Nathan Bransford, Author


Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Writers and Sensitivity

One of the many things I have discovered in the course of being a blogging agent is the intense sensitivity of many writer types.

And actually, the mere fact that I typed that sentence will probably get legions of anonymous commenters up in arms about my gross insensitivity. Steel yourselves, sensitive writers! Steel!

To take the most obvious example, there's a proud and distinguished history of authors losing their minds over bad reviews and acting badly, to the point an author has to really, really act badly for anyone to surprised anymore (but writers also happen to be inventive types and manage to find new ways).

To take another example, I can't count the number of times in the course of writing this blog I've been accused of hating writers or looking down on writers or otherwise being reflective of all that is wrong with publishing today. Even aside from the fact that I'm actually a writer in my spare time, why in the world would I spend my time blogging about writers and books if I hated them? Why would I have spent seven years in this business to begin with?

Now, to be clear and fair, I've written a lot of words on this blog and anyone who spills this much e-ink is going to misspeak or state things inartfully from time to time. So I'm not criticizing people for taking offense occasionally. I also don't intend to absolve agents everywhere of bad behavior or attitudes that don't deserve to be absolved.

But still, there's a small, vocal portion of the Internet writing community who will seize upon any teeny tiny perceived slight and use it as proof that agents really truly are haters of writers/scum of the earth/enemy of Literature with a capital L/Philistines/Luddites/Carthaginians (is that a thing?)/you name it.

It's worth remembering during these times: agents have devoted their working lives to writers, they have typically worked their way up for years while living in expensive cities and making less than some part time temp workers, and they often work for hours on end with writers whose books they can't sell, for which they receive absolutely no compensation. I've never met a single agent who is in this business for any reason other than the fact that they love writers and they love books.

But there's just something about writing, where it's almost as if writer types feel things more deeply and need a channel for that passion and the inevitable frustration that comes with the business. And frustration really is inevitable. No matter how successful you are there are always going to be challenges, needlessly personal bad reviews/rejections, and any number of road blocks along the way.

Channeling it into frustration with the business side of publishing, against literary agents, editors, reviewers, bookstores... you see it so often, and yet it's just so clearly not the most productive way to be.

Anecdote.

Michael Jordan is the one of the most notorious competitors and cataloguer of slights of all time. Rumor has it he never missed an opportunity to feel slighted. The sensitive soul of an artist!

And yet: he didn't complain (at least not publicly) when he was supposedly frozen out when he was a young All Star or when the Pistons created the "Jordan Rules," which basically entailed knocking him senseless at every opportunity, or about the height of the rims or the length of the court or David Stern or fans or anything else. Instead he set about destroying the competition on the court.

This is probably some of the most obvious advice you've ever seen on the Internet, but still! I think it's worth remembering that if you're a writer you are most likely also a sensitive type who must steel yourself from time to time and remember to channel your passion into the proper vessel: your writing.






231 comments:

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Surly Jason said...

Yeah, sometimes I think that you're looking for punishment from the sensitive types ... not that I disagree with your thoughts, but I remember your audience and cringe.

Condolences ...

Sarah said...

Oh, so THAT'S why the novel I'm writing right now is so dark and angsty! I'm channeling my despair from those rejection letters. :-P

Anonymous said...

Now I'm really mad!

I'm so mad, I'm anonymously mad.

DG said...

Yes Nathan on all counts.

Reminds me of an Eagles song.

"Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy."

Kathleen Foucart said...

Great post. :)

Now to just get the over-sensitive-types to get past the first few lines & take it to heart...

Jeremy Robb said...

Perhaps that's why I'm not a (published) writer.. I don't get slighted. I like the criticism, because those that criticize generally have good points. And those that don't have good points don't have any sway.

Or perhaps it's because everything I write is rubbish. ^_^

Also, Carthaginians were those people from Carthage that went head to head against Rome (Hannibal, for instance). Just in case you were wondering. ^_^

Ink said...

Oh, the misfortune of being born Craig Ehlo. And we will not speak of my namesake. No, we will not.

Scott said...

Writers are a definitely different breed. We may not all be more sensitive than most but we champ at the bit to express it in words. Thoroughly. No soft stone left unturned.

susiej said...

I tend to agree with Jeremy. I read your blog to learn about the industry and become a better writer or at least a better querier. If you didn't tell the hard truths, how would I learn?

I wonder if the bigger the ego, the bigger the sensitive streak? Most people can accept that not eveyone will like our work. I don't like all published work. I don't like some very popular work. If we did all like the same thing, life would be very dull.

Hurrah for disagreement, dissension and open discussion.

Laura Martone said...

Good advice, Nathan - and for the record, I never once suspected that you do all that you do because you HATE writers and writing. In fact, your passion for literature and creative types is evident all the time. Thanks for continuing to face your critics with grace and hopeful words.

Susan Quinn said...

I was many things before I owned the title of "writer" (not published, mind you, but I'm just getting started).

I noticed right away my sensitivity levels zooming to the stratosphere. That could easily be facetious, but it is not - I became more sensitive once I started putting my heart, soul, tears and laughter on the page. So I sympathize with you tender hearts. I do. Really.

"No tears in the writer, no tears in the reader." Frost

Your sage advice is spot on - channel our anger (and doubts, and frustrations and righteous indignation) into WRITING BETTER BOOKS!

I volunteered this morning at my kid's school, during BookFair, helping young minds find books they would love. Bliss.

And how many sighs I heard, from kids that couldn't find books that they liked! Write the books - the readers are just waiting for you!

Ashley Duke said...

It can be difficult facing rejection because with writing, like with any form of art, it feels (at least for me) like I'm opening myself up and putting myself out there in a frighteningly intimate way.

But, frankly, I don't quite understand the writers who go nuts on the agent/amazon-reviewer/etc. for speaking negatively about their work. Is it painful to have your work criticized after all the time and emotion you put into it? Absolutely. But the agent/amazon-reviewer/etc. is a person with feelings, too, and it just seems kinda silly to rant and rave about someone being insensitive to your own feelings only to go and trash someone else..

Ah. Sorry. I get carried away. I just want us to all love each other and get along:D

Ha.

But in all seriousness, thanks, Nathan for always being polite and supportive of writers! You don't sugar-coat things, but I've never felt slighted or hated by you! :D

Broadway Mouth Blog said...

