The good thing about living the Age of Information is there’s a lot of information readily available. The bad thing is there’s a lot of information readily available. I find myself wedged between my thirst for knowledge relating to writing/publishing on one side and the overwhelming sense that my brain is about to explode on the other. In the last week alone, I bought three writing magazines filled with helpful articles covering writing tips, reference sources for agents, publication listings, websites, submission checklists, and advice from bestselling novelists. I’m soaking it all up like a dry shammy, but I’m fairly certain all the pieces of information I highlighted in purple are going to get lost in the shuffle.
I always feel like I’m on a steep learning curve because I haven’t been published (beyond a little blip in the local newspaper) and I think a lot of other unpublished writers feel the same way. We are constantly researching the industry and trying to figure out how it all works – knowledge is power, right? However, I can’t help but question how much is too much. There are a million books out there with a tried-and-true methods of writing a novel, magazines that come out every month with loads of do’s and don’ts, and websites that teach everything from writing query letters to crafting the perfect sentence. When do we stop listening to what everyone else says and start relying on our own instincts? I’m torn between wanting to follow the rules in order to be a publisher pleaser and wanting to break every single rule in the name of creativity.
Agents are looking for fresh voices and strong writing that stands out above the rest, but there is also a strict code of rules when it comes to the format of query letters, synopses, and manuscripts. The most frustrating part of it all is that some of these rules are infuriatingly vague. Each agent is looking for something different, but they all speak the same secret language. Now, I say this as an outsider looking in and perhaps this reflects my naïveté concerning the whole process. There’s also the fact that I’ve been staring at a blank page for months every time I sit down to write a synopsis. Even after reading multiple how-to articles and books, I still have no idea how to tackle this mountain.
As with most things in life, balance is the key. Information gleaned from other people will help, but only to a certain level. The rest has to come from me, which means I have to start making decisions on what pieces of advice I will follow and those I will ignore in favor of my own ideas. In coming to this conclusion, I realize it’s not what I know that gets my foot in the publishing door, it’s the chances I’m willing to take to get my work noticed.
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