Writer Appreciation Week: The Unpublished!

by | Sep 3, 2009 | The Writing Life | 122 comments

Ah, the unpublished. Or, as many declare: the pre-published.

Let’s be honest: it’s difficult sometimes being a writer who is unpublished. You’re slaving away for hours on end on a manuscript or manuscripts that may be the next great sensation or may only be read by a few people. It could be huge, it could be small. It’s an uncertain time, rife with doubts and a need for some validation (anything, please) to quell the “Am I crazies.”

And that’s even before you get to the agent chase, the queries that seem to disappear into the ether or only score a form letter in return. With your name misspelled.

It’s not an easy path. But the most important thing to remember about the unpublished: everyone started there.

Every writer we love started out not knowing whether they had a shot or whether their work would be appreciated. Lots of beloved authors had to write a few manuscripts to get it right, tasted lots of rejection along the way, and made everyone look like idiots when they finally made it. Everyone had to take the same leap of faith to start writing without knowing where it would lead.

So. How can you help the unpublished among us, even if you yourself are unpublished?

Read their work. Give them feedback. Help them get better. If you’ve been around the block a bit, help the lesser experienced learn the “rules” first-timers might not know about, like going easy on non-said dialogue tags and adverbs. They should know them before they break them. Honest, polite, constructive feedback.

But most importantly: give them encouragement. As I said on Monday, everyone thinks they can write a book. The only people who really know how hard it is are the ones who have tried.


  1. Narnian Girl

    Ah! Big spouting Charlie Brown-style tears over here! Thank you! Feeling validated and appreciated. Thanks for giving us unpublished dreamers a shout out!

  2. DG Shrock

    Thanks for the appreciation. I like to think of us as "pre-published" authors.

  3. D. G. Hudson

    Great post as usual, Nathan. I did my bit yesterday, by helping a writer pal format her query letter for a mag article. She's on the opposite side of the continent, but we met online. She's promised to do the same for me when I query you, or other agents for my current novel. I also referenced your blog for help.

    You keep our spirits up, and this blog can be amusing or informative, but is always helpful in some way. I think this has been one of your best 'theme' weeks on the blog.

    Thanks, Nathan. We appreciate you too!

  4. Janet

    Thanks, Nathan! I just recently found your blog and am amazed about the time and dedication you give to it and your readers.

    You're a delight and appreciated more than you can imagine by us writers out here pounding the keys.

    Thanks from NYC.

  5. DebraLSchubert

    Rock on, Nathan. Thanks for "getting" writers and what we experience. Encouraging people no matter what level of success they've achieved or haven't yet achieved is the greatest gift we can give each other. And thanks for noticing great talent when you see it (cough* Natalie Whipple * cough).

  6. mkcbunny

    Cheers for the pre-pubished!

  7. Kimber An

    "The only people who really know how hard it is are the ones who have tried."


  8. Kristen Torres-Toro

    Hi, Nathan! I'm a new follower and am really glad that I found your blog, as I am "pre-published". Thanks for the encouragement!

  9. Sissy

    Pre-published and proud!

  10. Mira

    "It's difficult sometimes being a writer who is unpublished?"

    Yep. I'll say.

    I'd go a step further than encouraging them. I'd say: believe in them. Whether they ever get published or not, believe in their dream.

    Chasing a dream is a truly terrifying thing to do. So many people sabotage themselves and find ways to avoid the possiblity of having their dream fail – or, ironically, succeed. People who are trying to make their dreams real are deeply courageous. They are heros in the best sense of the word.

    I include published writers in this, because all published writers are also unpublished – their next work is unpublished. Their next dream is unpublished. All of us are chasing dreams and should be celebrated for doing so.

    Chasing a dream means that something will materialize for you. Oddly enough, it may not be the original dream; it might be something better. We can't always see the big picture.

  11. klromo

    I TOTALLY agree!! Who among Nathan's loyal followers would like to read a great book?? I have just the one – just let me know!

  12. Bane of Anubis

    When I learned that I was gonna have a story published in an anthology back in May, I was major stoked b/c there was some validation there (of course, the cynical side of me said — well, the editor had 10 slots to fill and only got 11 submissions ๐Ÿ™‚ — and then proceeded to get a string of query rejections… and that evanescent high was destroyed….

