Monday, February 21, 2011

Good advice, But how?

I came across a great post today by Janet Reid. The basics are don't talk about being in the query process. As some of you might imagine, I'm of two minds on this advice.

One: Oh, yeah, I see where she's coming from. Crazy, delusional, writers complaining about waiting for the queries to be answered. Obsessive writers who analyze every word of their form rejection letter. Writers who are having dreams about the query process (did I mention I had another crazy query letter dream? Why do I have an overactive Crazy F**ing Dream Department?). I can see that we aren't putting our best foots forward when we complain about long waits and "what the hell does 'not right for me' mean?" (And for the record, I do have a clue--Thank you Miss Snark!--I don't like some books that I should love, so I'm betting its exactly the same for agents!).

Two: I can see that we writers are shooting ourselves in the foot by putting this stuff out there, but I have a confession. Every time I've held a secret close to my heart, letting it fester for years, the first person I tell it to says "Oh My God! I thought I was the only one who felt that way!" Strange, but it's happened to me a lot.

The query process feels like this one big question to the world for validation. I know it isn't, but it feels like it. It seems like writers need some form of acknowledgment from an agent before they can feel like a real writer. And for all of us amateurs (yeah, one master's thesis, a dissertation languishing in revision hell, three utterly unpublishable books, three manuscripts I'm still hopeful for, and I'm as amateur as they come), querying is a step towards this mythical validation. I know that querying isn't the biggest step, but it sure is the first step on the yellow brick road. It feels like the biggest step (oh, yeah, that's my amateur speaking, see how it doesn't even know the big steps from the little ones?). The funny thing is that we've been trained nearly from birth about the first step. How many times has Bugs warned Elmer about that first step. You know, the one that's the dosy?

Clearly, I've said too much. I've mentioned that I'm querying. I've even mentioned that I'm on hold pending a really real edit that should help me feel like my work is ready--whatever that means. Shoot, the whole reason I started this blog, you know using my real name and everything, was to talk about the process. So how can I maintain that and not talk about queries?

Why is life always full of these kinds of damned if you do, damned if you don't moments?

So, I guess, I'll just have to use a regular old paper journal for a while and I'll talk about the process after I've been through it.

Thanks again Shark!

1 comment:

  1. I don't think it's a black and white issue. There are a lot of shades of gray.

    For example, I don't think there's anything wrong with saying you're querying, or sharing what worked or what didn't, or even posting your query and asking for help. There's also nothing wrong with admitting it's taking a long time or you're getting discouraged. That's normal, it's human, and everybody needs an outlet for it.

    The problem comes in when some people don't know how to be professional about it. I've seen people response-shame agents and editors, practically taking to their blogs to whine about how long it's taking or how much they want to work with so-and-so. I've also seen people diss the agents who have their queries because they're taking too long. That kind of stuff is definitely not cool.

    So my rule of thumb is this: don't worry about talking about querying agents in the broad sense. But do use common sense. Don't name names. Don't post responses. Don't suck up. Basically, don't do unto others anything you wouldn't want done unto you, and you'll be fine.

    And that includes being honest about the query process.

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