My theory is that it's not sensitivity, it's insecurity. As a writer, you never know what you have until someone reads it. And NO ONE reads it, so you never know what you have. Then, if someone does read it, then it's just one opinion, and you never get a second to confirm or conflict.

Romi said...

My Michael Jordan channeling-technique still needs a little work...haha. I think sometimes writers almost "embrace" the idea of being "passionate" (substitute word for "big baby"), because they somehow think it fits the "artist" profile. "Ohh...I'm an artist, of course I'm emotional! Just accept me, and please be taken aback my all my talent"...lol...And I say this as a writer myself!...I have drama queen moments for sure, but I've never tried channeling it towards the business before; I just end up being super-b*tchy to my friends ;-)

Seriously though this post is useful, because I think it's a reminder that is not said out loud (or listened to) often enough!

Duo said...

Hi Nathan,

Yeah I think you're right about the sensitivity. I think the best writers are those who are able to take constructive advice and use it to improve their writing. On that note...

What about religiously/theologically controversial literary fiction? Do you suppose that agents would generally shy away from representing these types of books? Would you be open to looking at those sorts of projects?

Thanks,
DUO

Zoe said...

Your words, "agents have devoted their working lives to writers" made me feel good :) Thanks for choosing to work with us!

Violet said...

I always assumed you couldn't do your job and hate authors. Why the hell would you be an agent if you hated them?

My writing improves when I get honest critiques. My knowledge of the publishing business improves from reading blogs like yours & BookEnds.

Thanks for the fair & honest blogs.

Hannah said...

I think you're right. This is the trouble with working in such a subjective industry - when it's all down to personal taste whether your work gets published, if you hit the big time or end up watching thousands of copies of your beloved book get pulped, it's so much easier to take offence at what would probably be completely innocuous statements in another industry.
I'm a student, I write a lot of essays for my degree. And sometimes in a seminar the professor will critique our essays, tear apart the things we've spent months thinking about. And it's sad, sure, because these are ideas I was proud of. But I know that he's been in academia a hell of a lot longer than me, he has more experience of essays and I know he's trying to help.
It's not a perfect allegory - obviously essays are much less subjective than novels (although can be surprisingly so!) and we're given the title and the background reading by our professors so it isn't entirely from our own heads as a novel would be. But still. You're just trying to help - anything and everything on this blog is clearly your own opinion and frankly, as far as I'm concerned, if someone doesn't like what you're saying it's a simple matter of never coming back. People get far too personal over the internet.

Thermocline said...

I'm angry I was gone last week during the first paragraph contest. Boo on me! Yay on everyone else who participated.

Josin L. McQuein said...

Come on Nathan, fess up.

It's painfully obvious that all the information put into this blog, and all of the time you've given up, and all of the advice you aren't required to give, and the fact that you don't make those who query you wait weeks or months for a response means you HATE AUTHORS.

The fact that you are an author means you HATE YOURSELF.

You're just full of hate mister.

/sarcasm :-P

Seriously, though, it seems like most people who write think a critical opinion of their material is a critical opinion of them, so they take each rejection personally.

Plenty of talented writers are total jerks and plenty of wonderful people can barely write a grocery list. The two don't equate.

spinney said...

The poll you put on your blog-- the one that counted unagented blog readers at 1700+... that was really astounding to me. If only 5% of them feels bitterly about an agent's role as Evil Gatekeeper, there's still 85+ haranguing souls out there to write the comments which engendered this post.

They squeak loudly, those squeaky wheels.

Arabella said...

Nathan, how could you say that writers are sensitive?! You've totally ruined my day, now, and I think that I'm going to go cry behind a locked door.

Polenth said...

I've never been very good at the whole sensitive artist thing. I need to work on my ranting skills. I blame all the sparklies and cuddly ponies on my desk. How can you be sulky when you've got a cuddly pony watching you?

CKHB said...

But channeling that energy into writing is so much HARDER than complaining on a blog!

Heh.

Dara said...

I'm a sensitive person by nature but when it comes to my writing I've learned to grow that thick skin.

I've also learned that when I'm frustrated, the best way of venting can be achieved in numerous ways without damaging yourself in public (or online). Screaming into a pillow or cranking up the angsty music always helps me feel better :) Then I'm back to myself within an hour or two.

Ken Hannahs said...

I find myself hoping for someone to hate what I write. I hope someone looks at what I put on the page and they just want to spit with uncontrollable sepulchral RAGE. Why? Because, as new writers, we shouldn't be afraid of people hating our work, but instead we should fear them casually putting it down and never thinking about it again. People will buy things they hate - they want to FEEL that emotion. We should fear lethargy of the reader the most. If people hate what you wrote, they are still more likely to read the next thing you write than if they never made it through the first piece.

Maybe that was rambling... I don't know. But if you can suck a reader in enough to hate you, then I think you've accomplished something.

Danyelle said...

As human beings, sometimes the more passionate we are about something, the less logical we are about the object of our affection--in this case writing.

I just want to thank you for having one of the most thoughtful industry blogs out there (here?), and for working so hard to keep the tone civil and light.

Thanks for all your hard work. :)

Charlie said...

So very true. When I think about my miserable life, I write much better.

Jenna said...

I feel the internet is a bad place to both post and read opinions. It is very easy to hide behind a screen name and use the keyboard to hurt.

Feedback is misinterpreted.

People get upset.

Would all these words and conversations be the same if we were face to face?

Jenna

Joelle said...

I was having this conversation with another writer yesterday and I told her, writers just need to suck it up! I mean, come on. I think the main reason so many writers have this problem is that they make writing their life. If I can only get an agent, if I can only get a book deal, if my book would only come out, if I could only make the NYT Best Seller's List, if I could only sell at auction...and on and on it goes. THIS IS YOUR LIFE AND YOU BETTER ENJOY IT NOW. My friend wanted me to blog about this, but you know...I can do without all the bad feedback I'd probably get, "Easy for you to say, your book is coming out!" Yeah...after SEVENTEEN YEARS in the business, thanks.

Anonymous said...

I think sharing your writing is initially a very vulnerable thing.

We all love our babies.

The first time(s) I was put down publicly (And, yes, one of those times was also an entry in a long-long-ago contest here where it was put down by someone who took it upon herself to critique each entry on her own blog- ouch and ouch -and hated mine. Sigh.)I felt like hiding under the bed.

Believe it or not, it was the warning that I needed to stay anonymous. I do not care for public floggings anyway and will avoid them when possible.

