Friday, August 14, 2009

Eureka

I often discuss with you how a big part of my job is career planning, and to me that doesn’t mean just sitting down and plotting how to make the bestseller list, but discussing what direction the next writing project will take. Should a series writer continue her current, successful series and add yet another to her plate or would she be better off dumping this series altogether for something fresh and new? Should a historical writer change her style to meet some of the current trends in historicals (more sex, more sex) or is part of her appeal the fact that she hasn’t embraced market trends? Should a contemporary author with declining numbers move away from contemporary altogether (is it the genre?) and embrace the paranormal trend, or is it less about the genre and more about the hook or the ideas she’s coming up with?

Just as it is for unpublished writers, published writers are constantly looking within themselves to discover their strengths and find out what would be the next best direction, and as an agent it’s my job to help support them in that as well as to give any input they might want. For each author this is a different experience and I really let my authors decide how they want to use me best. For some we have many, many email exchanges and phone calls, while others prefer to spend “alone time” writing, reading, and exploring new and different directions. Either way, I will tell you that this is a frustrating and nerve-wracking time for the author, and if I can do anything it’s really just be there as a show of support and try to guide the author in a positive direction.

What is fascinating for me through all this is watching the author process work. It’s different for everyone and it should be different for everyone. We’re all unique individuals with unique experiences and ideas so why should we expect a writing process to be the same? However, one thing that is the same is the reaction the author has when suddenly she reaches that Eureka moment, when after endless hours of discussion and writing, some of which just wasn’t clicking, it suddenly strikes. Like lightning from the sky, the author does a 180 and just knows what needs to be done. I swear it changes her as a person. The heavy burden of writing lifts and putting word to page is joyful again. What is so fascinating about the Eureka moment is that I know when it hits too. Not that I have some psychic premonition, but when I get the email or phone call that suddenly this is it, I know it in my heart, in my bones, in the same way the author does. I can honestly say, I get chills when it just feels right.

Jessica

33 comments:

Wendy Qualls said...

This post has me wondering, do you and the author usually see eye-to-eye on career directions? Or does the author sometimes have a wildly different (or wildly unrealistic) idea of how his/her career is going to progress?

superwench83 said...

Wow, this post's timing is perfect. I just had one of those Eureka moments earlier this week.

MeganRebekah said...

Wow, it gave me chills just reading it and knowing that feeling.

Mira said...

Goosebumps. I know that Eureka moment!

I would guess that everyone does...we're all creative beings...I wonder what it is, though. What is that 'Eureka' moment? :)

Whatever it is, it's wonderful.

But it's good to talk about this, because part of the 'Eureka' moment is trust. Trusting that it will happen, even when it feels really far away. That all of the struggle and hard work is heading toward something; that moment of clarity and direction.

Thanks, Jessica! Nice Friday morning inspiration.

Alissa said...

My problems is I have a Eureka moment, then decided a few weeks down the road that it wasn't such a Eureka after all. Maybe I am jumping the gun on my Eureka moments.

Marie Devers said...

Just wanted to say (and I write kid's lit, so this isn't butt-kissing), I cannot wait to have an agent. I know that's obvious; we all do for the selling our work part, but you guys are so supportive and understanding of writers and the shenanigans involved in our work. Great post, Jessica

Kate Douglas said...

Having had one such moment while writing the proposal that will launch me in mass market after writing trade for the past four years, I can honestly say that it's an amazing feeling, the sense that everything suddenly clicks into place. I imagine it like all the tumblers in a huge combination safe lock falling into their proper sequence and the door swinging wide open. The proper combination was there all the time, but you have to line them up perfectly to access the rest of the ideas. I came close with my first shot at the proposal, but after reading it through, Jessica was able to see the obvious that I had missed. This was much more a team effort than Wolf Tales. In that case, I wrote it and Jessica sold it, but with my new DemonSlayers series, we tossed ideas around, I wrote, Jessica critiqued, I revised and THEN she sold it. The whole thing was a pretty amazing experience.

BookEnds, LLC said...

Wendy:

There is no usually to anything in this business and certainly for all authors there are moments when author and agent don't see eye-to-eye on the direction a career should take.

--jhf

DebraLSchubert said...

Jessica, I tweeted this very thing yesterday: "Falling in love w/my new wip! It's taken 50+ pages to feel the love, but what a great feeling!"

