Rachelle Gardner put up a post on Friday asking whether the amount of information available to aspiring writers was making things harder, rather than easier. It was a great post, and definitely worth reading. I put a comment there, but I wanted to expand on it here.
I don’t think it has anything to do with the amount of information available, comprehensive, transparent, thorough, or not.
I think it has to do with the general frustration among writers trying find something objective in a subjective medium.
In life, we’re taught that 1 + 1 = 2. If we follow a map, we’ll get to our destination. If you refer to this flowchart here, you’ll find out whether you have appendicitis or an upset stomach.
When we submit and are met with rejection, it’s so tempting to say, “Well, that agent just wasn’t clear about what she wanted! If that other agent hadn’t said to put the word count at the start of the query, I would have put it at the END, and then I would have gotten a full request, for SURE.”
I think the bottom line is that people seek an outlet for blame. It’s human nature to look outside ourselves to find a reason for our failures.
I wish people would stop diagnosing their failures this way. It’s such a waste of time. Time that could be spent writing a better novel, or playing with our children, or finding a new place to eat ice cream. It’s futile. It’s negative energy. It needs to go.
I have an agent. She’s fantastic. She signed me last year and she’s an amazing fit. I’m lucky to have her. Really.
But let’s talk about luck for a second. When Tamar asked for the partial, it was a day after another agent had asked for a partial. That agent only wanted 30 pages, Tamar wanted 50. Because I am anal and compulsive about following rules, I had no doubt I was sending everything precisely right. But because I’d formatted 30 pages double spaced the day before, I forgot to reformat 50 pages to double spaced. What I actually sent Tamar was 30 pages double spaced, and 20 pages single. I basically snuck an extra 20 pages in there.
When I realized what I’d done — two days later — I emailed Tamar to apologize, saying I didn’t want to interrupt her, but I didn’t want her to think I was being sneaky, either.
Much later, I received a request for the full manuscript.
It was the only full request I got.
Don’t get me wrong. I had a ton of partial requests. Tamar got more pages than anyone, and she asked for the full. And now when I look back, I realize that those extra 20 pages saved me. Because that’s when we first got to see our hero play the role of the gentleman. Up to that point, he’d been a real ass.
My mistake? That was luck.
Everything else? Hard work.
When Tamar first called me, she asked for a metric ton of revisions. I have never worked so hard on anything in my life. Never. She wanted me to cut a hundred pages and add a sex scene.
Cut a hundred pages. Add a sex scene.
I did it. I lost a month of sleep.
Then she signed me, and she asked for more revisions. More work. Another month of sleep? Gone. It was hard. Very hard.
That manuscript? It didn’t sell.
I could sit here and belabor the point about why. But what good would that do? It didn’t sell. We all tend to get so wrapped up in whose fault it was. Who cares? First off, if my novel doesn’t sell, there’s only one person to blame: me. ME. I wrote it. I put those words on paper. If it didn’t sell, it wasn’t the right time, the right story, the right whatever.
The point isn’t to look for things or people to blame.
The point is to keep writing. To keep getting better. To keep looking forward. I started something new, and it kicks the ass of my first manuscript. Personally, I’m almost embarrassed about that first one.
The point is to stop worrying about all the rules. I broke one, and it worked. There’s a great quote from some writer out there, that says, “The only person who can make someone stop reading is you.”
Learn. Keep writing. Don’t stop.
Anything less is like sitting in the driver’s seat with your foot on the accelerator, forgetting to put the car in gear.
It feels like you’re moving, but really? You’re not going anywhere.