- Hetal Avanee
it takes a village
I'm having so much fun on the #FicFest twitter feed. You might have caught some of my shenanigans including (but never limited to): extreme GIFs, daily polls, and lots of interaction with you, the hopefuls.
I love the writing community. My IT day job has me stuck to a cube, often working on my own, with little interaction with anyone except for the people on the other side of my walls.
You know Office Space? It's kind of like that.
If you don't know what I mean - go watch it now.
Going back to my original thought: I love my fellow writers for so many reasons. Not only because it's a safe place to talk about the least traceable murder methods, seventeenth century erotica, and the existentialism that is our life, but because this is the most supportive group of people I've ever been lucky enough to call myself a part of.
- Have a query question? Post it on twitter and within minutes you'll have at least a dozen answers.
- Is your plot dying? Talk to your FB writing group about the knot that's cutting off the air of your story.
- Wondering how to write the best query/synopsis/pitch? Some of your favorite authors have probably written some advice about it. Google it!
This being said there has been some discussion behind the scenes of #FicFest about...naughty kids.
Yes, we talk.
Just as agents and publishers talk
and word about the difficult children tend to stick.
One of the lessons I learned early on in my journey, that I still 100% adhere to is, be gracious. This is not the same as being happy all the time, none of us is happy all the time.
- Being gracious means listening to criticism about your story and not taking it personally.
- Being gracious means understanding that someone who knows the business better than you is looking out for your best interests.
- Being gracious means not feeding into a frustrated writer's negativity.
- Being gracious means realizing that your novel baby - whom you love and adore and coddle - might not get as much attention as you think it deserves and understanding that it nothing personal about YOU.
I witnessed some of this negativity after the PitchWars mentees were revealed last year. Negative opinions about the mentors, the chosen, the contest itself, and I got it, I understood people were for not being chosen, but to essentially slap the hand that was held out to help you up...well, that's not forgotten peeps.
Before the internet and search engines and search engine optimization, you probably could've gotten away with ranting about how you were unfairly treated by this absolutely 1000% subjective business. Now? NO WAY.
let me say this again. YOU WILL NOT GET AWAY WITH THIS.
I read on an agent blog some time ago - and damn if I can remember WHOSE blog - about a writer who was too impatient to wait in line for a response to their query. It's no secret that agents receive 100's of queries a week, and for the most part, they read them chronologically from the received date. Well, this writer sent out their initial query then sent a message to all of those agents maybe an hour** later with Offer of Representation in the subject line.
If you read enough about this industry, you'll realize that agents will often drop every other thing on their TBR to read that submission. In this case - the "offer of rep" was a fake. Long story short, Agent 1 diligently dug through her inbox, read the material, was unimpressed, and brought it up to Agent 2 whom they believed might've also received the query. Agent 2 had, proceeded to read the material, felt the same about it as Agent 1, and talked to Agent 3. Agent 3 dug around their inbox, found the almost same email (some details changed) from the week before, and came back to Agents 1 & 2 with "this writer is trying to play us".**
And that folks, is just one way to be blackballed from every top tier agency and publishing house in the book. The writing community is smaller than you might think, Hopefuls. Three degrees of separation if you take the example I referenced above. Don't burn a bridge before you've crossed it.
What if an author volunteering their time and energy in contests like #FicFest are asked their opinion about you by their agent/publisher? If the first impression that an agent/publisher is offered about you is colored by the negativity a mentor perceived in one of these contests, do you think that you have a chance with that agent/pub?
I didn't want to take the chance, which is why when I give into my negative, self-doubting, "it's never gonna happen for me" thoughts, you won't hear about it.
I share those with my cat
(note: not my actual cat, but mine's just as pretty)
PS ~ In my next post, I'll write about some of the common mistakes we're seeing in the entries. (Maybe a few fellow mentors will help me out)
**EDITED from original publish of this post to include the link to Jennifer Laughran's former blog where she mentions that TWENTY agents discovered this lie. Thank you @MeganKLaCroix for finding this needle in the literary haystack.