Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Rule for Writers: Be Positive

I'm sure that you receive many thank-yous, nonetheless I want to sincerely than you for taking the time to read through my query once again. However, I am left wondering.... You said it "sounds like a fun novel" and while I would love to be jumping for joy that Janet Reid said my novel sounds like fun!!

I can't help but wonder if maybe you were just being nice. And here I am, left to think that I would have taken it a lot better if you would have just told me that I'd written a piece of crap and that I need to change this, this, this, this, and this before it is any good at all.

Oddly enough, I feel like I can take criticisms better than compliments. I really admire your opinion and would love to know what you really meant when you said my novel sounds like fun. Or perhaps I'm reading too much into it and am better off leaving well enough alone.
Clearly I need to work on my image if you think someone with a shark avatar is ever "just being nice."

You can choose to think "oh she's just saying that" (although why I would do that is a mystery to me) OR you can choose to believe it.

One is positive. One is not. If you are to survive and thrive as writer it is imperative you choose the positive approach.

I don't mean you are Pollyanna. When you find out your sales figures aren't anywhere near what you were sure they'd be you don't clap your hands and shout "oh yay!" No, you weep and rend your garments and curse the fates, BUT THEN you pick yourself up and say to your agent "OK, let's deal with this. Strategy time."

What you do NOT say is "oh they must think I suck as a writer, woe is me."

If you're getting a lot of rejections you weep, and rend your garments and curse the fates, then pick yourself up and say "Ok, I'm riding my rocket boots to a writing conference where I can meet with agents who can give me some feedback on my query and pages."

What you do NOT say is "oh I suck as a writer, all these rejections can only mean I really suck."

If you send a query and I reply with something other than a form rejection, you say "thank you" not "oh did she really mean it" because if you disbelieve every positive thing you will create enough self-doubt to float a battle ship and you will sink yourself. And it will be exhausting for people around you.

How you respond is a choice you make. We all have that instant feeling of doubt, of panic, but the next step is crucial. Get a grip on your reptilian brain, shake it and growl "Enough of that panic horseshit! When Janet Reid read my query and wrote it was a fun novel she meant it." And then you believe it.

Rule for writers: Be positive

An earlier version of this post, with a different title appeared on August 10, 2012


Carolynnwith2Ns said...

If you chose to write, (it is a choice even though we feel compelled), we must cling to the brilliance we pen. Every one of us knows there are times when a mysterious force takes over our hands and creates something we know is astounding. It may be a phrase, a single sentence or a piece we KNOW comes from the genius which lies within.
When doubt surfaces, cling to that genius, hold on to the time you KNEW the words were perfect.
Through no fault of our own sometimes the brightest lightbulbs brown-out. They always come back on and when they do, everything is brighter.
Good, bad (and never indifferent), take comments like the Queens and run with them, believe in them, build on them. Doubting the honestly of someone with a fin makes you chum.

Kitty said...

I'm loving these recycled posts. Ever think about compiling them in a book?

Theresa said...

These rules are great for kicking off another new writing year. Thanks, Janet.

E.M. Goldsmith said...

Yes, Janet, compiling these blog posts would make a fine book. I am positive about that. :)

Donnaeve said...

There's a tendency to analyze ad-nauseum any and every little comment given about our work. The difference is what QOTKU points out. You can question the validity of the good, wallow in the perceived bad, but it's a choice as to how you move forward - no matter what you think.

Last night I was so tired I was doing stupid things. (putting stuff down, only to find it later and wonder how it got there). I looked around at the state of the house - still in chaos from Christmas clean-up, and thought "I'll never get done." Today, everything looks different. What seemed overwhelming last night looks easy peasy now.

It's not much different with anything we do. From questioning the validity of a comment to how we feel about it. A new day always brings a new perspective.

Lucy Crowe said...

So true! Positivity - as long as it stops somewhere short of idiocy - is always the best approach. (And really, isn't it better to be happy anyway?) I say take any compliments that come your way and run with them. Or better yet, stash them away mentally to take out again on the dark, doubtful days.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Us Reiders have read much of the Queens book already. I sure hope we get to 'reid' the rest someday.

Amy Johnson said...

Agreeing with those who say these Rules for Writers are great. Thanks, Janet. They're helpful, encouraging, and informative. And this mere guppygal isn't saying that just to be nice.

BJ Muntain said...

Rejections don't make me think I suck. Rejections just tell me it's time to send out more queries.

I get positive rejections. They just make it easier to send out more queries.

Joseph S. said...

Some brownie points for Janet Reid today.

Not because of this post necessarily.

I finished reading Kari Lynn Dell’s “Reckless in Texas” over the weekend. At the back - at the very back on page 411 of 412 pages - Kari Lynn writes a glowing account of how critical Janet Reid’s efforts were to pulling the book together and to encouraging her to carry on.


Lennon Faris said...

"Enough of that panic horseshit!" sounds like a good mantra for life :) Thanks for the encouragement!

Stephen G Parks said...

Kitty said: I'm loving these recycled posts. Ever think about compiling them in a book?

Then Janet would need to query agents! Wouldn't that make for interesting blog posts!

Colin Smith said...

Maybe I'm just getting old, but some things are just not worth caring about. Whether or not a compliment is sincere is one of those things. Now, as best I can I'm not going to be duped by someone stroking my ego just to get me to do something. But that doesn't mean I have to be cold and cynical. Life's too short. If someone says I'm brilliant, I'll say thank you, smile, and let that little glow in my stomach enjoy its moment. I don't care if they meant it. It doesn't hurt me, and makes my day a little brighter.

Just to be clear, I don't think I'm brilliant. In my own mind, I'm a talentless hack who doesn't deserve to be in this illustrious company. Which is all the more reason not to question anything nice said to me. :)

Of course, this doesn't mean I don't like criticism, especially when it comes from beta readers. Good, fair criticism is a good thing. But that's not what I'm talking about here.

Bottom line: If 2016 has reminded us of anything, it's the brevity and uncertainty of life. Take the good and positive whenever you can, however it comes.

Carolynnwith2Ns said...

Amy, "guppygal" hahaha, love it.

MA Hudson said...

The tricky thing is striking the right balance. Don't be so positive that you fail to notice any softly-cushioned constructive criticism, but don't be so negative that you fail to acknowledge generous compliments.

Kate Larkindale said...

A great post for a day when positive thoughts are essential, even when being positive feels impossible…

Brigid said...

Poor Pollyanna gets a bad rap, but she really dug deep. What is there to be grateful for in getting crutches for Christmas when she wanted a doll? Well, she could be very glad she didn't need the crutches.

What is there to be grateful for if your sales figured suck? Well, you have sales figures, and someone to turn to and talk strategy with. You get to figure out how to improve them--a worthy challenge. Not all bad, there.

Panda in Chief said...

I loved reading this post, and it wasn't a boring repeat, because it is from the days before I discovered the Reef. It is interesting that it is much easier to believe a negative comment than a positive one. I know enough about the volume of incoming queries to know (at least I think I do) that agents don't have time to write encouraging comments/rejections, just for the sake of making us feel better when they don't really mean it. I have some really treasured rejection letters, because they had enough positive feedback to keep me in the game.

I hope you all are having a wonderful holiday break.
Panda on, everyone, and save some cookies for me!