#1 Your Writing is CRAP.
Author Mike Nappa says his goal as an agent is to reject you in 60 seconds ... or less. This means as I write this sentence Mike is busy rejecting (ouch) one more poor pathetic writer. Of course, M doesn't want to reject everyone. He wants to say yes to someone. But the sad truth is he rejects most everyone. (Mike, as a writer himself, has received more than 2000 rejections.) Mike's goal (as an author)--77 Reasons Why Your Book was REJECTED--is simple: "Learning why we fail--and then turning that knowledge into success the next time around."
So, that being said I delve into M's book of wisdom starting with the number one reason he rejects queries: crappy writing.
Is my writing crap? This of course is the question us writers simply don't want to ask ourselves or anybody. After all, it takes a certain amount of denial and delusion in order for us to become writers in the first place. (We must convince ourselves that "yes, we can write" and "yes, someone will love what we have to say.") But still let's make our mentor happy and ask ourselves, Is our writing crap?
I'm not sure. Maybe my writing is crap--how do I know? Follow the checklist:
-I have studied writing by attending school, by reading books, by joining a writer's group, by going to writing conferences;
-I read tons of stuff, especially my own genre;
-I have written before: articles, short stories, pen pal letters (something!);
-I think (or obsess) about word choice, as writing is NOT putting words on pages--it is putting THE RIGHT WORDS on the page;
-I edit my own work until it shines--I don't write and then immediately start the query letter process (I have patience).
Now, let's take the rest of the day to think about whether our writing is crap or not. Let's think about our sentences as we pick up our Starbucks this afternoon. Let's think about our metaphors as we finish that last meeting of the day. Let's think about "show and don't tell," about useless adverbs, and weak characters and unnatural dialogue. Let's ask ourselves, what have we learned since we began writing? Is my wring crap because I don't take it seriously?