Until that point, I was sort of trudging along, just having faith in the process. Then, all of a sudden, the clouds parted and the angels started playing their golden trumpets. To quote The Dead, "What a long strange trip" this writing this is...

storyqueen said...

Coolest post ever!

(Because, as much as writing is about skill and craft, those magic moments cannot be denied.)

love your blog!

Shelley

Dawn Maria said...

I know I need an agent, but this post reminds me of why- to have partner for my writing career who isn't a blood relative or friend, but believes in me anyway.

Natasha Fondren said...

Of course, I don't know, but I sure imagine that this is near the top of the list of what every unagented author yearns for when they sit at home, struggle, and wish they had an agent!

Anonymous said...

These are the moments we live for, that will help improve our mss. and land us a good agent.
Just wish they happened more often--LOL

Anonymous said...

Jessica,
I like how you both guide your client but also have a respect for their creative ides. But I do have a question for you. My book is about to go on submission. I've been working with my agent for quite awhile on revisions. At the same time, I do have an almost complete draft of a second novel--but I hesitate to talk about this with her because I feel the focus is on book one (my contract is specific to book 1) and I feel that the reasonable thing to do is to wait and see what happens with book 1 submission before moving on to discussing book 2. Am I thinking right about this? I have mentioned book 2 to her and she said she'd be happy to look at anything I send her-- but I guess I feel, in a way, that the proof is in the pudding--that we need to take book one to its conclusion before going on to the next thing. Appreciate your advice.

Dara said...

I love those moments. They don't come often, but when they do, it's something to savor.

On another note, are most historicals all about the sex? I guess my book is gonna be different in that sense since it doesn't really have any :P

Ainsley MacQueen said...

The worst part about a Eureka moment is not having anyone around who would completely understand and appreciate it.

When you call your writer friends, it sounds as if you're bragging. You husband nods and says "that's great" with a bit less enthusiasm than he said it when you told him what was for dinner. And your kids just smile that patronizing smile and ask if they can get back to their WOW quest, or do I expect them to watch me dance a little longer. As if I ask them to watch me jump around every day!

It's really nice to know my future agent might be the perfect one with whom to share 'Eureka!'.

Malia Sutton said...

I keep reading author blog posts about "muses" and I'm not sure what "muses" are. I'm thinking this is the same thing...

Charlie said...

The eureka moment is wonderful when we have them of course, but I wanted to comment on your other point. How you, and other wise agents, will plan a career for your authors. It’s nice to hear that your concern is for the long term relationship and not a single book. Thanks for that. When I’m finally represented, I hope it’s by an agent that shares your views.

It reminds me of how the music business used to be. We could all name dozens of artists from the 70’s that are still around but nowadays, they’re mostly one-hit wonders.

Anonymous said...

I love this. I'd swear you are a secret writer, Jessica.
So many of us (perhaps all of us) do go through day6s, weeks, even years of feeling that what we're writing is just not right, but we don't know why, and then suddenly, one day, it registers. After having a half dozen mysteries published, I got it in my head that I had to write a mainstream, just had to or I'd never be taken seriously as a writer. I spent quite a few years starting novels, writing maybe 30,000 words and then nothing. I had no idea what to do with these characters, and to make this short, it came to me one day that the only thing I truly enjoyed writing was a mystery, and that mystery plots were the only decent plots that came to me. I'm back writing mysteries, DO NOT consider the time wasted in the least b/c my writing vastly improved with the experience.

PurpleClover said...

I actually agree with Charlie. I liked the part of the post where you talked about sitting down with the client to discuss their future. I would guess that some agents are better at teamwork than others. Even though we know it, it's just nice to hear teamwork plays a major part in career planning.

Laurel said...

If you could bottle the feeling of the Eureka moment you'd make a gazillion dollars. It is the best feeling in the world.

And no one would ever go to rehab for it since it's usually followed by incredible productivity.

Paige Bruce said...

Malia Sutton

"I keep reading author blog posts about "muses" and I'm not sure what "muses" are."

When I get a sudden flash of insight into a plot I'm working on, a sudden idea for a scene, a sudden interaction between two characters, or just a sudden creative burst of energy that inspires me to write something - I call those my "Muse Moments". A muse was usually defined as a spiritual or divine being, or even a mortal person that inspires that divine feeling, that is an artist's companion and inspiration for their creativity. For me, I use it to describe the moments where I get a sudden desire to be creative, as if my muse used a little bit of her magic on me.

