Serendipity and the Writer
by Chris Angus
One of my oldest friends is a fellow writer. We’ve known each other since we were seven. She was my date for the senior prom in high school and we’ve been close for over fifty years.
My friend teaches creative writing at a small college. I’ve read a good deal of her work and can attest she is a better writer than I am. She has wonderful style and command, which comes, I know, from actually studying the art in great detail. Nevertheless, she’s been less successful in getting her work published. It’s one of the real frustrations of being a writer, to see others less talented do better, part of the fickle nature of the business.
Because I’m not a teacher, I have more time than my friend to actually write, even though I do have my own obligations beyond writing when it comes to making an income. Like most teachers, she plays the game, working to garner sabbaticals, attend writer’s workshops and so forth. But the bottom line is she has to teach, grade papers and, in so doing, spend an awful lot of time reading bad writing. Maybe that teaches one what not to do, but I also think it must have a certain deleterious effect. (I’d love to hear some feedback from teachers about this).
Nevertheless, my friend recently completed a novel that I found nothing less than inspired. In its way, a real work of genius. Of course, she has not been able to find an agent for it, much less a publisher.
And so it goes. What success I’ve had as a writer has always seemed serendipitous, the sort of luck that comes from blind persistence. I’ve been asked many times how one gets an agent. My stock answer: go outside, look up and hope one falls out of a plane and hits you on the head. Actually this is also a good formula for those who insist on buying lottery tickets. Your odds of striking it rich are probably higher if you stand in your backyard hoping for a bag of money to fall on you.
I’ve had three or four agents over my career. Interestingly, none of the books I’ve published (until recently) came as a result of their help (though they did help me to improve the writing and keep positive). Instead, they came from my own persistence in working with regional and university publishers. As I’ve moved from non-fiction to fiction, however, I’ve come to realize that if one hopes to break into the big-time, an agent with connections is indispensable. And this is where the persistence comes in. I found my current agent by working the Writer’s Workshop website. More or less blindly, I contacted at least two hundred agents who specialized in the fields I was interested in. Out of two hundred, I got one who was willing to read my work and, miracle of miracles, liked what he saw.
So what has been the result of my serendipitous discovery of a well-known, connected agent who actually raves about my work? For five years, nothing much. Then, in the space of a few days, I had contracts for my first three novels. After the initial shock and awe, I began to realize this was only the first step to becoming established as an author. There would be much more work to do, blogging, social media, interviews, talking to book clubs and so forth.
The recession, retrenching and consolidating publishing houses and new technologies have begun to change the way we read books. What is happening to the market is daunting. All I can do is keep writing and thank my stars that I appear to have an agent who is as stubborn and persistent as I have to be.
London Underground by Chris Angus
Amazon.com: Paperback | Kindle Edition
Amazon.com: Paperback | Kindle Edition
Synopsis: Beneath the streets of London lie many secrets. Subterranean rivers carve channels through darkened caverns. Hidden laboratories and government offices from WWII offer a maze of corridors and abandoned medical experiments. Lost in the depths of this underground are the contents of a looted Spanish galleon from the days of Henry VIII and a Nazi V-2 rocket that contains the most horrible secret of all.
Carmen Kingsley, in charge of London projects for the British Museum, and Scotland Yard Inspector Sherwood Peets race to unravel the mysteries behind these contents before the great city succumbs to a frightening disease not seen since the age of the Henrys — the English Sweat. It all comes to a climax beneath London with the discovery of a horrifying species of genetically altered “super rats” that threaten to invade London and the British Isles.
Genre – Thriller
Rating – PG
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