knew I was in. When I got his "no, thank you" letter, I was devastated. So after the five stages of grief, I summoned the courage to call him again. He answered his own phone again. He remembered both our previous conversation and my submission. Then he told me the thing that changed my writing life.

"You cannot write in a vacuum." He told me to find other writers, to critique and be critiqued. To network and become part of the writing community.  At first, I didn't understand the value of his statement. By nature writers write alone. Community? But I knew I was at a standstill and desperate to break out of the stagnate pond that I had been swimming circles in. So, I did what he told me. With my first critique, I understood. Think of it as the difference between studying medicine from a book and cutting into a cadaver with a scalpel.

Within six months I had a writing contract. I have writer, agent, and publisher friends on Twitter, Yahoo groups, and Facebook, all from whom I learn at least one new thing each and every day that pushed me ever forward, toward my dreams (supporting myself and my family with my craft). It all started with one timid request to join an online critique group. They were patient and kind. Although I am still a loner by nature, the connections I have made are invaluable. The great thing about technology is you can try a group and if you don't click, find another. Have coffee tweeting with writers across the nation and learn from them. You will be a better storyteller in the end.

 "You cannot write in a vacuum." I will never forget those words, or the man who took a moment to change my life and my craft. 

What words changed how you write? Who has impacted your craft so deeply that things will never be the same?

Purchase Changes in Autumn at the AdC Bookstore

Visit Renee's website

Other articles written by Renee:

Aphrodisiacs, Fact or Erotic Fiction?

True Ghost Story in Niles Canyon

What is Sexy?

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