KEEP IT TO YOURSELF, SOMETIMES

I remember one of my first writers conferences. I pitched a project to one of the visiting agents or editors, and I remember being so thrilled when he asked to see the first three chapters. Later, one of the more seasoned conference attendees asked me how my pitch went and in my excitement I told her. Instead of being excited for me, she said, "Oh he asks everyone for the first three chapters."

Sad PuppyI don't know what was in this person's heart, what the intent was of the remark, but I know the effect. I was instantly deflated. I was being told, whether in mean spirits or total thoughtlessness, that I ought not be so excited, that I was not so special after all, and that in spite of having an actively acquiring New York publishing professional ask to see an excerpt of my manuscript I was in truth no closer to being published than I had ever been. It was a cruel thing to say, whether it was meant to be or not.

For several years after that, when asked how a pitch went, I always dodged the question, whether the pitch went well or not. It is easy to dodge such questions, just ask the person something about their work and they forget all about the question they asked. Whether a request for pages, or even the entire manuscript, meant I was about to be represented or not, I preferred the boost it gave to my inspiration to think so, than to have someone again poke it with a pin.

We are so often thoughtless in our comments to others that we often aren't mindful of how it may affect the listener. Especially new members or first time conference attendees. So let me set the record straight.

Happy DanceIf the agent or editor you pitched to at September's Colorado Gold conference, or any conference for that matter, has asked to see pages, never mind how many, that is rare. Don't pay attention to how many others he or she may have requested from other people. The fact is each agent/editor will never request pages of something in which they are not interested, they just don't have the time for such foolishness, even to spare feelings. Remember that the agent/editor you spoke to was at the conference for a reason. They want you to be a good writer, they want your project to be the one they pick for representation, they are there to find the next great novel for their list, and they would not have requested pages from you if they didn't want you to be the author of that novel. They are actually rooting for you.

Be excited. Be very excited. And don't let any off-hand comment from anyone dampen that excitement. Enthusiastically polish that excerpt and kiss the screen before you email it out for good luck. Then, don't sit by the phone with baited breath and wait for that phone call. Use the energy from your excitement to finish the project, or start another one. Take the inspiration and run with it. If an agent/editor asks to see pages, you are that much closer to getting published. And don't let anyone tell you otherwise!

Kevin Paul Tracy
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Kevin Paul Tracy, writer, philosopher, and all 'round raconteur, has traversed half the globe and both sides of the equator. He has SCUBA dived under ice and snow, and flooded craters hidden deep under ground, and he has done just about every odd occupation you can think of, from cave spelunking guide to wildlife photographer to interstate courier.

Kevin's fiction tends to deal with themes of bravery and fortitude in the face of extreme adversity, most often featuring very ordinary men and women forced into extraordinary circumstances, called upon to plumb the hidden strengths and resourcefulness they never knew they had.

Don't miss Kevin's latest twisted thriller "Presence of Malice", as well as his other books, the startling and engrossing Kathryn Desmarais Gothic Mysteries "Bloodflow" and "Bloodtrail" and the wonderfully entertaining espionage thriller, "Rogue Agenda."

He currently lives in Colorado with two very charismatic St. Bernards. More about Kevin on his website and on Amazon.

9 thoughts on “KEEP IT TO YOURSELF, SOMETIMES

  1. Uh-huh. I must have run into the same person, Kevin, because I was told that, too, several years ago. Then without realizing it, I popped some of my friends’ hope-bubbles by sharing that person’s quote. It takes so much energy and faith to prepare a partial or whole manuscript to send out for consideration! We thrive on that dash of excitement, and we need to celebrate such moments. Thank you for that reminder.

  2. I love this post. I’ve had the same thing happen, and it really did ruin what up to that second had been the most exciting thing that had happened since my 20-something son had been born. Mostly, I’ve had the opposite – hi-fives, hugs, and excitement, and that was so wonderful, but the thrill-kill comment stuck with me longer and gave me a lot more moments of doubt.

  3. I love this post, too! I had a situation that’s still bothered me for about 20 years. I was a young, aspiring writer working as a novelist’s assistant. He introduced me to a seasoned novelist. As she inquired about my writing history (I was in college, so had just a handful of published articles), she asked why I wanted to be a writer. I told her it was something I knew I wanted to be from the time I was in third grade. She sniffed and said, “Oh, you’re one of those.” I didn’t understand what she meant, but her comment crushed me and stomped on my confidence. To this day I wonder what she was saying. Our words have impact!! Use them to build up rather than tear down! Thank you for this thoughtful post.

  4. It’s always so wonderful to witness the expression of joy on a writer’s face after they’ve come out of an agent or editor pitch appointment. They don’t even have to say a word and I know they’ve just received a request for pages. It’s so exciting! I can’t imagine why anyone would intentionally want to spoil that experience for another writer. That’s so sad. Thank you, Kevin, for reminding all writers just how special it is to receive interest in their work from an agent or editor.

  5. Wonderful blog post, Kevin. I remember when I was so excited that Lee Child wrote a blurb for my novel Earthquake Games. I shared the experience with another writer and they said, dismissively, “Oh, he hands out quotes all the time.” I was totally crushed. I so agree that a writer should always cherish their successes and never mind the naysayers. Being asked for pages is always a big deal!

  6. Thank you for this post! It makes me wonder if people who say such dismissively thoughtless things like that were somehow crushed themselves and now spread it around because it’s what they know.

  7. Thanks for a reminder to think before we speak. As our moms told us, if you don’t have anything nice (or supportive or kind) to say, don’t say anything at all.

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