Kristan Hoffman

writing dreams into reality

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Category: Reading/Writing (Page 1 of 78)

“There’s a lot to be said for the long game”

My college friend Michael Szczerban is now an editor, and he also contributes interviews to Poets & Writers magazine. From his latest, a roundtable with 4 young agents:

Ballard: I often take people on and then work with them for a very long time. The first novel I sold this year was something I had worked with the author on for four years. It wasn’t that I was editing every line. We just had to find out what the story was. I work very closely with my clients, and I bet everyone in this room does. The better you make the book, the better the sale.

Flashman: Your point is really important because sometimes writers think, “Oh, I’ve got an agent! We’re sending it out, it’s going to be a best-seller tomorrow!”

Habib: There’s a lot to be said for the long game. Look for an agent who’s in it for the long haul.

This turns out to be a fitting post for today since Twitter tells me that it is Agents Day. I’ve been with my agent, Tina Wexler, since April of last year. In that time, she has already proven to be a kind, wise, generous, and patient advocate. Even when I lay bare my insecurities and frustrations, she guides me through them with confidence and grace. Sometimes I worry that I’m a bit of a disappointment to her, like an investment that hasn’t panned out. But then I remember that she’s in it for the long haul, and so am I, and the years ahead hold unlimited potential.

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“All roads lead to writing”

From “Just. Keep. Writing.” by Victoria (V.E.) Schwab (with bold emphasis added by me):

The fact of the matter is, if you’ve written a book, and it doesn’t sell, and you want to keep going, you need to write another. If you’ve written a book, and it does sell, but doesn’t do well, you need to write another. If you’ve written a book, and it does well, you need to write another. All roads lead to writing.

And this is good, because when it comes to publishing, very little is in your control. But the one thing you CAN control is the book. The words you put on the page.

So when everything is going well, and when everything is falling apart, you have to keep writing. It is your tether in the storm, and your grounding when you might otherwise float away. It’s easy to lose focus, to get caught up in the successes and failures, but you must. keep. writing.

From a speech given by agent Jim McCarthy:

Your greatest asset is your writing. But almost equal to that? Your endurance, your fortitude, your belief in yourself.

Both links are very much worth reading in full.

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A race against what, exactly?

Everything feels so urgent sometimes, doesn’t it?

From Episode 38 of the First Draft podcast, in which Sarah Enni interviews Kristin Halbrook:

SE: “In the introduction, he [Donald Maass] says like, Most of the books that I would define as ‘breakout’ took the writers between 5 to 10 years to write. And I remember reading that and being like, Oh god.”

KH: “For every author that gets touted as this huge breakout debut, there’s a whole lot of hard work and years behind it, usually. That you never see.”

SE: “You have to get to a stage where it’s okay to take time. You can’t be an impatient author.”

KH: “Yeah, I spent the first few years of writing in a race. A race against… I don’t know what. A race against something. Just to get published. It was such a goal, and I just thought I could run toward it, run toward it, run toward it. But… you can’t run toward it.”

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“There’s no shame in being a starving artist”

From “‘Mad Men’ Creator Matthew Weiner’s Reassuring Life Advice For Struggling Artists”:

It took seven years from the time I wrote Mad Men until it finally got on the screen. I lived every day with that script as if it were going to happen tomorrow. That’s the faith you have to have.

Seven years. Somehow that sounds like both an eternity and no time at all.

I have the kind of faith that he’s talking about. I don’t think about it much, but it’s there. Automatic, like breathing. Only occasionally a struggle, like breathing.

Looking back on my posts here, a clear pattern emerges: I’m almost there. This is going to be the year, I can feel it. I’ve said that time after time after time. Is it folly to believe in something that never happens?

You’re only wrong until you’re right.

The most defeatist thing I hear is, “I’m going to give it a couple of years.” You can’t set a clock for yourself. If you do, you are not a writer. You should want it so badly that you don’t have a choice. You have to commit for the long haul.

When I quit my job, I gave myself a year. I thought, If I’m not agented and/or published by then, I can still look for work without any issue. I’m young, and I’ll barely have been “out of the game” for any time at all.

But a year passed. Then another. Then another. I found ways to justify putting off the job search. Little milestones to hang my hat on, and to fuel another round of “just give me a few more months.”

Maybe I always knew I wasn’t going back. Maybe I don’t want a Plan B.

The greatest regret I have is that, early in my career, I showed myself such cruelty for not having accomplished anything significant. I spent so much time trying to write, but was paralyzed by how behind I felt.

Am I cruel to myself? Sometimes. I don’t know if that’s a bad thing, though, because I’m overly generous to myself too, haha. There has to be a balance, right?

Well, that balance would probably be healthier and more productive if it weren’t so extreme. Both ends of the spectrum lead to their own kinds of paralysis.

Also, how are we defining “significant”? A couple weeks ago, I had a sort of wake-up call. (Not for the first time, nor for the last, I’m sure.) A friend who is now interested in writing kept remarking on my achievements, saying how much he admired me. I brushed off his words — not out of modesty, but out of genuine disbelief and puzzlement. Me? Achievements? What? Where?

But after a while, I tried to let the compliments through. Tried to give them a fair chance instead of swatting them away without consideration. I’m nowhere near where I want to be, but maybe I should give myself credit for getting to where I am. Maybe I should appreciate this part of the journey.

And maybe this is the year. Breathe in, breathe out.

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My head and heart are full

It’s kind of funny: When I started this blog, I was determined to post every day. (Some days I even posted more than once!) As the years went on, I ran out of energy for that, and now I’m happy to blog only when I have something to say. But I’ve gotten so used to that being just once a week or so, that when there are more thoughts or stories or quotes bursting to get out, I feel weird. Like I have to wait. Like I need to space them apart.

But I don’t believe in saving good stuff for later, and I now have over a dozen drafts waiting to be finished and posted. When it rains, it pours.

Are you ready for a flood?

The Gunslinger (The Dark Tower, #1)After years of talking about it, I finally started reading Stephen King’s epic fantasy series The Dark Tower. It’s one of Andy’s favorites. So far I’ve only finished the first book, THE GUNSLINGER, which was certainly an interesting and compelling read. Andy joked that he didn’t understand most of it because he was only 12 at the time that he read it. Well, I’m nearly 30 and I still didn’t understand it all.

Unrelated, here’s one of my favorite parts, from the introduction:

I felt endlessly powerful and endlessly optimistic; my pockets were empty, but my head was full of things I wanted to say and my heart was full of stories I wanted to tell. Sounds corny now; felt wonderful then. Felt very cool. More than anything else I wanted to get inside my readers’ defenses, wanted to rip them and ravish them and change them forever with nothing but story. And I felt I could do those things. I felt I had been made to do those things.

And from later in the story itself:

“Only equals speak the truth… Friends and lovers lie endlessly, caught in the web of regard.”

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