Agent Monday: On Writing and Fear

Yvette from her facebook profileHappy Agent Monday, everyone! Today, I’m excited to feature a guest post by my client, extraordinary author Yvette Ward-Horner. It’s all about writing and fear. Yvette has plenty of experience facing fear both on and off the page. Her stunning debut novel LOOK WELL tackles the realities of climbing; the glory, the fear, the bonds that emerge from suffering. It also examines the choice that some of us make to abandon the mainstream blueprint for success and instead pursue a different type of life. Yvette writes with true authority. In real life, she happens to be a climber herself (that’s a picture of her on that icy mountainside). So, take it away, Yvette!

guest post by Yvette Ward-Horner

“Doubt and uncertainty, fear and intimidation are at the heart of the novel-writing process.” – John Dufresne


It’s there with you when you write those first words; it’s still there later when you type The End and blow your nose and think Is it really over? And all the way through your story or novel, as you coax and smooth the words out (or are charged and trampled by them), fear will twist your thoughts and crumple your hopes.

This sucks.

I’m a hack.

No one will like this story.

And then there’s the flip-side, of course; you know that too. If you write, you’ve surely spent hours or days or weeks with the words rushing out, high on your talent and the sheer raw joy of writing.

This book will be huge.

How could it not sell?

It’s a page-turner.

But it never lasts. Maybe you get a new rejection, maybe your spouse is thoughtless, or maybe you just eat too much hard salami. You re-read your work and it’s suddenly not quite so clever. Your metaphors flop, your plot twist rattles, and why would anyone care about your protagonist?

No one will like this story.

This book is awful.

And there you are again.

As a writer and climber, I know fear well, in all its forms and stages of intensity. It may seem that the fears of the writer and the fears of the climber have very little in common, but under the fraying nerves, there’s a common message. Stop what you’re doing. You won’t make it. Give up now.

And so much of the danger is simply imagined.

I might fall.

I might fail.

That whisper in the back of the mind.

But what can be done? How can you make yourself brave? You’re hoping right now that I’ll teach you some magic; a Zen trick, a swift path to courage. You want to cling tight to that muse-fed bliss when it comes, joyfully streaming your visions onto the page, secure in the knowledge that your talent is strong, your prospects rosy, your novel a thing of beauty.

But there—you feel it already. That rustle of doubt. Sit still for a moment and let it rustle, feel it twisting: yes, it’s deep and ugly. Now turn away and get on with what you were doing.

That’s all you can do.

The stark fact is that fear is just part of writing, like seductive adverbs and wayward commas and plot threads that lead you miles in the wrong direction. And it can’t be escaped. It makes you doubt everything sooner or later – your characters, your scenes, yourself. It sits in your chest and whispers give up and it can make you abandon a book before it’s finished. If you let it.

And that’s the key to this whole thing: If you let it.

Because fear will never kick you free, no matter how much you scold it or wring your hands, no matter the quality of your positive self-talk and the inspirational quotes you post on Pinterest. Getting published won’t get rid of it – if anything, it makes it slightly worse. All you can do, then, is learn to abide with it; let it be part of your writing and your life. On the days that your book is singing to you, write. On the days that fear is darkly muttering, write. Finish that beautiful novel you’re writing; surge on your flows of hope and ebb with dignity. Let fear ride with you, but don’t let it dictate your actions.

And never let it decide the course of your life.


Yvette headshot from websiteYvette Ward-Horner is author of the debut novel LOOK WELL. Her short stories have been published in print and online literary journals and several have been reprinted in anthologies. Her short story THE NOMADS won first place in the Literary/Mainstream category of the Writer’s Digest Magazine’s 78th Annual Writing Competition. An avid mountain climber, Yvette lives in the Rocky Mountains, where she climbs as much as possible and is a member of the local Search and Rescue team. You can connect with her on her website here and friend her on Facebook here.


Agent Monday: On New Clients!

MP900386332Hi gang!  Happy New Agent Monday to you all (though a bit belated today…sorry). Even though I’ve been slightly crazed dashing around traveling the past few days, I just had to make a quick stop here and share some thoughts on what it’s like getting a new client.

First thought: Exciting!

Many queries I get just aren’t up to snuff, or are perfectly fine, yet not for me.  Then I’ll get a query that makes me sit up and think, hello!  So I’ll eagerly read the attached first 20 pages I request in my guidelines. And all too often those 20 pages just don’t do it for me.

But once in a while, those pages really sing. That’s what happened a week ago when I got the opening pages to a debut novel titled LOOK WELL.  Holy smokes. The writing was riveting. I requested the novel immediately. That was on a Friday. Got the full 2 hours later, loaded it onto my Kindle, and dove in, reading it throughout Saturday, finishing it in the wee hours of the morning. YES!

So, exciting! Exciting that the book fulfilled the promise it’d set up. Exciting that it made me eager to jump up and grab the phone and call the author immediately. (But I had to wait a few hours first…we are in different time zones.)

Second thought: Hopeful!

Okay, so far things are going along smoothly, but now I have to hope that when I talk with the client, we’re on the same page (ha-ha) about what our working relationship will be, about possible edits, about promotion. And I’m hopeful that I can convey just how special I feel the writing is, and what I in particular as an agent can do for her work…stuff like helping with any in depth editing cuz I’m a writer too, offering my experience in book promo, my unending enthusiasm, plus the backing of The Jennifer De Chiara Literary Agency, a fabulous group that includes its own film and foreign rights agents.  Also, I’m hopeful that the author and I communicate well with each other, since we need to be able to work positively together for the long haul.

So I call and we talk and everything is AWESOME, but, like many great manuscripts, this full manuscript is being looked at by several other agents, so that leads us to…

Third thought: Anxious!

Here’s the part you never hear about. The part where the tables are turned, and the agent hopes that you, the writer, will choose me, the agent as your representative. I’ve basically made my pitch, and I’m ready to go, but I also want the writer to make the choice that she feels is best for her. That’s what a good working relationship is about. (Of course I know I’m the right choice.) 😉 So I suggest she get back to me in a week and give those agents already reading the manuscript notice that she has an offer of representation and give them till the end of the week to let her know.

This part of the gig can go different ways. Sometimes the author tells me right away I’m going to be her agent, and simply lets the other agents know. Sometimes the author gives the other agents a time frame to also make an offer (which I absolutely understand). And then I wait to see if I will rep this author that I’ve fallen in love with or not. Kinda like college admissions where students spend years trying to build up an application worthy of an offer, then, once they get multiple offers from colleges, the colleges have to hope the student now will choose them. It doesn’t always work out, and that can be disappointing, but I always tell authors that whatever they decide, I know they will do great and I thank them for the opportunity to read their work. They should be very proud of the level of writing they’ve achieved. Which brings me to my final thought…and an announcement.

Final thought: Yes!

I’ve just signed my newest client Yvette Ward-Horner, author of the breath-taking debut novel LOOK WELL, which is about a woman obsessed with blazing a new trail up one of Alaska’s most treacherous peaks, and the two men who risk their lives and hearts for her. Yvette has had a number of short stories in journals and anthologies, and her story The Nomads won first place in the Literary/Mainstream category of Writer’s Digest Magazine‘s Annual Writing Competition. She’s an experienced climber who also is on a search and rescue team. No wonder her writing is so believable!

I’m thrilled to have her join my list of incredibly talented clients. You can check out my list of fabulous authors here.