QueryTracker Blog

Helping Authors Find Literary Agents

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Keep at it.

She told me the editor made her cry.

This is not a joke, and not an amalgamation-type person, but I'm obfuscating and declarificating her identity because I don't want to identify her. She has a career in publishing now. But she nearly didn't.

She sought out a well known publishing individual at a conference and asked for that person's opinion, and the person told her flat-out that her work was awful and would never get her anywhere, and she should stop. This person told me that she started to cry, and she never wrote again.

I'm writing this post because she's not alone.

Person #2 showed her work to a writer she greatly admired. That writer brushed her off, said her work was amateurish and clumsy, and she shouldn't keep writing.

Person #3 went into a conference and chose her conference track specifically to interact with one individual. That individual couldn't make it at the last minute, so the conference assigned her to someone else, and that individual trashed her work, called it juvenile, said no one reads that kind of stuff, and told her to stop writing.

Are you mad yet? Because I'm mad.

Person #2 kept going and is doing great. Person #3 stopped writing for two years and then one day woke up with a character who demanded to be written. She's now published a series starring that character. Person #1 works in publishing but is not herself a writer. They'll all be okay.

Some people won't be.

If someone has derailed your work, I want you to step back and take a deep breath, and I want you to consider picking it up again. Maybe not that story. Maybe it will be the next story. But you have a voice, and I want to make sure no one silences it. Keep speaking. Keep writing. Advocate for yourself. Learn everything you can.

And keep this in mind: someone who attacks you for not being good enough is saying more about herself than she is about you.

Get up. Keep going. Gird yourself and prepare to work harder.

If you are the person others come to for advice, here's my advice for you: find the good. You don't know how much effort it took this fledgling writer to approach you and ask for help; hold that manuscript like an egg, and breathe gently. Give a few suggestions that are encouragement rather than detraction.

Is the writing stilted? "Keep at it. Sometime, when you're home alone, read it out loud to yourself and listen to your own rhythm. I think that's really going to help your prose sing."

Is the dialogue trite? "Keep at it. When these guys talk to each other, try to step back and make each of them say things in a slightly different way. Try to make it so if you pulled this one line out of the whole book, the reader would still know who was speaking."

Is the idea overdone? "Keep at it. I like this story, but I suspect you could do a lot more with this idea. Try turning it inside-out and maybe questioning some of the things you assume. Throw out your first and second ideas and try the third one instead. Because there's a lot of fertile ground you could cover here, and I'd love to see what you can do with it."

See the thread? Ask for more. When someone is fragile, rather than criticizing, show them how to go for the gold.

Ask them for more. I want to see more depth here. I want to see more time transitioning between scenes. I want to see more description of the surroundings. I want to feel more of what this character is feeling.

Ask for more. You'll get it. We're writers, and we hunger to create. Sometimes we just need better direction and a little guidance for the journey.


ikmar said...

Great inspiration!

I was little confused by the two Person #3's in paragraph 8 though.

Deb Salisbury, Magic Seeker and Mantua-Maker said...


It's amazing how cruel people can be, when instead, a moment of encouragement could make such a difference in someone's work - and life.

Laura said...

This is important.

Jane Lebak said...

iKmar, I'm a writer, not a mathematecian. I'll fix that. :-)

Steven E. Belanger said...

In my early-20s I got an agent who turned out to be a scam. She "sent" my manuscript to publishers, mailed me the "rejections" and even sent me a Christmas card. After a year I didn't renew the contract with her, but I also didn't write at all for about ten years, thinking if she couldn't sell my writing, it wasn't marketable. Then I read that she's being prosecuted by New York for scamming a lot of people like me at the time: rookies who didn't know you don't ever pay an agent for copying fees, etc. I'd give anything now to get those 10 years back...

Laurisa White Reyes said...

After spending a decade writing a middle grade novel, I received 30+ rejections and was told by one agent that kids wouldn't want to read about the topic of my story. So I self-published it, not expecting anything more to come of it. Then to my shock, the book was awarded the 2015 Spark Award from SCBWI for best non-traditionally published children's book. In other words, just because some agents/editors don't like your story doesn't mean it isn't worth telling. Keep writing. Never give up on your dream.

Jane Lebak said...

Way to go, Laurisa!!!

And Steven, I'm sorry you had that experience. Scammers are bad enough when they only take your money. It's much worse when they take your self-confidence too. :-(