    So thanks for the continued encouragement and advice.

  13. Alice Anderson

    Well said. And it's great to be reminded of that simple little fact that we all start in the same spot…putting fingers to keyboard or pen to paper, as it were.

    I rather like that phrase "agent chase." ๐Ÿ™‚

  14. Kasie West

    I sense you're buttering us up for some reason, Nathan. Is next week the week where you tell us all the publishing houses have burned to the ground by an angry "pre-published" writer? ๐Ÿ™‚

    Thanks for giving us some validation too stave off "the crazies".

  15. Alena Thomas

    Thank you, Nathan, for your kind words for all of us. I wrote a blog on never giving up your dream yesterday, which some of you might find useful. You can find it "here"

  16. Shell

    Wow. Today the encouragement is certainly needed. Sometimes the odds seem overwhelmingly not in my favor and I want to give up on the whole notion of every getting published, but it's not like the stories in my head shut up and go away because I ignore them, so I might as well keep on keeping-on. It's nice to know there are others out there who understand.

  17. Deaf Indian Muslim Anarchist!

    unpublished writers should start up a blog. It's a great way to get attention and to get feedback on your works even if you're unpublished.


  18. Denise

    I agree with Nathan's take.

    Encouragement and support is what will get most writers to keep pushing/striving and get that book published.

    I usually spend several hours a week editing or giving feedback on other writer's work.

  19. Anonymous


    Right on. My family believes in me so much that they are constantly saying after your books are published will do this… all of them say that. If it weren't for them I think I may have given up. Their dreams, encouragement, and unbiased opinions (haha) are want keeps me going.

  20. Mira

    Oh, I want to say something else about dream chasing. I apologize in advance, for some reason, I seem to have decided to get on the lecture podium. Like this doesn't apply to me. Which it does. Nonetheless:


    The best way to avoid becoming cynical or bitter or despairing from disappointment is to let your heart break.

    Let your heart break, and your fist unclench. And feel the loss, as long as it needs to be felt.

    Then get up, and notice that your vision is clearer than it was before. Your heart is stronger from having been broken.

    Move on towards your dream.

  21. ~Aimee States

    This blog entry made me want to hug you.

  22. Dan Holloway

    As one of the great unpublished, I must say this is great.

    Encouragement is great BUT it can sometimes be damaging. Yes, encourage people to write as a hobby – but REALLY encouraging someone to write for publication can sometimes not just be misguided but cruel. 'you put your finger on it when you say everyone thinks they can write a book – and I thin probably everyone could – and should be encouraged to do so. But being able to write a book is a long way from being able to be a published writer, and the two have to be kept separate in order to avoid a lot of heartache.

    I was lucky enough to guest blog on this for How Publishing Really Works:

    So yes, encourage everyone to write. But do not encourage every writer to see themselves as a published author in waiting (and yes, I include me in that – if people think my writing's rubbish, don't tell me I'll make it if I just do x,y, and z – tell me you're glad I've got such a great interest)

  23. Rick Daley

    I think it was Elmore Leonard who said "It only took me 38 years to become an overnight sensation."

    My hat's off to all of my pre-published peers. May we all one day carelessly spill Dom Perignon over the caviar while we sit on our yachts, reminiscing with our agents about those silly days when we thought success was a mirage.

  24. Christy Pinheiro, EA ABA

    God, Nathan, what's it like to be this freaking popular?! You posted this entry less than an hour ago and already 26 comments! I'm in awe. I read your blog every day, but I rarely post because I'm just a lowly non-fiction writer (kidding– I love it).

    I posted two links on my blog yesterday for literary agents– and out of the blue, the first comment I get is from a sweet blogger who says: "Nathan Bransford's blog is great– you should mention it."

    Incredible! My hat's off to you. You have cornered the blogosphere.

  25. Natalie

    Yup, every writer has been there. Sometimes that's the hardest thing to remember when I look at my favorite writers. Really? They stressed out like me? They did the query thing?

    But when I can catch a glimpse of that reality, it makes me feel like we're all connected as writers. We can support each other through the experience.