But since then, I have entered other contests here, have never won (yet) or been recognized (yet), but I am starting to believe in myself even so. And I always learn from and enjoy the contests. And they don't make me discount my writing anymore. In fact they improve it.

I guess growing skin is a process. For me anyway.

But the company here and the very nice moderator who doesn't tolerate meanies makes this a very lively place to hang for this sensitive writer -even if I still prefer the anonymous handle.

Poetry of Flesh said...

Writing something, pouring in your heart, time, life experience... it is easy (and understandable) to be sensitive about it. Bad critiques are felt as not just about the work, but about the author.

It does not, though, excuse bad behavior.

I appreciate what you do here, the information you provide is invaluable. Thank you.

Nerd Goddess said...

Just started reading your blog. Good post!

Chuck H. said...

Every time I try to pull the "sensitive artist" bull, my wife finds some way to get me up to my knees in by product of beef, goat or horse (yeah, the smelly stuff). So, what you're dishing up, Bransford, is a peice of cake! Bring it on, buddy boy.

Word Ver: fonessys - Verizon? Sprint? Att?

Honolulu Writer said...

Bravo, Nathan!

bryngreenwood said...

There's a certain breed of person who likes being slighted, outraged, offended, etc. I don't know that writers represent a larger share of that group than any other subtype, but I do know the internet makes it really easy for that type of person to seek out offense, outrage, slights, etc. My other favorite blog--Cute Overload--attracts them, too, and I don't think most of them are writers.

Karma & Adam said...

First time visiting your blog, but thanks to RSS, I will be back again. Journalism school beat the sensitivities out of me - they were HARSH. But wow, did I ever learn. I really believe that if you want to be a writer, you want to be critiqued. Otherwise, what's the point? What moves you forward?
Thanks for your insights - already took away a great tip!

Paul Greci said...

Interesting post Nathan.

I'm not sure I'd call it sensitivity. I think I'm a sensitive person but I also have a thick skin. Does that make sense?

For years I worked in an alternative school. It was the last stop before jail unless you turned it around. I developed incredible empathy for my students. I really tried to understand where they were coming from so I could help them get to where they wanted to go.

With writing--I've been writing YA full-time for two years and am now agented--I have received all kinds of feedback from agents, editors, critique partners and it's been fascinating and instructive.

In the end you've got to decide how to deal with it(the feedback). I think sensitivity combined with an open-mind and self-confidence can work to a writer's advantage. It's your story and you're going to decide how to to respond to critiques, editorial letters, reviews.

Sensitivity might help you to see where someone is coming from whether you agree with them or not. I think knee-jerk responses might come more from insecurity than sensitivity.

Bethany Mattingly said...

As writers we understand the impacts words have better than the majority of people. Because of that, we tend to know exactly what words are best fitting in every situation. It helps us immensely in writing and often hinders us greatly if we aren't careful. Some things are better left unsaid/typed.

Ink said...

Anonymous 11:38,

Nicely said. You do the Anonymati proud.

Kimber An said...

I think a lot of the time it's because the writer landed on your blog after being treated like crap by someone else.

Kick a dog enough times and he'll bite the nicest person in the world for no other reason than being in the same geographic location.

Mira said...

Thanks for this post, Nathan. I appreciate that you didn't tell writers not to be sensitive, but accepted that they are - thanks for that.

I do want to say, though, that Michael Jordan is not an artist. He's an athlete. I think that's a very different personality type.

In terms of the industry - while I believe that you may love writers, I think the industry as a whole does not. If it did, it would treat them better. But I can handle all the industry stuff - it's not personal. But rejection of my writing - that's more personal, and harder for me to deal with.

I'm not likely to go on a rant about that - who would I rant against? No, I'll turn it against myself, doubt myself and stop writing, like I have in the past, sometimes for years. Which I don't want to do.

So, I'm really struggling with this.....

Well, definitely no more contests for me. I'm also considering not showing anyone my writing until it's finished. My voice is alittle off-beat, and whenever I show it to people, I inevitably find someone who doesn't like it. I take that too much to heart. My voice is my voice, and I just need to find a way to trust it.

So, I think where I'm coming to with this is that it's good to know where you are as a writer. There are times when you want tough critique. There are times when you want competition to help sharpen you. But there are other times, when you really need a gentle environment that lets you grow at your own pace and in your own direction. I think that's more where I'm at in terms of writing.

So, this is very important to know. If I'm going to take responsiblity for myself as a writer, it's very good to know what I need, what works best for me. And then bring that into my life.

Melissa Petreshock said...

I'm currently channeling my sensitivity and angst into a YA novel about teenage depression and suicide. For this particular project, it helps to be overly sensitive, but on other projects I have to reign it in a bit more. I try to never take out my emotional turmoil on the industry itself and would never take it out on you, Nathan. Your blog is helpful and highly informative. I deeply appreciate what you do day after day!

Sterling Editing said...

Good post, Nathan. Thank you. Yes, as writers we have to just...suck it up every now and again, and cope.

Coincidentally, we're talking about this over on our blog, from the other perspective:

Please tell us: what makes it easier or harder for you to take feedback on board? What do you do to help yourself through it? And what can we do as editors to help?

If your readers have any thoughts, any hard-won experience that might help others, we'd love to hear it.

Anonymous said...

It's not just on the internet. Go to the bar at a writer's conference and you will hear the agents talking about how much they love books. The (unpublished)writers will be talking about what a bunch of scumbags the agents are. It's bitter grapes. It has no basis in truth.

Ink said...

Mira,

Nicely put. And remember, even if you were universally acclaimed the greatest writer in the world there would still be people who didn't like your writing. I mean, Rowling has sold 8 quatrillion books and yet look how many people abhor her. You can't write for everyone. You just to write as well as you can, and if you do so hopefully you'll find the right audience for you, be it one or one thousand or one million. Though, you know, the million would be cool.

Giles said...

I can't agree more!

As writers, we need to become thick-skinned or we'll end up turning into miserable monsters who whine and complain every time someone says something we don't agree with.

And really, isn't life hard enough already?

Mark Herr said...

The passive-aggressive types tend to excel at being the artistic folk or working in collection agencies.

Lynne said...

Authors who are "sensitive" need to shape up. There are many online critique workshops which can give it to you straight, in a nice way and others that just aim to kill. Toughen up, cry-babies. Nathan is your best friend.

Amanda said...

Nathan, I think this post is very insightful! As a writer, I will admit that I am sensitive and fiercely protective of my stories.

