Wednesday, December 5, 2012


Every now and then I find myself saying "I love pretty much everything about writing except for *insert dreaded thing here*." Usually that "dreaded thing" has to do with selling a project. 

FREX: I hate research markets.
I hate finding new markets.
I hate writing log-lines.
I hate writing query letters.
I hate writing synopsis.

I think you get my drift.

Yesterday I was working on a synopsis for The Steampunk Novel. I'd written one a few months ago and it sucked. I mean, it was okay, but with the recent revisions it needed changes and I'd thought from the start it seemed a little bit long so I figured I'd grit my teeth and write a new one. With much complaining. Because, you know, I hate writing a synopsis.

As I worked on it this little thing in the back of my brain started to ponder my dislike of this part of the process. It reminded me I'd done a similar round of teeth-gnashing and complaining both when writing a log-line and while trying to draft a query letter. Why was that?

I told the little thing to shut up. I was busy.
I finished the synopsis - totally and completely certain that it sucked in a very unpleasant way - and took a break to eat dinner. (IMPORTANT NOTE: Trying to write anything while hungry and tired is probably not one's best idea.) I got something to eat. Spent some time with my family, then came back to the synopsis.

Amazement of amazements, it didn't suck. It needed a few tweaks (which I made) but it was nowhere near as horrible as I had thought whilst writing it.

And then something clicked.
My hatred of log-lines/synopsis/query letters/market research grew out of a very quiet sense of fear.
Sure, there was the fear that all my hard work writing The Steampunk Novel would be lost if I didn't have a killer query with which to pitch it. The fear that the synopsis would not reflect the really interesting aspects or voice of the book. But beyond that was a deeper, more personal fear.

Suppose the query worked? Suppose I got a request for a partial?*** Suppose an agent read my first chapters/150 pages/whatever and DIDN'T LIKE THE WRITING? What if my wordcraft was bad? What if the thing I'd loved so much and put so much energy into... sucked?

I've spent four years trying to get over the idea that what I write isn't worth much. Four years focused on practicing my craft in the hopes that I would get better. That I would gain confidence. That I would get good at writing.

Along the way I'd conquered a series of things that I "hated". (Finishing stories. Editing stories. Finding a market. Dealing with rejections. And so on.) One by one I'd put them behind me until the only things that stood between me and selling my novel (well, finding representation for my novel and THEN selling it) were the query letter and synopsis.

I hated them. I doubted my ability to make the book sound interesting. I doubted my ability to be succinct.
I doubted the value of the story I had told. I doubted my ability to tell a story, period.

That, you see, was the whole problem. Doubt.
The gut-wrenching, mouth-drying, palm-sweating fear that after all this time I still wouldn't be any good at this thing that I love so much.

And that's when I realized I don't have to "hate" any of it. All of that angst and blather about "hating " was just a smoke screen for my insecurity. And there was only one thing to do. 


I wrote a lot of short stories before I discovered Write 1, Sub 1 and used that as an excuse to start sending things out. I started a lot (A LOT!) of novels before I found NaNoWriMo and used that as an excuse to write the first draft of The Steampunk Novel. The only thing that changed between the short stories I wrote and shelved and the ones I submitted was that I submitted them anyway. Even when I was CERTAIN they sucked. (And the ones I thought sucked the most, sold the fastest.)

The only thing that changed between the dozens (yes, dozens) of novels I started and never got past the first 50 pages and the two that I've finished is that I didn't stop when I thought the book sucked. And then I went back and fixed the parts that weren't good. Even when I was CERTAIN it was a waste of time.

So, my (very long) piece of advice for today is: DO IT ANYWAY.
Whatever that writing related thing is that you "hate" (drafting/editing/querying/outlining/writing)... DO IT ANYWAY. 


*** Which, incidentally, I have. So much for thinking my query letters are shite.


Christine Rains said...

Great post! I have the same feelings. I hate all that marketing stuff because I fear rejection. I did the write 1 / submit 1 this year. I got a lot of rejections, but I think I'm better at handling them now.

A.G. Carpenter said...

Christine: I compare rejections to the "test pancake" I cook at the beginning of any batch of pancakes. You know, the one that always turns out a little funny because you have to check and make sure the pan is hot enough (and it never is) but is a vital part of the cooking process. Rejections are a not-so-enjoyable part of the writing process, but they are a part of the process just like writing a story and selling it. Rejections are just the funny, undercooked pancake that says "Almost there. Be patient."

Anonymous said...

Do it anyway. This post was very inspiring for me as I've entered a quite nervous phase of my writing cycle (the pre-submission phase) :)
Thanks for sharing!