  26. Cat Moleski

    Thanks, Nathan, it's blogs like this and people like you, who keep me writing.

  27. quixotic

    Nathan, this is such an inspiring post for those of us in the trenches feeling low and self doubting. It is a difficult path we tread unknowing if we will ever reach our goal. But we do tread on. Kudos to you for throwing out some big love to us wannabies.

  28. Dan

    So this makes the Sacramento Kings a 'pre-NBA championship' team then?

  29. Linda

    Ah thanks Nathan.. needed this week of writer-appreciation posts.

    Could you please send these posts gift-wrapped to our families?

    I keep reminding myself that this is a journey and to keep my eyes focused on the process – and not what might lay at the end.

    It also helps me to focus on smaller projects – the shorts,the poems, the book reviews, the blogs – because positive reinforcement comes more easily from those venues.

    Malcolm Gladwell says it takes 10,000 hours (on average) to become 'good' at something. I'll accept that statistic, and keep plugging at the craft.

    Thank you to all my pre-published colleagues – my Nudgers, my TTTers, my fellow forumistas on EU, my 33 Harbingers. YOU make the journey so worth it.

    Peace, Linda

    PS. And Rick – careless spilling of champagne? Ha! I hope my advance is large enough for that bottle of Dom Perignon!

  30. unpublishedandbroke

    If anyone wants to appreciate me, I'll gladly accept fifty bucks so I can buy the research book I need (for my WIP) at Borders today!

    Or, is this only non-monetary appreciation?

  31. csmith

    Thank you Nathan. Today, of all days, when I am going through what feels like the 9000th edit of my book, thank you.

    And thank you to Erastes, and Tracey, and Wendy, and to everyone else who sits around holding my hand and teaching me basic simple things.

    And thank you Nathan, too. For taking the time to educated the huddled masses.


  32. Dara

    Thanks! ๐Ÿ™‚ It's always nice to be appreciated!

    I second the person who said you deserve a hug!

  33. Christine

    Thanks for the encouragement, Nathan!

    And Mira, thanks for putting the dream-chase so beautifully.

  34. bethanyintexas

    Thanks so much Nathan. The encouragement is much appreciated.


  35. L. T. Host

    Yay! I have a category!

    But I still try to stay realistic. I haven't put my work out there for anyone yet except a few close friends and trusted critiquers. So I won't quite push myself into "pre-published" until I have made the push to really go for it.

    But this is appreciated, Nathan, I needed a smile today.

  36. Lori Benton

    "…everyone thinks they can write a book. The only people who really know how hard it is are the ones who have tried."

    I will quote this. Often. ๐Ÿ™‚

  37. L-Plate Author

    Nathan, pre-published! I love that. That's going to be my buzz phrase for the next month.

    Hopefully soon I may be able to say the magic word,published ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Mel Stoke on Trent, Curtis Brown Babe

  38. Jack Roberts, Annabelle's scribe

    Every time Nathan. Every time! You know just what I need to hear every time you post.

    I swear rejection or not, one day I will bug you again. Never say die. This is my favorite Agent Blog because you know us "pre-published". You get us.

    It's ironic. Lifting author's spirits is the topic for my upcoming Sunday article on the Write Brigade blog.


    Thank s again.

  39. Erika Robuck

    Wow, I love this warm and fuzzy stuff. Thanks, Nathan.

  40. Mercy Loomis

    I'm with Bane, sort of the "middle-published." My first short stories just came out, which is great, but the novel is still making the rounds. Ugh! So thank you, Nathan, for your encouragement, and hugs to all the dream-chasers.

    I just posted some thoughts and tips on rejections on my blog a couple days ago. Hope it helps!

  41. Yat-Yee

    So thankful to all my unpublished author friends.

  42. Anonymous

    Okay, after all the back pats and encouragement, as an agented writer who has been paid for writing I have to say find your balance between believing in yourself and thinking you're going to be sipping champagne on a yacht with your agent.

    It doesn't happen. And the majority of writers cannot afford to quit their day job until after at least five books published (and some, not even then).