It does hurt if something rude or distasteful is said about your story/characters/writing. It does hurt when you receive rejection after rejection. But, I'd like to think I do channel that disappointment well. I do exactly as you've instructed -- I write more!

I've been reading this blog for a while now, and yes, you do state your opinions here. And yes, people will get offended, that's just the nature of the beast. You can't please everyone.

What I can't understand is why people feel the need to go off on it. I'm sure you, and other commenters, can appreciate a different opinion. No one needs to get nasty.

I appreciate this, and many other agent blogs, that give us a little window into the life of an agent, and a greater view of the publishing industry as a whole. I'm grateful for those of you who share with us all of your knowledge on the subject. I honestly think it gives us writers a leg up and a better chance to someday share our stories with a bigger audience. I'd like to think I can take every fact and opinion you share, regardless of whether or not I agree, and use it to further understand the workings of this industry.

So, I for one, thank you, Nathan, and the other agents out there who take the time to blog, for sharing with us! I've already learned so much, and I promise, I have no interest in biting your heads off over your opinions! ;)

Mira said...

Ink - thanks.

And that would be nice - to be hated because you sold 8 quatrillion books. I think I could handle that one!

And yeah, I think it just comes down to trust and surrender. You write, and have to let go of the results.

But also, to be careful. Sometimes that glittery ring looks very....glittery. But maybe it's better to let that one pass and wait until you're ready.

jjdebenedictis said...

Artists should be sensitive. We wouldn't be able to harvest the depth of experience needed to create accurate portrayals of the human condition otherwise.

That said, I think this post relates to the phenomenon you discussed in your Oct 6 post, i.e. people disparaging certain novels as "trash".

Many who are scathing about the books currently on the market also go ballistic in response to any criticism of their own work.

Those two things together add up to insecurity, not sensitivity.

Terry said...

I can't imagine why people think you hate writers.

I happened to see almost all the posts of that recent annonymous you finally had to cut off. It felt like a drive-by shooting. You handled it with grace and humor, as you do. And you were kind to the person as well, in spite of the barrage of personal attacks.

Sometimes, I think people are just frustrated and unfortunately take it out on you and probably other agents. It's not fair, though.

Please keep doing what you're doing. I know most of us really appreciate your advice and you deliver it with consideration, understanding and wit.

Kristi said...

Constructive criticism is one of the best feedback tools through which one learns and grows - this goes for any profession. The idea that Nathan would voluntarily spend most of his waking time devoted to something he hates is ludicrous. I've learned a ton from this blog and have nothing but praise for Nathan who is always tactful if not downright gentle in his feedback. If you want to prove others wrong about your writing, then write a better book.

Lisa Dez said...

First, we know you love us, Nathan! And we truly appreciate the volumes of essential information you provide us through your blogging efforts. I, for one, would never have found my amazing agent without your help.

As far as the sensitivity, it’s really hard for most people to take criticism objectively. Especially if it seems mean-spirited. I’ve learned through my other career that you can’t make all the people happy all the time so, when I receive criticism, no matter how nasty, I really work to find something I can take away from it to make me a better ____. (fill in the blank: person, writer, doctor) This attitude has saved me thousands of dollars in therapy bills. But, even with years of practice, there’s always that initial gut clench and defensive backlash when someone says something negative about my work. Because, of course, it’s going to hurt when someone doesn’t love what we’ve invested so much of ourselves in. But, in the end, when I find the positive message I can take away from that criticism, I’m always happy for it.

Marsha Sigman said...

Why are you such a Hater? Its just obvious because you spend so much time trying to be understanding and answering all of our questions..over and over...

I like to pride myself on being sarcastic and cynical but I am actually pretty upbeat. You can't make everyone like you and you can't make everyone like your writing. I like it and maybe I am just self-centered enough for that to be the most important thing.

Anonymous said...

Mira,

Your voice comes through in every post you write, and people are drawn to you. Be brave. But I don't blame you for hiding your work until you're completely satisfied with it. I feel the same.

As for Michael Jordan, and I could be wrong, but he plays basketball, we write. Playing basketball isn't the same as putting words on paper or a blog. Expressing their opinions is what writers always do.
Sensitivity is natural in a writer, but claiming Nathan hates writers is ridiculous. I don't always agree with Nathan, but he definitely doesn't hate writers.

Vipul said...

This was a pretty timely post for me, since you just sent me a prompt, polite rejection (my first!) yesterday. I realized that no matter how many times I hear that 99% get rejected, there's a secret part of me that hopes that not only am I in the 1%, but that I am some miracle talent who will be thrust into success immediately. When you toil in the darkness for awhile, reality can be a bit blinding.

But I can't imagine anyone criticizing your commitment to writers and books.

Nathan Bransford said...

Mira, anon-

I actually think writers and athletes have a lot in common. They both require a whole lot of talent, discipline, endurance, concentration, creativity, etc. etc. etc.

Anonymous said...

Disclaimer: I'm not anonymous so I can rant. I just can't log in at present.

I belong to a writing site where member are constantly saying 'all writers are sensitive to criticism' and their book is their baby etc, but I really don't feel like that. It's work, plain and simple, and like in my day job, if I get criticism, my response is 'okay, do I agree and if I do how do I fix it?' along with 'thanks for pointing that out.'
Daniel Goleman's books on emotional intelligence have some interesting things to say on personal responses to criticism - should be compulsory reading for anyone who gets upset by it.

Oh, and my agent rocks!

sex scenes at starbucks said...

I think sensitivity is rooted in insecurity. This business is not kind to the insecure.

For some reason insecurity is often paired with an inflated sense of self-worth. Or maybe it's a defense mechanism or something. But I've run up against them in my classes, at cons, at the magazine. So they're not just picking on you, Nathan.

Just remember, your daily affirmation, Nathan:

"I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me."

David said...

Nathan's comparison to Michael Jordan is very apt, in that it shows how not having a thick skin can hurt you, no matter how much success you have.

I don't know how many basketball fans read this blog, but you've undoubtedly heard of Michael Jordan. And yet, his cringe-worthy train wreck of a Hall of Fame acceptance speech was an astonishing display of someone who couldn't take criticism.

Anonymous said...

