Today I have the lovely Julie Cross on the blog, who's debut novel, TEMPEST, came out this January. Julie's here to talk agents, publishing, and give writing advice. Be sure to follow her on Twitter for more awesome!
I started writing in May of 2009.
2. Do you have a typical "writer routine" you stick to (or try to stick to?)
Now that I’m not working full time anymore, I try to do most of my writing on weekdays between 9am and 2pm. It just depends on what stage I’m in with a book. If I’m drafting, sometimes I can’t stop despite the time or I have to open my laptop and write a scene before it goes out of my head and I’m no longer in the right mindset for it. If I’m doing edits for a previous draft, I get lazy at the first sign of brain fatigue. I usually make myself stop at this point despite schedules or deadlines because editing when I’m not at 100% means more drafts and more edits later on.
3. What made you decide to go the agent route with your writing, and was it a hard journey getting there?
I queried a lot for several different novels in later 2009 and early 2010. I got requests for pages and full manuscripts, but no offers. It was a former agent, turned editor who had requested the full manuscript of my very novel that got me where I am now. He didn’t like the book I sent him, but he was a new editor looking to build his author list and I had a great premise that needed a full rewrite. It wasn’t until I had an offer for a book deal that I sought out an agent for this particular project. It’s a bit backwards, but a fun story to tell. The strangest part, or at least it will be to other writers, is that I never even wrote a query for Tempest. Though I did write a fair share of queries for other projects.
4. What advice would you give to someone who is thinking about or currently querying?
I think this depends on the type of writer you are. I was one that just said, what the hell, I’m going for it. And I probably queried long before I should have. But I’m not sure this was a bad thing. I got used to the feeling of rejections, form rejections, and the types of things agents might request along with pages.
My first full manuscript request came very early in my querying process (2nd query I sent if I remember right) and I nearly had a panic attack when I read the email. The agent wanted a synopsis (which I didn’t have and had never written one before). It took me a week to write the synopsis and I’m a fast writer in general. I wrote seven novels that first year I began writing so that synopsis was my first experience with writer’s block.
If you are the opposite of me, and find the idea of putting your work out there totally frightening, like you’ve edited your book twenty times already and yet you keep telling yourself it’s not ready, then I’d say pick the agent that’s quickest to respond with the highest percentage of rejection rate and get it over with. I recommend the query tracker site for this information. It was a great resource for me. It stings a lot the first time, a little less the second time, and so on. By the time you get an agent and have a book deal, you have to be fearless when it comes to getting criticism. The book belongs to the publisher and they aren’t going to sacrifice quality production just to spare your feelings. But on the flip side, if someone has offered you a book deal, then rest assured that they believe you’re a talented writer.
5. TEMPEST is your debut YA novel that came out in January. What was the best part of your publishing experience with your first book?
By far, the best part was that month when my now editor, Brendan Deneen, and I spent working on the first draft of Tempest. I wrote high speed chapters, sent them to him, he returned them with notes, I fixed them. It was so much fun and I had no idea what we were doing and where it was going and I honestly didn’t care at the time. I had zero expectations.
6. How is working with an editor different from working with your agent?
My experience is different because I worked with my editor before my agent and didn’t go on submission at all. But Suzie (my agent) does editing just like an editor would however, she and I always have to look to Brendan for the final decision. Whether we agree or not, he has final say.
Luckily, the three of us work very well together and we’ve been able to openly discuss all issues and come to a reasonable compromise. I’ve talked to other authors and everyone seems to have a different experience with their agent/editor relationships.
7. What's one thing within your writing/agenting/publishing experience that you wish you'd done differently?
This is a really hard question to answer. I’m not sure I’d have done anything differently, but I will admit that a lot of good luck fell my way. By that, I mean to say that I didn’t really know what I was doing through much of the process (the actual publishing part, not the writing) because it all happened so fast, and somehow, it turned out really well for me.
8. Do you believe writers need to write everyday to get better at their talent?
This depends on a person’s creative process and how they work. I wish sometimes I could get myself to not write everyday, but I usually can’t help it. It’s like an addiction. Writing everyday isn’t going to help you get better unless you’re actively seeking opportunities to improve and accepting constructive criticism. So, a person doing these things, but not able to write everyday could see publication before someone who’s been writing everyday for years and years.
9. What advice would you want to give aspiring writers?
Always keep an open mind and don’t treat the words you’ve already written like precious gems. You have to be willing to scrap something and start over, to cut scenes and words. You have to be willing to do whatever it takes to move forward. As in, forward with your writing ability regardless of the number of manuscripts and pages you’ve already written. I’ve found that when I’ve let go of a scene dear to my heart that for some reason my editor or my agent want me to cut, it’s hard at first and then it gets so much easier to work from that point. Always keep in mind that the book you are writing does not define you, your writing defines you. If you had one good idea, chances are you’ll have another and it will probably be even better. Write your book, edit it, send off your queries, then move on to a new project and let the last one go.
What's one rule every author should live by?
Always make reading a priority, especially in your genre.