How do I get a literary agent?
“How do I get a literary agent”, is the question I’d been asking myself since high school. I’d finished writing my first full novel at 14, convinced it was a literary masterpiece and all I was missing was some publisher’s number. They were going to love it. And, if I rang them today, maybe they’ll get around to printing it this week.
That’s how it works right?
Well, of course, if you’re reading this you’d know that things aren’t that simple. At all. In fact, publishing is significantly harder than that, but that’s okay. It’s all part of the process. My writing journey sorta started when I was 8. I confidently told my parents I was going to write a book. They listened and agreed that I had it in me, purely because I said I was going to do it and what sort of parents would they be if they stopped me?
En route home from the UK, my dad and brother brought back some presents for me and my younger sister. My sister got a cute stuffed Dalmatian with a pink nose and I got a strange green notebook. I accepted the gift hesitantly, secretly wanting the pink Dalmatian, but upon receiving it dad just said, ‘That’s where you can put your book.’
So with eternal optimism and a confidence which draws from a well I rarely tap into, I set to work. My magnum opus would be called, ‘JOSEPH SMITH AND THE MOUNTAIN OF GOLD’. My creative genius continues to astound me even now. With a title like that how could anyone turn me down? Move over C.S. Lewis, 8-year-old me was coming for your crown.
On reflection, back then I did something that most people who are thinking about writing should do. Start the bloody thing. I may not have finished it, but it was with that little green book that I took the first step. It’s a little like getting into a pool. It’s a bit cold at first, but after you’ve taken the first dip, it’s a lot easier to jump in.
Fast forward six years, my family immigrated to Australia (from Ireland), I grew up a bit, and my siblings inherited our family computer. It couldn’t connect to the internet and had no software besides Microsoft Office and Tomb Raider II, so, to a group of children it was useless.
Except, if one of those children was me. Rather than a machine that couldn’t connect to the internet and only play Tomb Raider (but dat music tho) I opened up Microsoft Word and began to write.
Thanks to genuine hours on MSN, I could type like a pro. In comparison to my green-papered notepad and pen ink, the keyboard helped me whip up a new MS at lightning speed.
This time would be different. This time I was going to write my real magnum opus. Let me set the scene for you. An alarm goes off. My main character rolls out of bed and stands before the mirror. Me, a true auteur, then describes my MC in vivid detail.
It was a children’s book, told from the perspective of an adult man.
Little did I know I’d committed about every sin a writer could make in their opening pages. Looking back, I’m amazed I didn’t start it with ‘Once upon a time…’.
Despite this horrific error, I pumped out a full MS. I had no idea what I was doing, but I did it anyway. I created a folder on the desktop and inside the folder I created a new document for every chapter. I don’t know why I did this, but it made sense at the time. I continued to make new docs up until I reached The End. At 14, I did something that all writers should do after they start the book. Finish it. (But also, you do you).
I printed this book out and drip-fed chapters to my English teacher who edited them for me. We did this for about half a year, before life got in the way, I changed schools, and outgrew the project. I never did anything else with this project, except finish it but that was enough.
The next year, I went for a run one night and a gale of wind hit me, which carried on it a new idea. I wrenched the idea from the winds and directed it into a Word doc. That idea would eventually become BOOK 3. I spent a solid five years writing that. On again. Off again. Over two different laptops. Many ideas written down, until eventually I finished it. I started the book in Year 10 (about 15) and finished it in my last year of university (about 20).
And that’s when I sent out my first query letter.
Of course, there’s more to come, but like any good story this one’s a tale that grew in the telling.