Wednesday, September 12, 2012

The Truth and the Guilt and a Vow

I'd like to go back to a point I made in my last post.  I've been thinking about this a lot since I wrote it, and I think I might've only just skimmed the reality in my fumbling attempt to understand this.

If you missed it, what I said was: I wonder if other writers ever wonder if perhaps the reason agents are shifting to a 'no response means no' reaction to query letters is because as a whole agents are sick of being the bearers of bad news - as well as the targets for all the potentially postal writers out there.  Or maybe it's just that as a culture we seem to shy away from saying anything that might hurt someone else's feelings - even if it helps them in the long run.

But the more I think about it, the deeper it goes.  For instance, this morning a blog pal of mine posted her query letter and the first 150 words of her book, looking for helpful comments.  The other comments before mine were all 'this is really good' type comments, but I posted what I thought - which was basically that her query and her 150 were both pretty good, but they didn't seem to go with each other very well.

I hit Enter and the guilt set in.

Even though I did what the writer asked, I felt awful about being critical of her work.  I could tell she worked really really hard on what she was offering up.  Like I said, both pieces were polished and well-written.  Apart they seemed to stand perfectly well.  Together they missed the mark.  And this person is so funny and nice, I felt like a shit for saying it.

Maybe that's the feeling agents are trying to avoid when they go with a 'no response means no' (NRMN) policy regarding queries.  Can't say that I blame them really.  No matter how well-worded their form letters may be, someone somewhere is going to get their feelings hurt.  I mean, just look at me and that rejection I talked about a couple weeks ago.  He was perfectly awesome telling me what he really thought, and then I went and spoiled it by getting my feelings all dented.  Of course, his words helped me in the long run, but in that moment, I became a whiny baby.  "How dare you?!"


Now, as I consider this and many other things, I wonder if maybe agents are using a 'NRMN' as much to protect the overly-sensitive feelings we writers tend to have sometimes as to protect themselves .  Perhaps if we band together, pull up our big-girl panties and take our lumps, agents can go back to saying what they really think - instead of just avoiding the truth.

Unfortunately, in order for this to really work, everyone would have to be on board.  All it takes is one total loon bad apple to spoil it.  But, I swear before the internet and everybody on it, that I won't be one of those writers.  Give me the truth.  It's the only way I'll learn.

(And as for the people who think giving someone the truth is a license to be mean?  Well, we'll discuss that at another time.  Needless to say, I don't allow that crap here.)

What about you?  Are you ready for the truth?  Will you stand with me as someone who is ready to hear the truth and let it make you a better writer?  Will you stand as someone who is ready to give the truth if that's what someone really wants to hear?


  1. Even though some people ask for input on their queries and excerpts, I find it kinder to email the person directly rather than put my two cents on a public forum.

    If the query is perfect and I have nothing that will help, I don't mind saying so in public. But if there is critical analysis at play than my words are for that person alone and not for public consumption.

    Ref: agents being sensitive to writers

    LOL! I don't think they worry too much about our feelings. Most likely they're just busy and don't want to bother.

    Some agencies even say so on their web sites. They only reply if they're interested.

  2. Preaching to the choir, lady! This is the main problem with family and friends acting as critique partners--or critique partners who want to be nice and encouraging instead of getting to the nitty gritty. I always warn people who ask for my input. If they want the truth, I'm more than happy to look things over and give them my opinion--which is just that--MY OPINION. It's not gospel. If they just want warm fuzzies, they should let their mom or best friend critique them. I finally found a CP who works the way I do. I can be nice but I also call crap crap when I read it. I'll offer alternatives or give her prompts for different ways to go or sentence structure. We also brainstorm plot bunnies when stuck.

    I wonder if agents and editors, especially those who want exclusivity have any idea how batshit crazy that policy makes writers. I sent a submission to one of those, didn't hear anything for six months, submitted the work elsewhere, where it was accepted, and over a year later, FINALLY heard back from the first one saying she'd like to see the full. Uhm...really?!? So much for the NRMN policy. LOL

    I do agree with Maria, though, that anything "in depth" might be better presented privately, depending on how well you know the person you're commenting to. Great topic and one I could go on and on about! ;-)

  3. I'd definitely want to hear the truth. Constructive criticism is the best way to make something as good as possible, I should think.

    With agents, I'd rather have a 'no' than nothing at all, because that just wastes time.

  4. I don't think people should post and ask for a crit if they don't want one, and an honest one. I actually thought you were talking about mine for a sec, because I have my query and first 150 up for GUTGAA, but I don't see a comment from you. I would never be offended by someone's honest constructive criticism. I love all the positive comments for these sorts of things, but then I wonder if the people really meant it, or they're just being nice. I actually feel a little tinge of disappointment if they don't leave at least a little crit, because I need the feedback. I did one public crit where people were being unconstructive and were not very nice, and that's one thing. But honest, professional feedback is always good, IMO.

    So hey, if you have a couple minutes you can pop over to my blog and enact your new vow :)

  5. Maria: I like to think that if I leave constructive criticism for one, it might be helpful to any others who might wander by. I know reading the comments at some place like QueryShark is sometimes helpful, too.

    Silver: I know I can always go to you for crits AND warm fuzzies. (Or at least you've never called crap on my stuff yet.) And now you have the seeds for a post over at your blog. ;o)

    Debs: Exactly.

    Alexia: Gack, I totally missed seeing your blog post on that. It's been a bust day. I'll jog right over there and see if there's anything to crit - or if it just requires a squee.