Your most recent contest had around 2,500 entries. There was only 1 winner, plus 10 finalists and 18 honorable mentions. Very few writers complained. Many writers congratulated the winners and heaped tons of praise on you for running the contest. Some writers beat themselves up, as in "ZOMG, I really need to improve my writing!" I think agents are sensitive, too. I've noticed that certain agents who blog are consistently much more likely to comment on and respond directly to angry commenters than very polite, patient commenters (of which there are MANY!). Possibly this reinforces such behavior. Just an observation.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon@12:31-

I actually wrote this post a couple of weeks ago. It's not in response to anything that happened in the contest.

Nathan Bransford said...

Although point taken about responding to the squeaky wheels.

Steph Damore said...

I like what Scott said:
We may not all be more sensitive than most but we champ at the bit to express it in words.

Some people might complain to their friends or significant others, but writers will do that AND publicly write about it. How strange but true.

Anyone who would think Nathan is a hater is officially a nut. Where do people come up with this stuff?

Ulysses said...

I think some such signs of sensitivity appear because there are those among the human population (and especially American Idol applicants) that would rather blame someone else than face the possibility that (maybe even just this once) their work is not good enough.

As writers, we are encouraged not to give up and it requires an unusual mind (read: damaged/ delusional) to persist in the face of a tide of feedback (rejections) indicating to any rational, objective mind that giving up and moving on would be a considerably more constructive use of our time.

A rational/logical mind would not persist. The only conclusion is that those who do cannot be considered rational or logical. If that's the case, then delusional behavior follows as a matter of course.

Um... short version: writers = crazy. Crazy people act irrationally, some moreso than others. It's all just a question of where you fit in the spectrum.

Myself? I'm deep indigo, verging on violet.

Eric said...

Yes, I too thought this was giving the contest trolls the attention they were looking for.

So the truth is you're phoning it in with bottom-drawer essays, eh? Sounds to me like somebody has a case of contest-lag. :)

Bobby said...

To be a writer is the never ending struggle to successfully navigate the fine line of being as open (or thin-skinned for lack of a better phrase) as possible during your performance, your writing, but then to develop a thicker skin when dealing with your writing.

Anonymous said...

Gee whiz, Nathan. Yours is the nicest agent blog I have ever come across, and that includes my own agent's. I think there are an awful lot of angry, bitter writer-types online just looking for a place to spew some venom and feel a tiny bit better as what they see as the unfairness of it all (meaning their lack of success in the industry). This seems like a safe place, so they spew here. You can't make everyone happy but IMO, the people YOU offend probably need a bit of therapy.

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Amalia T. said...

One of my creative writing professors used to say: I'm not your therapist.

I think it was her way of heading off the sensitive-angsty-writers at the pass. She had no tolerance for people getting personally upset by critiques.

As a writer, I think a deep breath and on to the next project is the best way to cope. Certainly it seems silly to waste my energy getting upset at someone else when I could just use it to write something better.

There's room for sensitivity, but energy conservation is important! Think Green people!

Anonymous said...

Nathan, it doesn't really matter when your post was written. I mentioned the contest because there were so MANY writers that posted nothing but congratulations and praise after the contest. Today's blog might have covered the tremendous cordiality and support within writing communities. There's a popular trend on certain agent blogs to criticize writers who don't behave, and to respond directly to angry commenters. Not only do certain agents consistently respond to angry commenters, but certain other agents will blog about angry comments they've read on OTHER agent blogs, actually quoting the angry comments on their own blog. Perhaps this reinforces bad behavior, no?

Renee Pinner said...

Nathan,
I'm probably relatively new to your blog, compared to some, and I'm definitely not a regular voice in the comments. But, I wanted it said that I've yet to read a word in your blog that implied any sense of disdain or hatred toward your fellow writers (or possible clients).
I appreciate the information you share and the opportunities your blog affords through the contests.
Thanks for the effort you're putting forth here, and please keep it up.

Nathan Bransford said...

eric-

Yep - I'm tired after the contest, time for the benchwarmers.

Cammie said...

Hi Nathan. I don't know the backstory behind this post, but as a newby writer-blogger, I just want to sound off on my feeling that overly-sensitive writers give the rest of us a bad name! ;-)- I happen to be a skin-of-iron writer (bring on the critiques!!!) who believes that any constructive feedback only makes us stronger. I've been told (by good friends - who became even better friends thanks to their honesty) that my characters where "mechanical," that my plotline was lackluster, you name it. And all I could think was, how awesome to be receiving this kind of useable feedback while I can still use it (during the rewrite phase, as opposed to once the book is published *dream, dream* and panned by the press!) I just wish overly-sensitive writers would step back from their work and welcome objective criticism as a blessing, not a curse. Check your egos at the door, people! ;-)

Mira said...

Whoops, the links are confusing. Corrected.

Nathan,

I can't vouch for anon (thanks, anon for what you said) but I was talking about personality types.

Athletes tend to be this type of personality:

http://www.keirsey.com/handler.aspx?s=keirsey&f=fourtemps&tab=1&c=overview

Click on "Artisans"

Some writers are as well, for example, Hemingway.

But many writers, the more senstive types anyway, will be this personality:

http://www.keirsey.com/handler.aspx?s=keirsey&f=fourtemps&tab=1&c=overview

Click on Idealists

Some writers will be one of the other two types I didn't link to (Guardians and Rationals), but those won't be as sensitive either.

Anyway, that's what I meant. The personality types handle things differently.

Of course, you may think this is all bogus, and.....off topic. But that's what I meant.

Emily White said...

Yes, I'll admit I'm the sensitive type. Although I completely believe that the paragraphs chosen were by far the right ones, I happened to get a rejection for a short story at about the same time. You better believe I took a moment to whimper to myself!

But I like your point about Michael Jordan. He may have FELT slighted, but he didn't let it affect his professional career. Some of us who feel tempted to blow off some steam might want to step back and think about who we're blowing off to.

mythicagirl said...

Nathan,

The Kanye West school of dealing with emotions runs rampant in just about everything these days. Perhaps a wee bit of entitlement no?

"How could you give me a c? I showed up for class, that should be worth an A"

"A ticket for talking on my cell phone while driving? Do you know who my father is? DO YOU?"

Such is life. Everybody’s sensitive, but its the ones who don’t mind being loudly insensitive when they’re getting their sensitive on that’s mind boggling.

I will leave you with one of my favorite movie lines. Ahem.., it is a passage from the classic film "Enter the Dragon" when Jim Kelly was told he would have to learn how to lose...his reply was:
"I don't waste my time with it, cuz I'll be too busy lookin' good"

Eric said...

