Chatter

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Chatter

There’s no doubt that the Internet is a fantastic resource for fledgling and established writers alike. You can tweet, friend, and chat with editors, agents, and other writers. You can do research to find an agent, or participate in various discussion forums about hot topics in publishing.

And of course, there’s the juicy publishing gossip—which editors have quit to become agents? Which agents have quit to become editors? Which editors/agents have quit publishing cold turkey?

I make it a point not to read author discussion boards or forums, but on the few occasions I’ve stumbled across a discussion between authors, the tone and content of some of the discussions has caused me great concern. Which authors submitted what to whom? Which agents have accepted, rejected, never replied? Some authors even go as far as keeping tallies of how many fulls and partials they have out, as well as posting verbatim copies of their rejection letters for all to see.

So the question is this: When does use of the Internet as a valuable tool for gaining knowledge about your writing, making connections, and getting your work published become plain old Internet chatter?

I’m a firm believer that too much Internet chatter makes writers less productive, as it fosters a less-than-savory keeping up with the Joneses type mentality:

“So-and-so has gotten four requests for a full ms and I haven’t gotten any.”

“I submitted to agent X three weeks before my friend, and she’s already gotten a response and I haven’t.”

While I think it’s great to have support and a place to connect with other writers who are going through the same process, obsessing over this type of minutia takes writers away from the most important part of their job.

So have fun Tweeting and Facebooking and chatting. But as you do these things please, please, please don’t lose focus on what brought you here in the first place.

Say it with me now: Writing a great book!

  1. I do agree with you. There is so much information out there that it quickly becomes overwhelming, not to mention downright disheartening to the aspiring author.

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  2. I think “disheartening” is the perfect term. Ditto for “keeping up with the Joneses.” It’s hard not to get bogged down in these sort of things and really lose sight of what you CAN control: your professionalism and the quality of your work. I’ve been avoiding forums and the like lately because discussions inevitably turn either competitive (how many queries, partials, etc. sent) or dour (the woes of rejection and how tough the marketplace is right now). You’d have to have a will of iron not to get at least a little distracted.

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  3. I do like to tweet when I get an R or a partial request–but I would never name names. The internet is also an amazing support system if you fall in with the right crowd.

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  4. I mostly agree with the points Danielle is making. Because I like to play the devil’s advocate and because I’m pretty sure Danielle likes me (right, Danielle? We’re tight?), I do see some value in sharing submission statistics with other writers to help get a sense of what to expect in terms of response time. With anything else, though (blogs, Twitter, etc), it’s important to do in moderation. When it stops being useful and starts becoming a distraction, I definitely think writers should be focused on “writing a great book,” as Danielle says.

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  5. Great post. I love writing forums and have made some great friends there, but the “keeping up with the Joneses” thing is so true. It’s almost impossible not to compare yourself to others. So I don’t talk about my query status or even my WIPs much for that exact reason. Everyone is different, the process moves along at a different rate for all of us accordingly.

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  6. Hmm. I can agree with some of this; it’s tough not to compare yourself to others and more than anything it’s distracting. I think, though, that when you say “the most important part of a writer’s job,” well, that’s just it…

    For unagented writers, this job’s reward is so abstract; you don’t know if you’re going to get one. Which segues into how writers should be writing for the pure joy of it, and that’s true– but after a novel’s completion, when you’re querying, you’re probably a little burned out, maybe a little emotionally raw depending on what you’ve written. A lot of writers at this stage are kicking around ideas and just thinking on their next project, so I wouldn’t say a big presence on a forum is necessarily obsessing over it. Though I’m sure some do have that tendency. (And some might say, “If they’re burned out now, what about when they get published and then come revisions, and book #2? A legitimate point. Though I daresay having an actual editor who wants it probably helps with one’s energy.)

    As far as posting rejection letters and response times, I think that can be more positive than negative. In fact I think it should almost, aaalmost be required reading for new writers, like “You’re going to be getting some of these letters soon; here’s what you might be looking at.” You probably only need to see one or two before you get the idea, though, but they do seem to crop up in every thread.

    I’m sure most (hopefully!) of these writers don’t mean to be obsessive. Query hell is a difficult place to be. Most writers don’t have too many folks in their orbits (outside writing groups) who have any idea what they’re taking on. You’ve got your non-writer spouse/parent/friend/cousin/neighbor/baby daddy/personal trainer who is supportive of you, but for all they know, a query letter goes “Dear Agent, here is my novel for you to publish. Thx.” And once you’re done with a manuscript and seeking representation, you often want a crowd who’s in your same square on the chessboard. So I think it’s natural for writers to want to kind of park alongside other writers at their stage of querying and natural to be curious if something (and what) catches an agent’s eye. And sometimes it does appear that the agent might’ve died and you want to know if anyone’s touched base with him!

    Now, as for name-calling and saying “Agent X sucks” and such: totally inappropriate. Fortunately I’ve not seen much of that.

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  7. I had to quit the writer’s forums cold turkey for this very same reason. After Upstart Crow opened there were quit a few threads crowing (ha ha) about what a great agency this was going to be, how excited everyone was, who had sent off their queries. But when people started to get their rejections/partial requests, and other people hadn’t, the anxiety level on the forums went through the roof.

    I have enough anxiety trying to craft a great book, I don’t need the addition of an online forum. I do like to read agents’ slush tweets. That brings up a question for the agents…have you ever been harrassed by the slush pile on twitter? I would think the temptation to do a follow up via twitter would be overwhelming to a few, especially if this is their first time at the ballgame.

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  8. Forums can be wonderful if the info put forward is educational, inspiring and good-hearted. It can also be toxic (as a moderator friend put it) if uneducational, depressing, and mean-spirited. Who wants that? Not I. I can’t write, nor do I want to write in that dank place.

    I think we all know when it is time to go and immerse ourselves in our art and writing…knowing that we have gained enough knowledge to rely on ourselves, and have confidence in our abilities. Then we see the trusted critters.

    As for market research, it is all over the net. You can find just about anything you need with that same knowledge. Anything. (Often repeated on another site on the very same day.)

    Personally, I find a lot of the blind leading the blind on forums. And people who refuse to listen to advice from seasoned and humbled, experienced souls. (The ones who listen to experience are going to go far.) But I suppose that is human nature for better of worse.

    As for keeping up with the Joneses, well, I never felt that way. I have never harbored any jealousy toward anyone nor resentment nor ill-will. And if that is what it is about, that is not good.

    That said my favorite author/illustrators (non of whom frequent forums) are the objects of my jealousy(…sweet I love you jealousy). They are the few I emulate…and they are very quiet about themselves.

    Write with you heart and you will find your audience. :) Take care, Barb

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  9. The internet is a wealth of valuable information that helped me understand the mechanics and process of submitting my work. But after awhile it all becomes a huge echo chamber and distraction. Life is so full already, it’s hard to wade through all the blogs and forums, and find meaningful time to write, too. But it’s great to know that there is a community of people who have the same goals and struggles. The fact that the internet helps me know just how many others are out there, is a bit overwhelming! So yes, I can see how the downward spiral spins out of control sometimes. When I need perspective, it’s better for me to turn off the computer and spend time with the people I share my life with. Then get back to the story at hand.

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