Writers in Waiting: Trick or Treat?

The agent or editor’s reply to your query arrives. Before you open the email or envelope, you wonder, is it a trick or a treat? Waiting for an email is just as agonizing as a postal reply. While we wait, writers are able to imagine all the possibilities of a huge treat–the editor or agent thinks your work is fabulous, the next big thing, a zillion dollar advance, you name it. More often, it’s a “not right for us,” the writing rejection’s equivalent of tipping over your outhouse. Nice trick.
Writing Tip for Today: Many first-time novel writers waste precious time trying to interpret the reason it’s taking the agent so long to reply (he/she’s on vacation, out of the country or swamped, which is probably true) or trying to figure out a form rejection’s hidden meaning (there isn’t one). Here are some hints to keep submitting when you’re getting more tricks than treats:

  • Before you begin querying or submitting, make an “A” list of ten top markets or agents, as well as a “B” list of smaller markets or newer agents. Be sure the markets and agents are reputable and still in business. When you receive one “no thanks,” you can go directly to the next on the list.
  • While trying for representation or your first big byline, concentrate on selling short items. Most periodicals still print fillers, jokes and puzzles, and may even pay a little. Meanwhile, you’re building up credits. Likewise, while shopping your novel, work on placing articles or essays.
  • Keep expanding your skills. Read widely. Write as much as possible. Although you may think things will never get better, at some point you’ll likely begin to receive “personal rejections,” where an editor or agent writes an encouraging note, such as “I like your style,” or “came close–keep submitting!”
  • Work you network. You may meet someone who could refer you to their editor or agent, or suggest a freelance opportunity that leads to bigger things. If nothing else, you can commiserate with writers who have plenty of “trick” horror stories to relate. And if you commandeer some treats from the kids’ Halloween goodie bags, you can make yourself feel better in the process.
  • Never give up.

Try This! Try your hand at writing something short: a recipe, household hint, short essay or other writing suitable for a periodical. Now make those A and B lists, submitting your work at least once per week. Reward yourself with your favorite chocolate or other treat.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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