No worries, champ. You pitched a hell of game.

Edward W. Robertson said...

One of the benefits of the first paragraph contest was the glimpse it gave of how an agent operates. On diving into the slushpile, it's easy to see how fast good writing jumps out at you--and how much other talented work is out there next to yours.

With that perspective, you get a new light on what an agent or magazine editor means when they say "I'm afraid it didn't grab me" or "This isn't right for me." If it didn't stand out, you know there was a damn good reason for that--and even if you're sure it did, but got passed over anyway, you're aware of the kinds of choices agents and editors have to make when it comes down to those last few submissions.

Either way, it is impersonal. Nothing to get oversensitive about. And either way, the response is the same: put it behind you and get back to work.

dylan said...

Mr. Bransford

Catalogues of Slights can be funny.

As pseudo-Lennon says here, "I'm sensitive as shit!"

http://tinyurl.com/yh8hhk8

dylan

Courtney Price said...

You directed that at me! I hate you!

:)

ryan field said...

Good post.

Fawn Neun said...

It's always basketball with you, Nathan, isn't it?

;)

Nice entry...

Toby said...

I hope varying opinions are not considered to be the same as bad behavior?

And I'm not so sure about anon’s comment that very few writers complained. Maybe they didn't complain out loud, but 2,600 writers submitted their paragraph... and only 800 voted.

When writers say nothing, that's saying something.

I found the silence deafening.

Lisa Iriarte said...

I'm teaching a creative writing class for the first time this year. The first lesson I taught them was to develop a thick skin. We are breaking into critique groups, we are providing criticism which is mostly constructive, but is criticism nonetheless.

Now, after eight weeks of the class, I believe the kids have gotten the hang of it. They thank each other for the critiques. They ask intelligent questions about the comments. They provide additional information generally without becoming defensive.

Many adult writers could benefit from watching this class of seventh graders. I know I have.

Ash. Elizabeth said...

all i have to say is that if writing problems are the biggest things these people have faced they have to calm down. i love writing, but it wont be the end of the world if i never get published. it means i'm not good enough or not trying hard enough.

i have a post about things worse than rejections on my blog, and i immediately got anon users saying "what? obviously you've never been rejected by an agent"

umm yeah, i have. when you've dealt with cancer, like me, the "problems" people get all bent out of shape over are crazy. i don't understand why people get so upset over it. i don't know maybe i'm not sensitive enough or something, but i just don't. hmm...turns out i did have a lot to say!

Eric said...

Toby,

You raise a very interesting point.

Gordon Pamplona said...

Let me throw this one out there for discussion: On one level, writers hating on editors/agents/reviewers sounds like a lot of people I know talking about their bosses at their crappy jobs, because by every objective measurement, writing is a really crappy job. No control over your work environment, no (or arbitrary and contradictory) feedback, low pay--it's enough to stress anyone out.

And a lot of times the sensitivity about the writing is a stand-in for sensitivity about something else: you spent so much time chasing this pipe dream that you lose your job, your marriage, your kids; your kids don't respect you because you didn't write Harry Potter or Twilight; you charged a lot of money on the credit card for conferences and classes with no tangible results, and now the family is eating beans and rice. For many of us, writing is an addiction, no different from alcohol or drugs or gambling. And maybe people who are angry, bitter, stressed out, or despondent should take a hard look at whether this is something they should be doing--if it's gone from a hobby to something that's ruining their lives and their relationships with others.

Mira said...

Oh, I want to say one more thing about this.

Although, first I do want to say I'm feeling much better. It's funny how just expressing feelings helps.

But, Nathan, I want to acknowledge that I was totally into this contest, and encouraged it. And I still think it was great that you did it. Look at the great writers you found, and the new folks who discovered your blog.

My reaction totally caught me off guard. No idea why I was so sensitive this time.

But ultimately, that's good too, because it helped me understand myself better.

So, it's all good, and I hope you're getting some much deserved rest.

Toby said...

Ash.Elizabeth

We all are sensitive about what means the most to us.

Fighting cancer certainly changes one's perspective about what is important.

Understandably, having a manuscript rejected when you are fighting for your life would seem inconsequential, but when writing is your life, then it becomes a big deal.

It's all about perspective.

I hope you've had a full recovery.

Lisa Yarde said...

As those rejections pile up for something a writer may have poured heart and soul into, it's really easy to become too sensitive. It's your baby and how dare anyone criticize your baby? But if you want your work to read by others, you just have to accept the criticism and accolades that come with seeking publication.

Anonymous said...

Umm, I must suck as a writer.

My point was Micheal Jordan went out and played basketball harder because he was a basketball player.
Your writers wrote their opinions of the criticism they recieved because they are writers.

And I get that you meant them for us as writers to improve our work, but it is also natural for us to want immediate release of the tension we feel from criticism. An athlete gets immediate relief by showing off his skills. Some times it takes years before we can prove our worth.

How was that? Still bad?

Anon 12:25

Anonymous said...

The difference between athletes and writers is that athletes have coaches. IE, someone professional to support and guide them on their way.
Most writers would kill to have someone like that (I think they're called 'agents'?)

In my experience at least, it's a lot easier to keep motivated when there's someone screaming at you, "WHAT THE HELL WAS THAT? THAT WAS SHIT!! PICK UP YOUR ACT OR GO HOME!" than just... silence.

Someone mentioned insecurity. Well, that would be why: because as writers we don't know where we stand.

...ehh, forgot where I was going with this. But I agree with anon 12:31, that was my first thought too. They're a minority. They're always going to be there. You just have to deal with it and be thankful there aren't more of them.

Diana said...

I don't think it's sensitivity as much as it is emotional immaturity. People who take things personally that clearly are not about them, have not yet gotten out of "the world revolves around me" stage in life. I've met a lot of writers still stuck in that stage. They don't know the difference between an "I" and a "You", statement, reacting to "I" statements that aren't about them and ignoring "you" statements which are. They also have difficulty separating the actions from the actor. You can explain it a million times in a million different ways and they will not understand.

There's not a whole lot that you can do about it.

Anonymous said...

BTW I'm not saying it is right for anyone to spout off; I am just offering rationale as to why it happens so often.

ANON 12:25

Izabella said...

