Friday, December 17, 2010

A grain of salt

There are two main reasons I started this blog. First was to keep myself motivated, to ensure I didn't chicken out on my journey or say, 'I can't do it, it's hopeless.' The second reason was to post resources or helpful information to other aspiring writers. Encourage them as well as myself. So far, I haven't posted a lot of information. There's a few links I put in the sidebar, but mostly, I haven't found any writer's insight that I thought, 'OMG I have to blog this!' There's been a few articles I retweeted, but it wasn't until today that I felt I had some insight worthy of blogging.

There's a number of authors and writer advice sites I follow on twitter. Every day I look through, click links that interest me, read through articles in hopes of finding something useful. I usually do find something helpful. Whether it be an article on grammar or general writing advice, there's always something. Today, though, there was an article that put a knot of dread in my stomach. The article talked about tips for writing a query letter or cover letter and once sentence in particular stuck fear into my little, writer's heart. It was utterly demotivating.

I quote: 'The biography in your cover or query letter should be good—and while this article stresses the importance of having strong publication credits, it’s not unheard of that a writer with no experience at all will gain national attention'

Now while the first part is true and the whole article had good tips. It was the second part that made me deflate. The way it was worded made it sound like if you're a writer with NO experience you have a slim to none chance because agents and editors really only care about queries by a writer with a degree or an arm's lengths list of publication credits. (Later in the article it stated not to worry, every writer starts out with no publishing credits. Even then the tone sounded patronizing, like the person writing that article is laughing at all us inexperienced and uneducated writers.) And maybe there are people who believe that. That's their prerogative.

After reading the article, I felt quite discouraged, a glimmer of doubt and worry wiggling into my mind. Then I remembered another article I read the other day and the doubt and worry was quickly defeated when I pulled it up and reread it. The article basically said that every bit of advice out there a writer should take with a grain of salt. Advice can be right and wrong at the same time. It depends on the individual. What works for me may not work for you.

That's what made me feel better, reminding me that the previous article was just advice, one person's suggestion on how to approach agents and it may not be the best approach for me. I need to find my own way to write my story or approach an agent or hook an editor. It's up to me to slog through all the advice, experiment with each suggestion and find out what works for me. Same for you. All you can do is try it, see how it works. If it does, hooray! You've found a great way to improve your writing. If not, don't sweat it, move onto the next bit of advice. Never give up, keep trying, keep experimenting and one day you'll find the perfect equation for you. That's my advice for you.

The articles mentioned in today's blog:
Write and wrong
Query letter and cover letter tips


  1. Ah the written word is so subjective. The sentence you quoted and thought was demoralizing, I found to be good news. The sentence said to me that it IS possible for writers with no credentials to gain national attention.

    Despite the fact that she (?) wrote it backwards and thus in a somewhat negative tone, it's still good.

    Every single published author out there started as an unpublished writer. We all start somewhere.

    Chin up! Write on!!

  2. Hi Patricia. About eight weeks ago, I sent off my query package (at an agent's request) and didn't mention any writing credits at all. I talked about my book, you know, the page length, genre, major plot points, etc. and only mentioned that my experience as a substitute teacher was the inspiration behind my story (about a greenhorn substitute who takes on a class of Indigos with psychic powers). I have yet to hear back from the agent (supposed to take ten to twelve weeks), but this pitch did quite well in the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Awards contest this year, pushing my manuscript to the quarter finalists (250 out of 5,000 entries). It's all about story!

  3. Yes, it's the big Catch-22. The old, "You can't get published without previous publication credits." but you can't get the credits without getting published.

    ...Any yet, people manage to get published. So don't lose hope. Maybe start small, a short story to a little magazine looking for new writers. Of course, I've had no luck with this approach myself, so take it for what it's worth.

    Just stick with it. If you write something that's truly good, then sooner or later someone who's not a complete idiot will be willing to publish it.

  4. Hey, your post here gave me some ideas for some stand-alone pages on my Encyclopedia of Sheep blog. I've been wanting to make some for a while, but I wasn't sure what. Your post here gave me the little jog I needed. They're a little "writer's advise" if you're interested. In the "Getting Published" one, I expand a little more on what I was saying above. I don't know that it's very helpful,'s my solution.

  5. patricia, I loved your personal narrative. And was so happy, as I was reading it, to get to this part:
    "...every bit of advice out there a writer should take with a grain of salt. Advice can be right and wrong at the same time. It depends on the individual. What works for me may not work for you."
    If you remember nothing else, really believing this quote is one of the most valuable things you can do for yourself.
    Also, I liked and appreciated the realization you reached in the final paragraph. I have found that I am learning so much (especially about myself)from this whole process and the end result(publishing or not/method of publishing...whatever) may not be half as important as that.