That's just me, but hopefully that helps define it a little better. By contrast, I see "Eureka" moments as times when everything 'clicks' into place and it just feels like you're on the right path. I believe the source of it is our intuition telling us that we made the right decision.

Natalie said...

I love Eureka moments! Knowing they are out there always helps me during my down days.

Trace said...

I had one of those moments with my current wip. I tried several different ideas and it just wasn't working. Finally something clicked and it made sense. I had to cut 45 pages, but it's SO much better now.

The worst is when I try to force something that isn't natural to me. I want to be writing A so badly, but B is what is in my heart.

It just comes through on the page when the work is from the heart and when it isn't.

So I guess it's a matter of getting out of your own way :)

Dan Holloway said...

Fascinatin, because one of the things we're often told in the UK by agents is that if an author has any success with a first book, an agent will insist they write more of the same, and as an author that's a scary thought, because it takes a lot of books, and a lot of experimenting to push the boundaries in every direction and discover "your" voice - what you don't want is to be stuck in literary adolescence.

I had a Eureka moment a couple of weeks ago. I've known for years I wanted to write a love story with a middle-aged woman as lead, falling in love with a younger man. But I've never had a story to hang it on. I even changed my last novel to shift frommother to daughter because it's what the story needed. The 2 weeks ago I was on the bus and the whole thing came to me. So when I finish my curent novel in 5 weeks' time, I will begin Life Drawn freehand, the story of Ella, the 53 year-old life-drawing teacher whose son dies whilst volunteering in Africa, who decides to give her work and herself away for free for one year, for the sake of his lost life, and her lost ambition. She becomes a minor celebrity until she falls for a wealthy 17 year-old boy who takes her on a once in a lifetime trip to the place her son died. I haven't been so excited about a new project since, well, the last one.

And to show how web 2.0 the literary world is, the first thing I did was posted the synopsis and opening chapter on my blog, and put a link on twitter and all my friends' Facebook walls.

N. Gemini Sasson said...

I had one of those moments about a month ago. My agent had asked me about the sequel to my latest work and I had to admit that I'd stalled on it because I couldn't figure out which direction to take it in, namely which characters to use for POV's. I had actually set the story aside, half written, for close to a year. Suddenly, I realized that one of the characters had kept showing up in scenes and I knew she was the one who needed to be heard. There's a certain sense of relief and renewed confidence that comes with those moments that just fills you with energy and enthusiasm.

Ryan said...

These are some of the best feelings out there, and its good to know that agents can appreciate them in the exact same way that authors can.

I'm also glad to know that agents often have our careers in mind, and I hope that when I get an agent she doesn't mind selling four or five different genres with my name attached to it. I couldn't imagine just writing one genre, but that's me.

Pink Bug said...

That moment is why I'm writing at all. Funny how those "moments" can make such a huge impression on your life...isn't it?

Travis Erwin said...

I think it's great that yo can share the passion and magic with your authors.

Angie Ledbetter said...

Kinda like that golden moment in second grade or thereabouts when it just clicks in that you can read now! Oh, the freedom and mystery at your disposal.

Kim said...

This was a really great post to read since I am about to start sending out query letters for agent representation- I'll have to bookmark it for when the inevitable "no thank you's" come in, knowing that there's a "yes, please" somewhere on the horizon.

Paige, your post made me laugh because I had a HUGE Eureka moment in the middle of Costco one Tuesday afternoon, with all three of my kids in tow, and literally wrote half of a scene from my novel on the side of a box that once contained something like 10 pounds of Stacy's Naked Pita Chips. Gotta tell you, people stare at you when you do that :) Then I had to make sure that I kept that box! Just goes t oshow that your inspiration will hit you whenever it feels like doing so, and you're really at its mercy rather than the other way around.

Oh, by the way...now I keep a pen and pad in my bag at all times. And next to my bed. And in my car. And...

Coral Press said...

The whole career planning thing you mentioned reminds me of something Stephen Barbara said in a Q&A at AbsoluteWrite about how some agents work like card counters and sell projects when the odds of success are highest.

I think that equates with making the right "gambles" on authors' strengths and trends for the market.

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