Agent criticism is tricky, but I agree with you. Many of us pour our blood, sweat, and tears into our work, sometimes we're great at it and sometimes there's room for improvement. I understand that there are sensitive types out there, but the way I see it is this: If you're truly passionate and want to succeed as a published author you will accept criticism and make the best out of it. It is up to the writer to improve their work and not take it personally. Agents are there to help you succeed and improve, and you shouldn't hate them for that because it will get you nowhere.

Ash. Elizabeth said...

Toby,

I had cancer before I started writing. Sorry if I didn't explain that correctly. And, I love writing. I think you missed my point. I never said writing can't be hard or that it isn't someones "true love" or whatever.

(back to everyone)

What I'm trying to say is that people shouldn't get so upset over rejections. I'm sorry, but people shouldn't cry or whatever over query rejections and getting bad books reviews.

I'm saying people should look at the good, and they should see what other people don't have. You may love writing and may be upset over rejection, but what about the person who lost his arms over a tragic accidents? There are plenty of people who CANT write, and the fact that you have fingers and the ability to put wonderful words on paper should be enough. Being capable of doing what you love should be enough.

If people say they love to write because they breathe it, why do they cry when they don't get published? I thought writing was their dream? The only problem with not getting published is you don't get money. . .And, if that's not the reason you do it, then why are people upset?

Half the people who cry over things like blog contests should go stand in an emergency room for an hour, or go to Hasboro and visit the children who are too busy worrying about their next chemo session to even consider drawing like other kids.

I'm not saying at all that people shouldn't say they love writing or shouldn't celebrate the amazing accomplishments. I'm saying those rejections shouldn't be a big deal, and I'm saying people shouldn't be so sensitive.

I'm sure your love for writing is the same as 99% of the people out there right now writing a book. I love it too, but never to I dwell over the negatives.

Alicia A said...

It is hard to pour your heart into your work and find out it could be better. But professionalism is necessary in any field. Could you keep your job if you threw a fit everytime your boss or peers disagreed with you?
Yeah its hard being critized but that's how you learn people.
Nathan, your blog is inspiring.

Skeptic said...

In my real life, I teach Nonviolent Crisis Intervention (TM) to professionals and caregivers for people with psychiatric diagnoses.

There is a concept that applies to every aspect of life that I wish with all my heart that writers could/would want to learn. It's called rational detachment. The premise (in mental health) is that we (professionals and caregivers)are able to stay in control of our behavior and not take "acting-out" behavior personally.

In writing, rational detachment is so important. It might feel like the brain has gone into labor and given birth to Cerebella - the perfect brain child - but the world is subjective. If writers cannot rationally detach from that over protective tendency, how can writing improve? When feelings are too involved, when rejection is personalized from "not for me" into emotion that feels like "your writing sucks", where does a writer go from there?

Why do we write? Fame and fortune? The prestige of finally being "one of the published" in the world? Or do we have stories in our heads that cannot go anywhere but OUT onto paper? All the romanticized BS of writing "the great American novel" aside, writing is hard work. Who sits down and in one draft cranks out something perfect that the world clamors to read? Who lives life in any profession in a bubble of perfection where there is no room for growth?

People think it's hard (and it isn't easy) to hear criticism of their writing. Believe me - it can and is worse in other areas in the world. I just spent 12 hours being followed around by a loud, verbally abusive mouth intent on finding a trigger and punching the hell out of it. I would never be able to go back to work without rational detachment.

Long winded advice aside - here's the crux.

Step away from the emotion. Rejection in writing probably isn't an indictment on the personality of the writer. "Not for me" just means "not for me." It might mean "I'm too busy right now," or "I really don't enjoy this genre," or "dammit my bad day hasn't stopped since the Lakers won the championship in June" (and I am - GO CELTICS).

Remember that what you personally don't enjoy, someone else loves and vice versa. Don't personalize to the point of hurt feelings. Learn the lesson. Improve the skill. Start again. This is the key to success in life.

/end opinionated rant

Anonymous said...

Also a disclaimer: I am an anon, because I can't log in for some reason.

I think "hate" is a strong word to use, I've heard writers rant about agents (usually unagented writers). I've heard agented writers rant about their agent not doing enough for them. However, I haven't witnessed this hatred you speak of, Nathan.

Agents and editors love books, or they wouldn't be in the business. Writers love creating stories, again, they wouldn't be in this business.

If there are a few who go on and poste hateful things about agents, then they probably post hateful things about other authors and editors as well.

I have seen a few NY Times best selling authors lash out at readers because the readers gave them a less than stellar review on Amazon or other blogs, but, again, I think that's far and few between.

I think my agent is wonderful, he works hard and I know he won't make a dime, until he can sell my work.

Nothing against you, Nathan, I think you do a wonderful job on this blog, your contest, your quick response time, which I'm told from friends who have queried you.

I have to be honest, Nathan and say, if you were my agent, I'd be a tad concerned that you are overextending yourself. Plus you're also an author and will be busy promoting your book soon. Congrats to that!

I know how busy my agent and his assistants are, and they don't have time to do half the things you do, so I commend you on that, but as I said, above, I would be concerned of burnout or that I wouldn't get the attention I may need.

This is not a flame, I'm just being honest on how I see this.

Thanks

Dan Branda said...

Disagree.

I reject about 30 writers a month (which is to say, I've rejected 30 writers), and with one exception the writers' reactions have been 100% positive. It's all in the presentation.

Richard Mabry said...

I still recall the first "slight" I suffered as an author. At a conference, I approached a well-known agent and pitched my novel to her. "Send me a proposal." I did so, feeling that surely fame and fortune would follow in rapid-fire order. Instead, in a few weeks I received a terse letter from the woman, not even hand-signed. "Thank you for your submission. Unfortunately, I didn't find it to be as good as I'd hoped."
I'm sure I called her every name in the book (in my mind, of course)--uncaring, heartless, unable to judge talent--but in the cold, gray light of dawn I realized that she was right. The work wasn't as good as she'd hoped. It wasn't even as good as I'd hoped. Three years and a lot of effort later, another agent took me on and my first novel comes out soon. And the "uncaring, heartless" agent was one of the people who sent me a congratulatory note.
You're right. We need to channel our anger.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

Being public leaves no room for being overextended or burning out. If I were spending all my time online and neglecting my clients they would know about it pretty quickly.

My clients are priority number one and their work comes before anything else. That's precisely why I have posts like this that I wrote a while back ready to go on days when things are busy.

Alma said...

Even though you have 101 comments already, I am compelled to write: you extremely thoughtful, diplomatic and even-handed. I used to work with real live diplomats and dude, they could take lessons from you.

the artist formerly known as Meredith

Anonymous said...