    To write well is a great goal in itself. To keep writing is even better. Keep your head on straight, find a good crit group, write and rewrite.

  43. Julie

    3 or 4 Chapters into my current finished manuscript I read Steven King's book on writing.

    Like Nathan he says to keep it simple with "He said and She said", less is more with adverbs, and also discourages lots of adjectives – especially ones ending in "Y"

    When I read that I was so relieved. It gave me the chance to focus more on my story and less on the "decorations."

    Another thing that I found really helpful was on an agents website (though I can't remember who)saying to use contractions in dialogue as much as possible – because that's how people speak.

    I later read a piece of unpublished writing that was full of dialogue and not a single contraction! I had keep reading the lines again, it wasn't fluid.

    I also notice reading my work out loud helps (I got that Idea from Judy Blume's Website!). I feel silly sometimes reading to myself a loud while my kids are playing at the park, but it really works.

  44. Anonymous

    Dream chasing makes the whole thing sound more Quixotic and heroic than it really is. Look, you're not trying to get over the rainbow, you're just trying to get to the airport during rush hour. It's hard, but it's not impossible, people DO know how to get there even with the complications, and it's a learnable route. And when you get there you'll find out a bunch of other people are there, too, and there's still a lot of lines and things and nobody THERE is going to think you're extraordinary for simply having made it that far.

  45. Ben Dutton

    The unpublished need all the encouragement… God knows I've craved it. When you're slaving away on the novel not knowing if you'll ever get there, or if you're doing the right thing. The days of madness. Of wanting to tear the whole thing up. Then there's the love, the exultation, the sheer joy it brings, that sentence done just right. Being unpublished sucks, but you've got to slave away to get better, to work towards getting there. I wish everyone the best of luck.

  46. Julie

    Can anyone tell me why I'm having a panic attack over writing a synopsis?

    I have no idea why but I've developed a phobia and am experiencing writers block for the very first time! Why can't I just do it??!!!

  47. Cary Kearns

    Nathan, thanks so much for doing this. Goes a long way to keeping chins up and mind and fingers moving.

    Do you have any suggestions and basics for an unpublished person's blog. Seems like having some sort of a platform early on would be very helpful. Thanks!

  48. Kristi

    I've always thought of pre-published as in you had a book contract but the book isn't on the shelves yet – like if your book is due in stores in 2010, then you aren't actually published yet but are pre-published. Is that wrong – can you say you're published if the book isn't released?

    I think of Unpublished as the evil vortex of darkness from which I am trying to emerge.

    Oh, and as for the appreciation part, I think that's why critique groups are so wonderful. It's the right mix of encouragement and tough love that helps you attain that next level.

  49. John

    I just took a break from editing my ms and stumbled upon this blog. Wow! Some appreciation, that's great. Yes, writing is a daunting task, to say the least. It's nice to read an agent's blog who acknowledges us "little" guys. Thanks, Nathan!

  50. Anonymous

    Thanks for the shout out Nathan.

    This is absolutely the most difficult thing I have ever tried to accomplish in my life.

    Everyday I am inspired, and everyday I quit. It is a roller coaster of frustration and accomplishment.

  51. Mike


    What's the story in the agent ranks? Are many agents trying to get their own books published and if so does being an agent afford you any preferential treatment?

  52. Amanda J.

    A great post as always! Thanks!

  53. B.J. Anderson

    Awe, Mr. Bransford. That was so inspiring! Thanks for making my day!

  54. Novice Writer Anonymous

    Awww…this is why I entered the blogosphere! It's exactly this sort of encouragement that one can get here as an unpublished author that keeps me going.

    Thanks, Nathan for a great post!

    Encouragement is the best medication for the "Am I Crazies?" in my opinion.

  55. Suzanne


    We write because we don't have a choice. I kind of dig it here, in unpublished land. Cranking out novels and letting everyone in on my crazy plot lines and frustrating characters.

    I don't know if being published might ruin some of the fun. Make the dream real. Turn it into a mechanism instead of an urge.

    I was lucky, I queried and now have some nice people like you reading full's of my work. But I almost wish I'd taken more time to relish the "crazy" part before I considered the Business end. (Which is, in itself, making me giggle.)

