How do you know?

Just a quick heads-up here while I barrel down the road of novel-revision-or-death. It’s Friday after all, and after having completed 77,000 words worth of scorched-Earth rewrite in two weeks, I think I deserve a day of bumming about.

Which brings me to the subject: as writer, how you do you know whose commentary is valid, whose advice to take?

Since I’ve been on Twitter and have followed a number of people around in their web forays, I’ve become aware of how much bad and simply BS advice is being bandied about. Recently, I clicked on a Twitter link about ‘How to write a great query’, or something to that extent. There were a number of points mentioned, most of which were totally false, or at least for fiction authors. I suspect the post applied to non-fiction writers, but that wasn’t clearly mentioned.

Now, I ‘knew’ (if there ever is such a thing as ‘knowing’ in the business of selling one’s fiction) that what the writer of the post said doesn’t hold for a fiction author querying a book, simply because I read a lot of agents’ blogs and visit a lot of writing sites and have done so for the past few years. So I ‘know’ that most fiction agents in fact wouldn’t condone what this poster said in the blog.

If anything, the question: how do you know which advice to follow, is another incentive to network widely. Read various people’s opinions on the matter under investigation, and see what the majority opinion says. That is not to say that the oddball method couldn’t be successful, but that if you decide to go down that road, you should be aware that it is an oddball opinion which may explode in your face.

Be informed. Don’t act on one person’s say-so.


8 comments on “How do you know?

  1. I’ve been a recipient of bad advice about my writing before. I’ve seen many forums that give out terrible advice for those who up to the point of looking for agents or publishers.

    Sometimes you just need to let your common sense rule when to ignore advice. If you feel it is wrong (which is much easier to know when it comes to writing more so than getting agents/publishers), then don’t do it.

  2. But in her case the expert wasn’t the one giving bad advice. Some yahoo off the street gave advice on how to write a query, and her knowledge of agents giving good advice told her not to listen.

    Bottom line, take everything with a grain of salt and get a lot of opinions.

    • A lot of opinions is definitely the key. A number of high-profile agents are saying ‘pitch me on Twitter and you die’. I did just that with a small press and got a request for the MS. There are a lot of different opinions out there.Just make sure you’re turned-on and connected if you’re going to do something a bit out of the ordinary. First, of course, you have to be damn sure what exactly ‘the ordinary’ is.

  3. I would say when in doubt, seek additional feedback. Or post it up here and we’ll provide out $.02

    Or when in doubt ask me, for I know all. ‘Cept what an adverb is. Don’t get it.

  4. Patty, you’re a b*gger. I was gonna blog on this topic today but you’ve gone and doen it better than I would so now I’ve got to rethink and leaver this another week – or maybe I’ll narrow it down to whose critiquing advice to follow.

    The query thing is just a nightmare – 50% of “industry insiders” tell you to stick to the letter if the submission guidelines or you’ll be canned, the other 50% say do what you want because the writing will shine through.

    Is it any wonder people get confused?

  5. There’s another thing to be aware of, too, re things like query letters – different countries do things different ways. As far as I know, in UK they still don’t have query letters in the sense that US does. You do write a short letter, and you attach the first three chaps. The short letter should be just that: short – what sort of book, how many words, whether you’ve finished it, any publishing credits. You want to throw in a hook, fine, but forget the details.

    The best way to find the best advice in this particular case is to look at the website of the agent or publisher…go to the horse’s mouth in effect.

    • that is true. The official query letter for US agents is also pretty short. Just one paragraph describing the book.

      Strangely enough, when you do an agent searc on the web, not many UK agents come up

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