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Tuesday, April 27, 2021

A Twelve-Step Program for Writers • Part 3



In 1997, in a few minutes of whimsy, I knocked off twelve lines of highly concentrated and somewhat snarky advice for writers seeking to develop or repair their writing careers. To my surprise these words of wisdom remain available on the SFWA web site. To my even greater surprise Guy Stewart has taken the time and trouble to explicate them in depth. Herewith, Guy’s Commentaries.

—Bruce Bethke

The third step:

We have made a decision to turn our lives and our professional careers over completely to our New Agent. God help us.

As I’ve only had a FIRST agent, this is a tough one to comment on, so I’ll have to rely on the blogosphere:

“I gratefully signed with an agency, and we sold my first and second novels…in a two-book deal. But within twelve months, the blush of first love rubbed off the bloom, and I discovered that my first agent was not my match.” (

“I was about to give up hope and on the verge of falling into a deep depression, when a big fat letter showed up from…a Literary Agency… “Dear Sir, I have read your most extraordinary book and would love to represent you”…someone thought my novel was ‘Extraordinary,’ so I read [in] the contract proposal…that he wanted $1800 to do some polishing of the novel…” (

“…the first agent who took me on was a paragon of imperfection…we communicated only by phone, fax, or letter…She said my first novel was brilliant…I trusted her…she or her assistant rarely returned a call or replied to a fax…I never received a single copy of a rejection letter...The relationship was a black hole…I sent her a registered letter ending the relationship.” (

From what I can tell so far, God IS the only one who can help here…I don’t mean that in a bad way, but as a Christian, I have a decent idea about what I can control and what I have to leave in His hands. I can’t control anyone but myself (and if you put me in a room with a fresh Boston Cream Pie, I cannot even guarantee that…)

So according to Bruce Bethke, that is exactly what I’m going to be doing!



Guy Stewart is a husband supporting his wife who is a multi-year breast cancer survivor; a father, father-in-law, grandfather, foster father, friend, writer, and recently retired teacher and school counselor who maintains a writing blog by the name of POSSIBLY IRRITATING ESSAYS ( where he showcases his opinion and offers his writing up for comment. He has 72 stories, articles, reviews, and one musical script to his credit, and the list still includes one book! He also maintains GUY'S GOTTA TALK ABOUT BREAST CANCER & ALZHEIMER'S, where he shares his thoughts and translates research papers into everyday language. In his spare time, he herds cats and a rescued dog, helps keep a house, and loves to bike, walk, and camp.


NEXT THURSDAY: Step 4, We have made a searching and fearless inventory of every old unsold scrap and fragment of manuscript in the bottoms of our filing cabinets, in hopes of finding something we can sell to somebody, somewhere. 

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