    It's all good.

  56. Smokeyblue

    On my birthday I write a list of things to achieve. Some,like meeting up with old friends or try something new, are easy to tick off. Others (learn to swim and finish the novel) kept turning up year after year. Today, I'm 1/3 through my third novel and eating chocolate pistachios.

  57. Lara

    I love, love, love the positivity on this blog. I hereby declare this the most positive place on the Internet.

  58. LisaR

    Ooooh . . . pre-published authors. I like that.

  59. M. K. Clarke

    Thanks, Nathan! Props for the yet-to-be-published among us not even AGENTED, yet! ๐Ÿ™‚


  60. Firefly

    Nathan, you rock!

  61. nkrell

    At times our own light goes out and is rekindled by a spark from another person. Each of us has cause to think with deep gratitude of those who have lighted the flame within us.
    — Albert Schweitzer

    Nathan, can we just call you 'Sparky'?

  62. alisonwells

    A great post with a wonderful sentiment, very much appreciated. I have just had a short story accepted by a national (Irish) newspaper. It also means I am shortlisted for The Hennessy Literary Awards for New Irish Writing. This acceptance, and the feedback I received has helped me turn a corner into hope that I can become a published novelist. So fellow hopefuls, keep going, your moment is out there if you keep trying.

  63. Marsha Sigman

    I am pre-published, agent challenged, and critique partner deficient.

    That sounds wayyy more depressing than it actually feels.

  64. Scott

    Nice post, Nathan.

    It wouldn't be so bad for me if I wasn't also a wannabe musician, TV producer, filmmaker, screenwriter and artist. Add to that the everyday, practical frustrations with trying to get ahead and some days you just go mad in the gate.

    A close friend repeatedly tells me he's "worried about me". Must be something in my eyes. Bah, what's he know? As Bukowski said, "Some people never go crazy. What truly horrible lives they must lead".

    *returns to editing*

  65. ryan field

    There are many excellent unpublished, pre-published writers out there that deserve praise and appreciation. And most of them probably don't even know it, so this was a great post.

  66. Mira

    Anon 10:17, they sound like a great family. You're lucky! ๐Ÿ™‚

    Christine, thanks right back. ๐Ÿ™‚

    Anon 11:18: "…and nobody THERE is going to think you're extraordinary for simply having made it that far."

    Whether people think it's extraordinary or not isn't the point. People don't always see things clearly. They get muddled.

    Pursuing your dream is an act of courage. It is a huge risk, and leap of faith. It is extraordinary.

  67. Matilda McCloud

    Thanks to all the Encouragers out there (that's what Ralph Keyes calls them in THE WRITER'S BOOK OF HOPE–as opposed to the Discouragers…). We sure need 'em!

  68. Emily White

    Thanks, Nathan! It's nice to know that we unpublished folk are truly appreciated! Though I do hope I don't stay in this category for long, I'll always do my part to encourage and improve the skills of my fellow dreamers.

    Thanks again!


  69. Marilyn Peake

    Your blog today brings up some really great points, Nathan! I toiled away writing my first four or five novels without benefit of the Internet, and it was a very lonely experience. Iโ€™m not sure I could have gone on to write another novel without publication or communication with other writers. With the Internet, there are a nearly infinite number of ways to get feedback about your manuscript, to get published, and to interact with other writers at all levels of their writing careers. My advice to brand new writers: Stay away from negative, nasty groups. There are so many really positive, helpful writersโ€™ groups out there, itโ€™s never worth losing time with groups that drain your energy and push you more toward giving up your dream rather than fulfilling it. Hereโ€™s to positivity, to Writer Appreciation Week on Nathanโ€™s blog, and to constructive, supportive writersโ€™ communities like the one here on this blog!

    A really great movie to find out how hard itโ€™s always been to get published is JULIE AND JULIA, in theaters right now. Julia Child struggled for years to get her cookbook published. The modern woman, Julie Powell, actually got published much more quickly as a result of having her blog discovered, but she experienced tremendous angst and a very difficult struggle along the way.

  70. Sandy Ladignon

    Great post!

    I've read your last several tribute posts, and I was bummed out. There was this tiny pathetic voice inside me that was asking, "That's great, but what about me?"

