Monday, July 13, 2009

Things I Had to Learn, Year One

Tip of the Day: If you're playing Skee Ball with a six-year-old, stand way, way back. And then take another step away.

I've been blogging this summer about when I first started writing YA on the regular. There was so much to learn! Fortunately I had Deena to guide me through the wonderful world of resources for writers. Here's a short list of the first few things I had to pick up:

1. Word count. How much is too much? lists page counts; just scan down the book listing. The Host by Stephanie Meyer is 619 pages long. Meanwhile, Far From You by Lisa Schroeder is written in verse and clocks in at 368 pages. I was greatly reassured after I researched a few books written in a style similar to mine.

2. Did I want an agent someday? A reputable agency's website will list sales. There are lots of agent blogs and interviews online, where agents confess what types of books they hope will cross their desks. Casey McCormick has an agent spotlight on her very useful blog, with interviews and lots of linkage. Reading agent interviews taught me what they do. (Any questions on an agent's reputation? Check out Preditors and Editors.)

3. What the heck is a query letter? Yeah, I really didn't know. I didn't have Em to explain it to me back then in easily digestible blog posts. Instead, I read through Miss Snark's archives. Her cover letter crap-o-meter contest is the perfect drill on the query letter.

4. Should I take a class or something? I had no idea how many online writing classes there are that focus on YA and MG writing. Once you find an interesting class, google the instructor and get his/her bio. A great resource for finding writers who have already taken a specific class is the education board on Verla Kay's Blue Boards. Actually, the Blue Boards are a great resource for me for most of my writing questions.

Sometimes in the blogosphere, you read people's complaints about slush. How can so many submissions be so inappropriately written and targeted when there's so much How-To information on the Interwebs? But I think everybody starts out--has to start out--totally focused on the writing. The business skills always come later. Who would be a writer otherwise? If you're fortunate like I was, you'll find a writing friend you can talk to. Then you'll be able to discover the questions you need to ask. After that, answers are easier to find!

-- Kate, Miss Perfecting the Pages


DeenaML said...

Yup! I was focused on the writing to start and I STILL subbed a crappy draft to editors. Eek! :)

Emily Marshall said...

Good overview Kate. There seems like so much to learn about the business at first. But I think it's very important.

Casey Something said...

Thanks for the mention, Kate. There certainly are A LOT of things to learn, and it never ends!

Kate Fall said...

Oh, Deena, that sub probably wasn't as bad as you think it was.

Thanks Em! And thanks for coming by Casey, I love checking out your blog.

Christina Farley said...

Good stuff to remember. Nice and clear and concise.