When Writers Receive Conflicting Advice
|He received conflicting advice!|
This same phenomenon happens to writers, too. For any piece of advice you find on the Internet, in writing classes and in craft books, or from other writers, you will be able to find the exact opposite advice some place else. Here's my recent example.
I sent a query for a middle-grade novel to an agent who was offering to look at queries and provide feedback! This was an awesome experience, and although he did not agree to represent me, he did give me some terrific ideas on how to improve my query and get my book idea across to an agent--I can tell by his comments that I should work on my query and first five pages some more.
But the weirdest thing is that he said in a query letter, I should not tell agents what happens in the end of the book. Keep them guessing.
Maybe some of you are nodding your heads. I think my critique group members may have said the same exact thing. But I have been in COUNTLESS conference sessions with real, live agents and editors and heard them say time and time again. . .put the ending of your novel in the query. Tell us what happens. Don't keep us guessing.
So what is a writer to do? Take a poll? Drink some wine? Write some query letters with the ending and the others without and see what happens?
I've been thinking about this all night, ever since I read his feedback. What should I do with this query letter rewrite? But then I realized that the conflicting advice is really a bigger issue, and it happens all the time--there seems to always be a writer who says black, and another who says white. An agent that wants hot, and another that wants cold. And so on.
What can we do?
1. Do your homework. Try to research the person the best you can with the tools (the Internet) available to you, and see if anywhere in a blog post, tweet, bio, etc. the agent/editor suggests what he or she wants in a query, a first chapter, a book, and so on.
2. Write from your heart. Once you've done your homework, write a query letter from your heart. (I HAVE to work on this--get out of my brain and to my heart.) I am passionate about my writing. It DOES NOT COME out in my query letter. I am not even sure if it's coming out in those first couple of manuscript pages. I have to let that passion come out--even for a humorous middle-grade mystery novel.
3. Believe in yourself. I know that I can write a good query letter. I know that I can write a first chapter of a novel. I'm sure there are things you know about yourself and your writing. Once you've done your homework and poured your heart into your work, then you have to believe in it. No one else will if you don't.
It will be hard to find conflicting advice to the three above, but I suppose there could be someone out there writing a non-inspirational blog post that says you don't need to believe in yourself. .. naw, no way. So, listen, read what you can, straight from the source if possible, do your very best job, but most of all enjoy yourself. You are writing. You are following a dream. There are so many people in this world that are not doing either one of those. Pat yourself on the back.
Margo L. Dill is teaching several online children's writing and novel writing classes in 2014. To see a schedule and sign up, visit the WOW! classroom page. She also blogs at The Lit Ladies, where they are having a Holiday Book Sale, with free gift-wrapping included. More details here: http://www.thelitladies.com/holiday-book-sale/