    To the pre-published (love that word) writers like me: Keep on writing!

  71. Laura Martone

    As with almost every other commenter here, I appreciate what you do for us, Nathan, week after week – simultaneously preparing us for the big, bad publishing industry and encouraging us to keep on trying. Thank you for that!

    In this sense, you remind me of one of my literary/cinematic heroes, one Professor Grady Tripp, who said, "Nobody teaches a writer anything. You tell 'em what you know. You tell 'em to find their voice and stay with it. You tell the ones that have it to keep at it. You tell the ones that don't
    have it to keep at it too… because that's the only way they're
    gonna get to where they're going. Of course, it does help
    if you know where you wanna go."

  72. Linda Godfrey

    I'm not sure everyone starts out as an unpublished; I have it on good authority that Michael Chabon was born with 14 short stories accepted by various journals and a novella in development. The phone rang in his delivery room and it was his agent.

    Everyone else, though, deserves kindness and encouragement all along the way. My advice to anyone who asks me is to follow this blog and other agent and editor blogs — the advice is literally priceless.

  73. Laura Martone

    Oops, sorry about the spacing with the WONDER BOYS quote… that was not intentional, and I almost deleted the comment and started over… but I'm trying hard to get over the obsessive-compulsive part of my persona.

    Yeah for baby steps!

  74. KayKayBe

    In the spirit of prepublished author week, please visit my blog (we all have to have one, right?)http:/kaykaybe.blogspot.com. about how I've fit writing into my life as a mom of four. (No posts on potty training…well, just one, but it's really old.)
    Thanks for the support, Nathan! It is a rather awkward position to be devoting so many hours to writing something that may or may not make it.

  75. Alicia A

    Thanks Nathan, your blog has been the most helpful forum in my quest to become a good writer. Getting published seemed unattainable when I discovered my passion for writing but now, not so much.

  76. Charlotte

    Thank you for the appreciation *bows modestly*. I feel better now.

    Here's to all prepublished writers: a big hooray and keep at it!

  77. Anonymous

    A supportive family also deserves appreciation, and those unpublished writers who persist in the absence of family support are the truly courageous ones. These include the young writers whose parents or partners ask when they're going to get a "real job" (or move up in the real job when they're devoting nights and weekends to the novel rather than to the job). And the parents whose spouses give them ultimatums and whose teenage kids regard them with contempt (which teenage kids often do anyway, but it's most hurtful when lack of writing success becomes the issue).

  78. Jade

    Thanks Nathan, much love for the appreciation for us unpublished crazies.

    I agree with the idea for Literary Agents appreciation week. I'm constantly blown away by the efforts you guys go to help us crazies. It nice knowing there's someone on our side.

  79. Bane of Anubis

    Anon 11:18, we may not be special, but as long as we feel special, that's all that matters… well, that, and good health.

  80. Bane of Anubis

    Rick, I'll take the yacht, you can have the caviar and champagne ๐Ÿ˜‰

  81. Yamile

    I echo everyone who commented ahead of me: Thanks Nathan! Be my agent! Oh, I know I have to finish my book and edit and revise and query, but when I'm ready, please say yes!

  82. J.J. Bennett

    Bane my love,

    We all are special. Some just ride the short bus… more often than not. We all have our moments. Special… I'm positive each one has something of offer. Whether it's writing?…That might be the case or not. Without the trying we'll never know.

  83. Jen C

    Okay, after all the back pats and encouragement, as an agented writer who has been paid for writing I have to say find your balance between believing in yourself and thinking you're going to be sipping champagne on a yacht with your agent.

    It doesn't happen. And the majority of writers cannot afford to quit their day job until after at least five books published (and some, not even then).

    It does happen. Not to many people, but it does happen. What's the problem with dreaming big? Why dream of having a bit part in a movie when you could dream of being an Academy Award winning actor? Why dream of putting together a couple of science experiments when you could dream of being a Nobel Prize winning scientist?

    I say, dream big. And, when you think you're dreaming big, dream even bigger.

  84. Laurie Boris

    Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. And I do like "pre-published." If only there were a kinder word than "rejection." Perhaps "thanks-but-no-thanks."

