Wednesday, November 07, 2012

All the Publisher's Men ... and Women

In my last post I compared using the tool of the Synopsis in writing the first draft of a manuscript to the way that a tattoo artist lays down a stencil before they start applying the ink.  And I don't know why these metaphors are necessary for me, but for some reason I enjoy making these real-life comparisons to the process of getting published, probably because in no way is trying to get published really a part of anything comparable in the real world.  The only exception to this statement would be the basic structure of the very-real business, with a protocol that exists even to this day, and this formality does demand respect.

Which is why I have a new metaphor, this time, one that inspires me as I try to land the elusive Literary Agent.

When I was a kid I used to love the movie "All the President's Men" with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman.  The story of Washington Post journalists Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein, the movie follows the reporters' every move as they take the notes and make the rotary-phone calls to chase the leads, and ends as they blow apart the Watergate scandal that led to the resignation of President Richard Nixon in 1974.  It's exhilarating filmmaking, and it's amazing that I don't have such a soft spot for all of the nine hundred "Law and Order" and "NCIS" shows that are on television right now, but I do not.

But what I do have is an appreciation for the meticulousness that these characters portray, and I think that landing an agent from the pages and pages of listings and specifics that agents want and require is kind of like finding that break in the story, that one lead that's going to give us the prize.  In a reporter's case, it's the confirmation from a source that a story can go to print, but for the novelist it's the agreement that the agent will take them on as a client.  Either way the process of examining every lead, so to speak, is very similar.

And so it is helping me at this stage to imagine that I'm at least one of those Washington Post reporters (I guess I would prefer to be Dustin Hoffman) in a version of "All the President's Men" that would resemble something a little more modern, like the aforementioned cop shows where they sit in front of a computer data base as a flickering list of suspects flow by for their consideration.  Truth is, the same task-oriented attention to detail that writers have is the same skill that is needed, which is strange when one thinks of how artists make terrible business people.  But research we can do, like Dr. Walter Bishop in his lab on "Fringe," but that's a metaphor for another post.