Okay, I am bad. Very, very bad. I totally forgot I had a blog. Bad me! I'll try to make it up to you by updating my blog at least 3 times a week. Sadly, my life is pretty uneventful right now. I am studying a lot on my own time. I tend to study theory and structure in literature, read a lot of fantasy (I've caught the Sanderson virus and am reading "Elantris").
I'd like to put down a few words about "Elantris", actually. One is that yes, it's a good book. Interesting, quick-paced, and it helps young or unpublished authors to see a good, unique structure for their first novel. One of the things Sanderson did right was to start the book off instantly. He lets the world grow AROUND the problems of the characters. He doesn't focus instantly on the world. It's an interesting and good way to start a book for a new author for fantasy. Most fantasy authors (myself included, though hopefully not for long) attempt to create a bond between the characters and the world through world-building right off the bat. Yes, it's interesting (to us), and yes, it makes sense (again, to us), but is it entertaining? New and unpublished authors should always write to entertain. This I learned from a dear friend of mine when we were discussing the topics of fantasy and literature in general, how to get an agent interested in you, and why your work might not be selling.
A good query is always the start to finding an agent, and there are a multitude of Websites that can help you advance and work on your query letter. Keep in mind, ye folk of art, that agents don't JUST respond to queries about literature. Some take on television scripts, movie scripts, graphic novel scripts, and even high-image content novels (not quite graphic novels, but not picture books, either). ALWAYS check what an agent wants from your book. ALWAYS research the agent. I tended, for a while, to only contact fantasy agents. BIG mistake. I know now that my work suits fantasy/horror readers much better, and now I plant to edit my work to target that audience.
Back to Sanderson, though. What is it about his book that sells? The fact that he can grab his readers with a sympathetic main character, while backing him up with strong secondary characters, makes the book appealing. Also, the antagonist is NOT a bad person--just a devout one. He admits many times that he (the antagonist) does not want bloodshed. This is all very good for a beginning author in fantasy. Sanderson messes with the common tropes of good and evil. But there are hints in his work that he is a first-time author. Sentence structure, for one, is a common way to tell if someone is a first-time writer. Shockingly, another first-time author, Alan Campbell, did not make these mistakes (I use the term lightly--they aren't exactly mistakes, just how the sentence feels. For example, saying, "The expression on his face" rather than, "His expression," feels bulky. I'd go with number two, but it's a personal choice) as much as Sanderson did. This might be because he had editors who recognized flow better, or he himself can better see how sentences should flow. Sanderson fixes this problem in his "Mistborn" series (of which I am an avid fan), but his lack of structural flow in the first book definitely shows there is hope for authors. Focus less on structure (though don't avoid it completely--good structure is key!) and more on how to break down and create a novel that will have heads turning.
Finally, keep in mind that you are not writing for yourself. This is a mistake many young authors make, and I know for a fact I have made it. The first draft is for you. Maybe even the second. By the third draft, though, you are writing to entertain an audience. If you can't keep a reader interested, then your novel needs work. Be willing to make compromises with yourself. Ask yourself, "How would turning the male lead character into a female change the novel?" If it makes it better, try it. There's always an "undo" button and earlier drafts to refer to. Changes aren't permanent. Once you've become a big star, you can release the original version of your book for readers. They might agree with you. For now, though, work with yourself and pretend like you're working with an agent. That little voice in the back of your head that says, "Vampires are dead. Fishmen are what're cool now!" may actually have a point.
Keep writing, my friends!