Friday, July 3, 2009


This seems to be the (shudder, gasp) theme of the blogs this week: trust. Lady Glamis did a post about it over at The Literary Lab , as well as a brief post on her own blog, and some other bloggers mentioned the subject as well. This morning BookEnds did a similar post, but in a different vein. It was not about who you trust, but to trust yourself. Go figure.

Even though all of you are capable of clicking the link, I'm going to insert the main gist below:

You know what each of us thinks about certain practices and procedures and you’ve learned firsthand how subjective everything can be, from whether or not we like a book to how we like our query letters. Therefore, when push comes to shove there’s only one person you should be listening to, and that’s you. When it comes time to write your query, choose an agent, find a publisher, sign a contract, and write the next great American novel, you need to trust that you can take all you’ve learned and are continuing to learn and do what’s best for you and your career, and do it with your own personal flare and style.

Okay, my peeps, this is about the best advice any of us can, or will ever receive. In the end, it all comes down to trust in ourselves. We can read all about how to write the perfect query letter, how to do this, that, and everything . . . but the final result is how we, the writer, do those things. Sometimes, we have to go with our instinct and step outside the box. I believe Tess did that with her query letter and what happened? Well, she got an agent.

I've stepped outside the box with the format of my own query - example here - and received the following comments:

This may be an example of a query that doesn't follow all the standard advice, but that really works.

I agree with anon@10:53, the voice makes this stand out above form or format. I think if I read 50 queries in a row, I would remember this one for the voice.

So, did I follow all the query formatting rules? Heck, no, I kind of went with my instinct and took a chance by including my own personal flare and style.

As much as we all want to get published, as much as we (well, me, maybe a few others - wink, wink, wink) whine sometimes about all the rules, sometimes you (we, me) have to break the rules, trust ourselves, and go with our instincts. I did this in college once with an essay I had to do for 19th Century American Literature on The Last of the Mohicans. I wrote a semi-snarky (yes, even back then before the word was popular) essay that the professor absolutely loved. I broke the rule of being very formal and boring, took a chance, and didn't get a failing grade. I trusted that inner voice - the one that screams at me sometimes - and broke past boring to snarky. I still have that essay in a folder at my desk. I pull it out every now and then just to remind myself that breaking the rules every now and then is not a bad thing, not bad at all.

So, trust yourselves, dear readers, pay attention to the query guidelines, but pay attention to your own instincts as well.

Trust Yourself!

I hope everyone has a happy and safe 4th of July. I'll be lurking around the blogsphere every now and then between grocery shopping, cleaning the house, and drinking a margarita or two, oh, and trying to eliminate 31, 466 words! Woo-hoo!



Angie Ledbetter said...

Number 1 rule -- Trust the gut (and that involves a lot of trust in my case). :)

Can't believe I'm first today!

Tess said...

Amen! It's a balance between following most of the rules, having a product you believe in and then going for it. Great post and advice, Scott!

ElanaJ said...

So true. I blogged about it on a confidence level I think. Remember how I said I took everyone's advice until I realized I didn't have to? That's trust. I think it's synonymous with confidence in yourself as an author. I often tell people when I crit for them that THEY ARE THE AUTHOR, and they know they're own story.

Great topic.

Lady Glamis said...

Good luck with your cutting! This is a great post. Thank you for sharing, and for the shout out.

I think that trusting ourselves is the first key to trusting our readers. All of it shows up in our writing in the end - that confidence. Readers LOVE to feel that, and so do I!

Scott said...

A little late in responding to comments . . .

Angie - yes, you're first! Woo-hoo! I think my instinct was out for repair the day I decided to split the MS into two. Now, I'm paying for that decision. Oh well, such is life.

Tess - you're welcome. Have you seen Lady Glamis' post about rules that (oh, no, it's a sickness, a sickness I tell you - see today's post and you'll understand) interfere with the writing process. You're right about balance.

Elana - I think the word count rules really scared me and blocked out all thoughts of attempting a massive elimination of words. Now that I'm in the process, it's not as difficult as I imagined. Note to self - trust in self, trust in self, trust in self!

Lady Glamis - you're welcome for the shout out. I always try to point people in the direction of those with great advice/blogs. I think as much confidence as we have in ourselves, it is sometimes undermined by the gazillion rules we find in the blogsphere. Your post today was excellent, btw.