Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Would You Hire You?

Recently, I have found myself giving a lot of the same advice about writing in a lot of different situations. Essentially, I am asking writers to turn the camera around and look at yourself, not as the writer you are, but as the professional or the reader on the other side. If you were an agent or an editor, would you sign this author? If you were a reader, would you make the decision to pick up your book from all the others sitting in Barnes and Noble and buy it?

I do think it is easy to get hung up on only thinking like an author. It's only obvious. You spend countless hours perfecting your craft, working on creating the perfect character or perfect scene, but, in doing so, you end up writing with blinders on. Our brains are so trained and focused to think like this, we fail to see how we are coming across to the person on the other side.

Let's use the initial query letter as an example. You have this great story that you believe really will be the next Great American Novel and you are ready to send it out to those editors and agents. It might look something like this.

Dear Editor/Agent,

You probably see a ton of manuscripts come across your desk all of the time and ask yourself, "why is there nothing good out there?" Well you don't have to ask any more! I am submitting to you the one story that you will be able to retire on with all of the income we will make together...

I think you get the idea.

You started with a general Dear... because you are sending this out to a lot of people. But this says you really aren't doing your research and you are hoping something will stick. If you send this to that editor or agent, you are telling them you don't care if you end up with that person. That means that they might not care either.

But let's get to the letter itself. You might believe you are showing enthusiasm, but what are your first instincts?

Looking at your story the same way will also give you a sense of what needs to be done. I mentioned this yesterday when we talked about the opening chapter. If you were to read this random person's story, is there enough in there that would make you want to keep reading and sign this person?

The key is to be objective about what you are sending out there. I know it is hard, but remember the editors and agents are making an objective decision about your story. They don't know who you are other than this single document you sent to them in an email, or mailed to them.

So, ask yourself... would you hire you? This might be the reason you have seen a lot of rejection letters so far in your career.

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