Sometimes the Magic Works

Memoir & Writing Guide

erry has had years to perfect his craft of writing and he has proven over and over again that he is an authority on the subject with each subsequent New York Times bestseller. For as easy as he makes it look, however, it is anything but—writing takes determination, passion, daily humility, personal commitment and the ability to accept defeat only to rise above it and try again.

To try to help people write better, Terry wrote his memoir/writing guide Sometimes the Magic Works in 2003. In it, he details the steps he goes through to write a book from the moment the idea is conceived to its creation as a printed manuscript on his desk. It is 200 pages of sage writing advice for the beginning and expert writer alike. If you want to be a writer and you want advice from Terry, Sometimes the Magic Works is the best place to get it.

After the magic has worked and you have a completed manuscript, what then? This part of the website will catalogue Terry’s answers to the writing questions asked of him via Ask Terry, as well as give a brief overview of the different avenues a writer can take to become a published author.

Luck is important, and sometimes the magic works.

What is the first step to becoming a published writer?

  • The first thing to do is write something—and finish it. So many writers think about being published before they have anything completed. One preceeds the other and it has always been so. Therefore, finish whatever it is you are working on and then begin to worry about how to get your novel published.

What is a query letter? Why is it important?

  • A query letter is the means by which a writer tries to entice an agent or editor into reading their work. It should contain what your story is about, if you have any publishing credits to your name, and what authors your work is most similar to and why it will sell well. Agents and editors like knowing you’ve written a book, but they especially like knowing why it will sell. Often, the query letter is the most difficult—and most important—part of the process; it is difficult condensing one’s story down into a single-spaced, single page letter while garnering an agent or editor’s interest. If an agent or editor is not intrigued by your query letter, they will not read your manuscript—it’s that simple. So make the query letter the best it can be: do this by researching how to write a proper query letter and researching your intended agent or editor extensively.

How do you pick an agent or editor to send your manuscript to?

  • Research. Lots and lots of research. Take a good look at the finished manuscript you have and compare it to others in the field. Then decide what published writers are closest to what you’ve written and find out who publishes them and who represents them. Read the current Writers Market, which contains most of the agents and editors in the publishing industry and their guidelines for submission, and then submit to those agents who represent writers similar to your own work. Also use the websites AgentQuery and QueryTracker, as they are extremely helpful. Much of this information can also be found online or on the acknowledgments page of the book. Writers often thank their agents and editors in these places. Writing retreats and conferences are also a great way to meet agents and editors in your particular field while building relationships with them that might lead to your book being read. In short, query the agents and editors you think would like your book based on what they’ve represented in the past.

And that is merely the tip of the proverbial iceberg

Please visit the Writing Ask Terry section, where Terry has already answered a multitude of questions about the craft of writing, how he goes about doing it, and the publishing industry as a whole. Also read the Writing FAQ where many questions are already answered.

And if you have additional questions that have not been answered by Terry before, feel free to send Terry a question on the Ask Terry page or write Shawn to ask your question.