Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Tips From an Agent...With my two Cents

A popular post from March 2010.

By Josi S. Kilpack

I was not familiar with Chip MacGregor of MacGregor Literary until I followed a link to his blog this morning where he listed a "Laundry List" of 30 tips for writers. I found myself nodding and nodding over the points he made and since I couldn't come up with a blog topic of my own, I'm shamelessly borrowing a few of his points I'd like to expand on. Feel free to check out the whole list, however, at his blog at

10. Understand what makes superb writing (great themes, the deep questions, wrestling with morality, decision making, choices that may not be correct)

 There are a lot of great books out there, and there are a lot of mediocre books and there is a great deal of poorly written fiction. As I read the elements Chip listed here I was impressed with how he honed in on those points that really do make a book 'impactful' to me. Now, not every book is written to change lives, but by having these types of elements in your story you can make even an 'entertaining' read an edifying one. Think about your favorite books; the ones you bought copies of even though you initially checked them out from the library. The ones you read ten years ago but still find yourself thinking about. What made them great? Can you break it down? Can you hone in on what it was that captured your attention? Take that piece, that little filigree of greatness and hold it up against your book. Can you do the same thing within the world you are creating on paper? 

28. Politeness counts (express appreciation to others -- success should be matched by grace)

When someone makes a difference, be sure they know that. Whether it's a blogger who reviewed your book or a friend who gave you feedback, or a newspaper editor that ran an announcement for your upcoming event. I love how he said "Success should be matched by grace" therefore as your career grows, you should be more and more gracious to those who played a part in that growth. I once set a goal for myself to write one thank you card a week--whether it was to the 14 year old who obviously worked hard on the two minute talk she gave at church, or the person who just spent 20 hours editing my manuscript. I kept it up for awhile but after reading this I think I need to move it higher up on my priority list. I love getting validation that the time I spent helping someone else was appreciated--and I notice when I have made a sacrifice that has gone unnoticed. Each time someone thanks me for something I've done, big or small, it encourages me to do it again, as opposed to thanklessness which makes me pull into myself, not wanting to take the time or risk the exposure of helping someone along. I was really glad he included this as it's one I definitely need to put some focus into. It reminded me of the parable of the ten lepers, only one came back--I want to be that one who goes back and expresses gratitude.

30. Keep perspective on your life and work (publishing doesn't make you smart or pretty or holy; getting your name in print doesn't validate your life)

I'm the last one to say that getting published isn't a BIG deal, it is. If it weren't, then it wouldn't be worth pursuing. But Chip is exactly right in that it doesn't make up for what you might be lacking in other ways. Publishing hasn't made me more spiritual--but it has helped me tap into the 'plan' I believe I was sent here to fulfill. It hasn't made me a better mother--in fact it has made me a worse one at times when I've let it overwhelm my family time. It hasn't made me a better friend or neighbor or wife either. The success I have in literature, does not fill up the voids I have in other areas of my life. While writing is definitely worthy of your time, never do it at the expense of the other people in your life, the other areas of development you need. There are, of course, times when other things needs to sacrifice for writing, but those should be infrequent and when they pass you should try to make up for the effect left on the other things you put aside. I have had many, many times when I have lost this perspective and the memory of those moments is painful for me to look at. As you move forward, do what you need to do to keep your perspective. Setting a regular time to evaluate how you are spending your time can be helpful--maybe once a month. Getting to know other writers and how they balance their lives can help you see how their tricks might apply to your life. Set realistic goals and make sure that YOU are the person making the biggest sacrifices to acheive them. Don't sacrifice everything that matters to you personally, but if it means giving up your Bunco night for writing time, or not getting your nails done so that you're not paying for postage on your 150 queries from the grocery money, do those things that in the long run preserve your family and keeps your priorities straight. Someone once told me that perception IS your reality. I might not think that my writing is more important than my children, but if they see me chatting on facebook more than chatting with them, what is their perception? What is their reality?

There were many more excellent points on Chip's blog and I encourage you to read through them and find one or two you can bless your writing, and your life, with.

Happy writing!


Anonymous said...

Is that supposed to be "Tips from an Agent"?

Anyway, the list was okay. I think the ones you picked out to elaborate on were some of the better ones. There were a few there that I didn't quite buy, at least, not as being essential truths, but other were fairly accurate.

Carolyn V. said...

Oh, I love the ones you listed. I will have to go check out his other tips. Thanks Josi! =)

Kimberly said...

Some great insights there. I like that his tips aren't all about facts and formatting, but about attitude and behaviour as well.

Curtis said...

Chip's post was terrific, and your insights are also very, very good. I especially liked the "perception is reality" quote. It's one that I've heard before, but never given much thought until now.

J.J. Bennett said...

Great post... Thanks so much!

L.T. Elliot said...

You've linked a lot of great things the last few days, Josi. You have an incredible eye.

I agree 100% about perspective and politeness. And while I'm on that vein, thank you, Josi. Many times, your kindness has seen me through a day. Thank you so much.

Krista said...

Really good insight. I followed this link on Twitter and I like your own takes. Thanks.

Nishant said...

, I love the ones you listed. I will have to go check out his other tips.
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