National Novel Writing Month writer Jason M. Hough started a science fiction novel during NaNoWriMo in 2008. After a lot of work, he edited the manuscript, found an agent and published The Darwin Elevator with Del Rey last month.
During an Ask Me Anything interview on reddit, Hough shared this invaluable advice for getting an agent:
I made a list of agents I thought seemed like a good match, and had Sara Megibow at the top of my list because she seemed like a good personality fit. She was still pretty “green” then, had energy in abundance, and did not exude sleaziness. So I sent out only one query, assuming she’d decline but perhaps I’d get some feedback. Instead she signed me, and that was that! Biggest thing with agents is to do your homework. It’s amazing how many queries they get, but even more amazing how many are dismissed instantly. Wrong genre, addressed to wrong person, spelling or grammar mistakes, etc. Honestly you’ll be ahead of 80% of queries if you just do an hour of research before sending one.
Hough also shared a bit about his writing schedule:
Yes, had a normal office job the entire time. Thanks to my trooper of a wife, I got up every morning at 4:30 and went to the coffee shop to write. I couldn’t do it at home because we have two young kids. I’d write from 5am to 7am then be at the office by 7:30 so that I could be home before 5 to watch the kids and give my wife a break. It was rough but it did work. 2 hours a day proved to be enough (plus the weekends and many of my lunch breaks).