  85. Sara J. Henry

    Anyone can write a book – and many of them do.

    It's relatively few who can write good books.

  86. Other Lisa

    I can only add my hearty "amen" here and my vow to play it forward – I've been helped by published writers, and I hope I'm in the position to do the same for others some day. And in the meantime, mentoring, encouragement, constructive critique – I will do my best! And I'll remember what Mira said – my next book is unpublished too.

  87. Jemi Fraser

    I've been climbing the "I wanna be published!" ladder for about a year now. There is so much to learn on top of writing the book! Your blog should be a pre-requisite for all authors who hope to one day send out queries. Thank you!!!

  88. Prue Batten

    Yep, read our works!

    I am POD published in the UK, but then apparently that's 'not really' published and yet the book has achieved a modest fan-base. A top agent recently read my work and then proceded to emasculate me for the road that I had taken out of my own country and into the UK. She read my work and at best speed-read. At worst skipped whole chapters. Her annotations showed glaring errors in her knowledge of the story, her ideas removed emotion and detail AND she returned the ms to the wrong address and with my name misspelled, requesting I re-write fully to her brief and then she would re-read. Her comment was that 'fairytale has no place in contemporary fantasy'.
    So Nathan, this week, 'hug a writer' is fortuitous, read a writer even more so. You restore my faith in the nature of the agent. Thank you.

  89. Nett Robbens

    I was feeling antsy and couldn't focus on the next chapter of my manuscript. Once again, Nathan you're right on target. Thanks for knowing what we "almost-thereโ€ writers need to hear.

  90. Bane of Anubis

    JJ… RE: The Short Bus — LMAO … we've definitely all been on it at one time or another.

    Jen, dream big, work hard, play harder ๐Ÿ™‚

  91. Terry

    Thanks for those kind words, Nathan. I particularly liked this quote:

    "Everyone had to take the same leap of faith to start writing without knowing where it would lead."

    And it's a big leap and who knows where it will lead.

    I think most writers want to connect with people but don't think we fit in well.

  92. Tracy Hahn-Burkett

    There is one other category of people who really know how hard it is to write a book: the people who live with those who try!

  93. Anonymous

    Mr. Bransford, I'm sure it has been said many times by many more important people, but you are so lovely.

    (I don't mean your hair. That's good too, but I don't mean that.)

    I've read your whole blog and I don't think you ever even have any unlovely moments.

  94. Susanne

    I'll say it again — you are a class act. I don't know if you represent what I write but if you did, you would be the first name on my list of dream agents.

  95. Anonymous

    I liked your link to the on tags–I think there's a happy medium, imho.

    Moreso, I liked that you used a quote from Top Gun. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  96. Anonymous

    I liked your link to the post on tags–I think there's a happy medium, imho.

    Moreso, I liked that you used a quote from Top Gun. ๐Ÿ˜‰

  97. The Amateur

    Hey! I'm pre-published!! (And when I want a little blog traffic my comment has to be the last of 101). I have a short story (I know it's not a MS- I'm still researching craft for my W to become IP). Any suggestions on that story would be appreciated. Nathan, I don not know what I would do without such a positive blog! My blog is http://www.collegelackey.blogspot.com. Thanks!

  98. L.H. Parker

    Here, here! Congrats to all the unpublished authors! And hugs all around!

  99. SFixe

    Hi Nathan,

    I've been reading your posts for about six month now. You're wonderful to follow. Each post are smart, funny, intuitive or informative. Many have multiple qualities.

    With this last post I finally thought it was time to be apart of the comments along with your other followers. As a unpublished writer, I plug away each day, happy just to get some words on the page after a busy day and happier to read those words the following day and find that they actually make sense. Ciao.

  100. J.J. Bennett


    All the way! I couldn't have said it better myself! ๐Ÿ˜‰

  101. LeAnneRichards

    This is my first visit to your blog, Nathan, and i would just like to say thank you! Your genuine good nature, and frank common sense is refreshing. I am an author who is fervently searching for good representation, and I believe that a fellow country originator is just what I need!

