November 20, 2019

How to Write a Novel Agents and Editors Will Love

By Walt Gragg

Actually, the title of this article is highly misleading.  I can’t tell you how to write books agents and editors will love.  I can’t tell you how to approach putting a novel together at all.  Nor would I want to do so.  We’re all individuals.  Our approach, the experiences we draw from in creating a work agents, editors, and readers will love, are uniquely ours.  How I write is unlike anyone I’ve ever met.  How I come up with the story lines, I haven’t a clue.  How I piece together the story and polish it until the words leap off the page may not work for you at all.  But it doesn’t matter.  It works for me. 

Only you can do figure out what works for you.

Am I saying don’t go to writers conferences and learn everything you can about the process of writing and selling your work?  I’m I saying don’t join a critique group?  I’m not saying that at all.  You should go to as many conferences as you can.  You should join a writers group if it works for you.  But ultimately you need to parse what you learn, along with the advice you receive, and apply your own filter to how you wish to approach putting words on the page.

Are there “rules” you need to follow?  Absolutely.  There are some basic ones.  Learning them is critical.  The biggest rule most aspiring writers break is sending their work before it’s ready.  What you send has to be the best you can make it.   You also need to ensure your submission is properly formatted.  Send a single-spaced manuscript and they won’t even consider it.  There are lots of books on formatting manuscripts.  Get one.  Sending an error filled, rough draft won’t get you a second look.  

Blind calling an agent, whose time is precious, rather than querying or better yet, pitching them at writers conference, is a no-no.  Strangely, the most important rule if you’re going to succeed is not about the actual writing.  It’s about the selling.  Before you sit down to write the first word, understand one thing – getting published is a marathon not a sprint.  It can take years for your work to find a home.  And those years can be beyond frustrating.     

Are there “rules” you can ignore?  Yes.  I break many of them.  It’s important to me that my books are distinctively mine.  As I told my editor at Penguin Random House “I want to be the first me, not the tenth someone else.”

The one person you must please more than anyone is you.  With my second novel The Chosen One, coming out this month and the one I’m presently writing already sold, I am pleased I made the effort to be true to me in my writing.

Trust your instincts.  Do what works for you. 

Write the best book you can and see where it leads.
Walt Gragg lives in the Austin, Texas area.  He is a retired attorney and former Texas State Prosecutor.  Prior to law school, he spent a number of years in the military.  His time with the Army involved many interesting assignments including three years in the middle of the first Cold War serving at United States European Command Headquarters in Germany where the idea for his first novel THE RED LINE took shape.  Walt is the 14th Annual American BookFest 2017 Best Book Award Winner for best thriller and was a finalist for the prestigious International Thriller Writers Best First Novel.  Walt’s book releases include –THE RED LINE and THE CHOSEN ONE  He is presently working on a third novel that is already under contract to the Berkley Publishing Group at Penguin Random House. Website - Facebook – walt gragg books

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