Thursday, December 2, 2010

Don't raise red flags on yourself (or your writing)

There are times when writers are really good at self-inflicting wounds on their chances of success. For instance, here are a few examples I've encountered recently:
  1. Writer who can't seem to find representation for his fictional novel based on real events. First off, this writer called his novel fictional, which is redundant. Beyond that faux pas, the writer spends more time discussing the possibility of his novel being too close to the real story than pitching the story. As a result, most agents and editors are scared off from repping this novel for legal reasons. However, if it's like most novels (99% of which are based off real events), there's probably no need to worry. The writer is shooting himself in the foot by raising a flag in his initial queries.
  2. Writer who is too old or young to be published. Almost every time I do a standard Q&A session with writers, I have one (or more) people who seem to think their age is going to limit their chances of success. Personally, I've worked with scores of freelancers, and I don't know how old any of them are.
  3. Writer who didn't take enough writing courses in college to be published. Here's another secret: I don't know whether any of my freelancers went to college or not (outside of the freelancers who volunteered that information in their queries). Out of the freelancers who did volunteer their college diplomas, I can't recall any of those qualifications right now. I only know which freelancers turned their work in on time and wrote great articles.
Basically, I advise all writers to focus on pitching their projects in their queries. If you think something might stop an editor or agent from taking you seriously, just leave it out of your pitch. If this means your query focuses 100% of its attention on the manuscript or story idea, that's fine. Instead of providing editors and agents with reasons to reject you, focus on the reasons they should give you a chance.

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15 comments:

poetcolette said...

That is grand advice, especially the last 1/2 of your last sentence.

Elizabeth Varadan aka Mrs. Seraphina said...

Thanks for this post and such good advice.

David said...

Well said Robert. I hate people who shorten my name from "David" to "Dave" and appreciate so much when I am introduced to people who are sensitive enough to ask how I wish to be called. Since I have been using my full name, I have had less problems with this.

David Wilson Atwood
Author of "Where the Mockingbird Sang, a novel of the Civil War"

Robert Lee Brewer said...

David, I've been called everything--by strangers, mind you--including Rob, Bob, Robby, Bobby, Bo, Bill (which I've always thought of as only applying to William), and others. It's perplexing, for sure.

worddreams said...

When you put it this way, Robert, they sound so obvious. Nicely done.

Aurora Falsestart said...

It seems the advice which practically tells itself is the best. Excellent post.

Word Crafter said...

Why do I come away from reading this article with "I knew that" on my mind. I do, but it is so easy to forget when you are shaking in your boots and submitting.
by the way the name problem - oh ya! As Billie I hear it all and hate being addressed in emails as Billy especially in answer to something I said. And no I am not Wilhelmina or any of those other names.
Billie

Robert Lee Brewer said...

These are all things that are obvious to me only because I've been working in the industry for more than a decade. As a writer, I often raised many flags on myself starting out.

Marta Stephens said...

Several of your points have hit home! Thanks for sharing.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Thank you for reading, Marta!

Wanda said...

Enjoyed reading your post. I liked when you said, "Spend the time pitching your story, and not inflicting concerns for the editor."
I will use this as my guide when I do my next pitch.
Thanks!
Wanda

Joan A. said...

I can relate to your name. My name is Joan and that's what I like to be called. I don't understand why some people want to add or delete letters and they decide what to call you.
Great advice and great article. Writers should be building themselves and their work up, not putting everything down. As a psychologist, I find that self esteem is sadly lacking in the world today.

Robert Lee Brewer said...

Joan, I think many writers think there are only two ways to handle themselves--either with an aggressive cockiness or a complete lack of confidence that almost apologizes for having an interest in writing. The best freelancers figure out the best place to be is somewhere in between these two extremes.

KSCollier said...

Awesome advice. Every tip helps. Do your homework, and all else will fall into place. Thanks for the opportunity to learn before querying.

Monica Miller said...

I needed to hear that. Thank you.