Tough advice – open letter to new writers

Whether I’m at a conference, on a writer’s board, or reading an email, the lament is always the same:

“I thought writing is tough…geez, that was a snap compared to sending my writing out for query. It’s soul-sucking to receive rejection after rejection. “

Dear New Writer:
Let me just say right now that this business isn’t a matter of slamming down few thousand words and bam, you’re ready to query. You’re up against many extremely savvy writers who understand how the business works.

In the grand scheme of things, who do you think an agent will more likely pay attention to; the new writer who knows next to nothing, or the savvy writer who understands where his book fits in the marketplace, his comparative titles, writes a thorough pitch that is all detail and not filled with description? My money is on the savvy writer.

It’s like the first year intern trying to perform heart surgery. He doesn’t have enough knowledge to do much more than make an incision. So why on earth would a patient ask an intern to clean out his arteries? He’s going to pick a doc who knows what he’s doing.

Take some time to learn the business, and this will cut down on your angst. Treat your writing as a business, not a hobby. There are many brick walls, and the more you know, the more likely you’ll be able to weather those tough times. It will also improve your writing.

I am the biggest fan of [insert genre here] alive, so why can’t I get noticed?

This may be the case, but it doesn’t matter one whit to an agent or editor. You have to learn how to sell your story in an effective manner so you’ll get partial or full requests. That takes understanding the business. Besides, what’s the hurry? It’s far better to know what you’re doing and be confident about it rather than scratching your head wondering why you’re piling up the rejection letters.

Sincerely,
Overworked and Underpaid Editor

7 Responses to Tough advice – open letter to new writers

  1. I’ve known some really talented writers (i.e., I loved their stuff) who gave up because the non-writing part was too much for them.

    It would be interesting to know how common that was, but it would probably also be depressing. Surely some masterpieces have been written that will never see the light of day.

  2. This isn’t a business for the delicate ego or those lacking strong intestinal fortitude. It’s like the surgeon who says, “I love surgery, but hate dealing with patients.” It’s all part of the job, and this business doesn’t hand out contracts to those who can only do the job halfway.

    If they can’t get an agent or editor to notice them, how can they expect to get readers to pay attention during their promotion?

  3. Good point. Also, it’s not a business for those who take rejection personally.

    Or continue to take it personally, I should say. It’s probably common to do so at first, but you have to get over that. And you have to have tremendous confidence in your work.

  4. I see a lot of writers taking rejections personally, as if it’s a rejection of their entire life rather than just this one novel/poem/short story/article. They tend to link their self-worth too much to the sale and when it doesn’t go as they planned, they’re weeping and gnashing their teeth while announcing that they’re either going to leave writing FOREVAH or self-pub, since no one recognizes their AWSOM skills.

    To mangle a phrase – it’s NOT all about you, it’s about what’s viable in the industry.

    excellent post!!!

  5. announcing that they’re either going to leave writing FOREVAH or self-pub, since no one recognizes their AWSOM skills.

    Sheryl, you made me spit coffee on my lap. Good one.

  6. R says:

    Thanks for the tip. I don’t do proposals because I focus on short stories to date but I took a look at a sample one on a site and was really taken aback by the industry knowledge that has to be presented to the editors by the writer in order to garner interest. And the thing is that it was EXPECTED. I thought of it as a mini business proposal. “This is how my product will benefit/fit into the overall objectives of your organization.” etc

  7. Hi R. Yes, proposals aren’t for the weak of heart, and they really are useful to us in trying to decide how best a work will sell and to whom.

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