  102. Anonymous

    "It does happen. Not to many people, but it does happen. What's the problem with dreaming big? Why dream of having a bit part in a movie when you could dream of being an Academy Award winning actor? Why dream of putting together a couple of science experiments when you could dream of being a Nobel Prize winning scientist?

    I say, dream big. And, when you think you're dreaming big, dream even bigger."

    You can say that to your child, that would be appropriate. But we're adults here.

    I know many published authors. NYT best selling authors. And they do not sip champagne with their agents on yachts. I've seen authors who thought they could quit their day jobs because they were "dreaming big." You know what happened to them? They had to swallow their pride, give up the big house and find a day job again.

    The reason I wrote my post was to shed a little light of realism here. I don't think J.K. Rowling was "dreaming big." She was just writing a good book, a series that she saw all at once on a train.

    Use your imagination for your stories, not for your superstar jetsetter lifestyle which I'm telling you, is not a writer's reality except for a tiny handful of Dan Browns. Too much dreaming about an unrealistic lifestyle and not enough dreaming about the writing itself.

  103. Richard Lewis

    Best advice I ever got, pre-published, was also from a pre-published colleague who snapped at me, "Don't write pretty, just tell the damn story."

  104. Kristi

    Hard to find the bottom of all these comments, but had to say:

    That was really nice! We do appreciate that!

    I'll have to do an "agent response" to my Seeker of Agent/Publisher interview. The other side deserves a fair hearing ๐Ÿ™‚

  105. Whirlochre

    The cliff face of the uninevitable is the worst kind of view to have from a writing desk, and it's helpful to wave across the shingle from time to time to other ardent souls who share the same daunting perspective.

  106. Rick Daley

    I don't know if I like caviar, I have yet to try it. I'm also not that fond of the bubbly, I like a dry red wine. Maybe that's why I'm so willing to ruin the caviar by letting the champagne spill on it.

    Isn't wanton wastefulness a sign of true success? Or am I misguided in my measurements?

  107. Anonymous

    Off Topic Question:

    After reading Nate's post about how much time he spends emailing (yikes), I wondered if any of the writer background information in a query really matters.

    I'm considering querying on a 2nd manuscript, and considering whether I should leave this out since it would be repetitious. Any opinions?

  108. Penney

    encouragement accepted and appreciated =)

  109. Ro

    I am sure all of us want to be published, but if we remind ourselves why we write, we can appreciate us, the unpublished by doing what matters most – writing.

  110. Luc2

    Thanks, Nathan.

    You seem to understand us very well. Just wondering, do you have you a WIP or unpublished novel yourself? Or is your blog taking up all your writing time?

  111. Aimless Writer

    One of the best things about being an unpublished writer is that every writer I meet wants to help me. They are an amazing group.

  112. Dan Branda

    To this end, I've begun a new business venture, complete with Workshop Forums at galleysonline.com – I hope to see some visitors from here!

  113. Tara

    Awesome. I needed to see this post today. Thanks.

  114. tinzley

    Thank you, this is confirmation that though the journey may be long, it will not be in vain….I will write until my hand cramps, then I will soak it and write some more. Loved this post!!!

  115. Syven

    Hi Nathan,

    I felt really happy while reading your article, and really concerned also, not only because I am unpublished (Yey !), but mainly because I implemented one of your 10 commandments for the happy writers, the one about helping other writers.

    I think that you don't know about the CoCyclics project, first, because it is a french project handled by SFFF french writers, not famous ones (almost all unpublished by the way). We exchange the beta-reading of our novels (for free). The entrance criterias are strict, but once you are accepted, you get all the support that you could imagine (critics, emulation, and friends who love writing and reading as much as you).
    [If you wish to have a look, guess what it is written in french:
    http://cocyclics.org ]

    A few of us are reading you as well, and so many thanks, because we enjoy your advises.

    And this post is so great, thanks.;-)


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Hi, Iโ€™m Nathan.ย Iโ€™m the author ofย How to Write a Novelย and theย Jacob Wonderbarย series, which was published by Penguin. I used to be a literary agent at Curtis Brown Ltd. and Iโ€™m dedicated to helping authors chase their dreams.ย Let me help you with your book!

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