In a recent issue of one of the few writing magazines I subscribe to, they provide a multi-page article (in garish school-bus yellow, I should add) of “what agents hate.” I only briefly skimmed it, having had the sense that this was going to be little more than a list of personal irritations that may or may not be helpful to the writers reading it. I found it more annoying and self-important than helpful to be honest, but that’s just me.
One that did kind of rub me the wrong way was one in which said, and I quote: If you don’t know how to write a compelling pitch for yourself, you probably should not pursue being a writer.
I mean, I get the context: this agent has a personal issue with writers who fail at trying to sell themselves.
On the other hand, I personally know a hell of a lot of writers and artists out there who can write phenomenal prose or brilliant dialogue or draw beautiful sequences…yet doing something so compact and microscopic as a one-page advertisement for yourself is a fucking nightmare. Trying to distill a hundred-thousand-word story that you’ve worked on for lord knows how many months into twenty sentences is a hell of a lot harder than it looks. It’s two completely different types of creative thinking, and it’s hard as hell to switch easily from one to the other. Some writers/artists just aren’t as good at the elevator pitch as they are at telling the story. [Speaking from experience, I should add.]
If anything, I’m thinking they should have maybe rephrased that to be a little less, I don’t know…snobbish? Soul-crushing? I’m not sure what word to use here, other than they’re an agent I will most likely not submit to, just on attitude alone. You’re an agent, you’re supposed to help the writer, not chase them away with Fame platitudes about ‘only the best survive’ and turn them away before they even start. Yeah, I know, it’s a small field with a crapton of wannabes. I’m still not a fan of that kind of thinking.
Anyway. There were also your usual bingo-card points of advice: kill the adverbs, kill the non-‘said’ dialogue tags, don’t self-edit, farm it out to your writing group, submit only your best work, follow submission directions on the website, don’t hassle the agent/publisher, etc. Be gracious. Be patient. A lot of it does make sense, of course. YMMV, as they say.
And as I’ve mentioned plenty of times before, some of these are reasons why I’m a self-published author. I want to be able to successfully edit my own work. I want to go against the grain. I’ve gotten better with the pitch. I don’t think I’m at pro-level yet, but I’ll get there eventually. I like working on my terms instead of shoehorning myself into everyone else’s.
So. Anyone else come across some questionable writing advice lately?