Nathan, I have no doubt that you do not neglect your clients, but you have to admit, writing a blog, reading the comments, responding. That contest alone must have taken a huge chunk of your time, and I've read your article and posts on other blogs and you're also a writer.

As a published author, you will also have to dedicate a lot of time to promotion, I would think.

Then I assume you have a personal life :)

You obviously can multi-task extremely well and juggle many hats, and I commend you.

I was just being honest in saying, I would be extremely concerned if I were a client. I know from meeting with my agent and actually seeing his agency at work one day, that in his case, him and his staff wouldn't be able to keep up, there is just so much involved, as I saw for myself. Not just a matter of answering queries and submissions, and I have seen how some authors demand a lot of time from their agents after they are published.

I am grateful to have seen just what is involved in a an agent's day, and it is hectic. How you manage it all, is beyond me, again, I commend you, I just would worry that you would suffer an early burn out in this industry.

Peace.

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

All I know is I don't work nearly as hard as my dad, who is up at 4:00 AM every single morning to check the fields, so I may have a skewed perspective on what working too much entails.

Look: I love my job, I love writing, I love spending time with friends and my wife, I love television and movies, and I find time to do all of those things. There really is enough time in the day. There isn't any secret about it or anything diabolical going on. There are lots of people out there who work harder at more difficult jobs. I'm lucky, not burdened.

AM said...

Richard,

I just went to your website. Congratulations!

I look forward to buying a copy of CODE BLUE in April.

lora96 said...

We are writers and thus revel in the theatrical exposition of our despair in the face of an unappreciative world. Oh, the angst, the drama, the horror of it all!!!!!

Yup. That's us.

We write, we get rejected, we flail around about it.

darksculptures said...

When I started writing, I expected everyone would grab a glass of milk to help swallow the crap sandwich I was serving, because I was new to the field and just learning the craft.

No one dare say anything that would be discouraging. After all, like most new writers, I really believed I was the next George Orwell, Kurt Vonnegut, or maybe Ray Bradbury. All I needed was a grammar refresher.

Yeah right! Guess how that worked out for me.

Well, I’m still learning, but no longer wallowing and I’ve learned to moderate a bit of my sensitivity. I realized I was the one applying my fingers to the keyboard and forcefully pounding out crap.

The way I understand it, the heart of a writer can’t be too sensitive, unless long term care at a mental institution is the desired end. But it’s not all confidence and stoicism either, because you run the risk of becoming complacent and turning a deaf ear.

It’s all about the balance.

Marilyn Peake said...

Personally, I think a good writer needs to have deep sensitivity about the world, enough empathy to write meaningful stories. Otherwise, they’d write only about meaningless drivel. However, I think most determined writers eventually develop the hide of a rhino and don’t have the time or inclination to lash out. My new skin: here.

Kristin Laughtin said...

You're totally a Carthaginian. I can tell by your writing and your addressing my sensitivity in the first place!

Nah, really, well said.

Susan Quinn said...

On the possible burnout of Nathan Bransford: "If you want something done, give it to someone who's busy."

Ash. Elizabeth said...

i disagree that you have to be sensitive to be a writer. Have you ever heard of Robin Cook? He used to be a doctor and is known for his sometimes coldness. You don't need to be sensitive to be a writer. You need to have a talent for it, the will to keep at it, and the thick skin to keep going with it no matter how many rejections pile up in your inbox.

You're implying that sensitivity means your more insightful. I'm applying for an internship at the local branch of ICE, and I've met with many agents. They're standoffish, but when it comes to someone else's life, they'll do whatever it takes to protect people.

Some of our greatest fields require being cold sometimes heartless. Another example doctors.

Just because someone doesn't wear their heart on their sleeve doesn't mean they don't care about stuff as much as you do. i think it's important for people to remember that. No ones the same.

Anonymous said...

Toby, you really can't read too much into writers who didn't comment on Nathan's blog about the contest winners. When agent contests are advertised widely on the web, many writers enter ONLY to see if they can win, but don't ever plan on commenting on the blog other than to enter the contest. Nathan's contest wasn't limited to regular participants on his blog.

SphinxnihpS of Aker-Ruti said...

I'm sensitive, not because I'm a writer, because I'm just sensitive. And one thing I notice from those who don't have much tolerance for that, is the advice to "stop being so sensitive" or to "get a tougher skin". Not exactly the best advice, because now the sensitive person feels there is something wrong with them for feeling that way and/or if it were that easy to turn off the emotions, they wouldn't be feeling sensitive in the first place. It's the same way with, for example, telling someone who is angry to stop feeling angry and that will solve all their problems.

Hmm, wonder how many more times I can use sensitive in a post.

Anyway interesting post, lol, and I can even guess for once what prompted it.

Jodi

Anita Saxena said...

In response to multi tasking and working hard....
Sometimes I think the people who are the most succesful and achieve true balance in their lives are the people who challenge themselves on multiple levels.

My brother is in Dental School and he's been going through a rough time his second year and his professor said something to him: Everyday you need to challenge yourself professionally, physically, emotionally, spiritually, and artistically. Nathan obvious hits points on all of these. I'm a firm believer in being multi faceted. It keeps life less monotonous. People come up to me all the time and are like "You do too much" or "How do you do so many different things?" And I'm like how could you NOT have a life full of different things?

I guess I'm being overly sensitive about the subject. He..he..he...

Marilyn Peake said...

Ash.Elizabeth,

Good writers don’t need to wear their hearts on their sleeve. Some are cold as ice and pompous, but deep down many are sensitive. Psychological studies have actually shown that writers tend to be more emotional than the general population, but that doesn’t mean they always show it. Emotions and behavior can be completely different.

Ash. Elizabeth said...

yeah, that's what I said. thanks for agreeing with me.

Ash. Elizabeth said...

also, on multi-tasking:

My professor is 27 and is in charge of the FBI entrance program in Miami. Plus, he goes running all the time, offers his assistance at the gun range, AND offers his martial arts services for FREE in his spare time at a local studio. He's like a badass god in his field (much like Nathan). The fact that people can do so much is a GOOD thing. A very, very good thing.

Marilyn Peake said...

Jodi,

I don’t think anyone should be told to get a tougher skin. I’ve been writing for at least 20 years, and almost quit so many times, I’ve lost count. I kept writing because I love it. Eventually, I realized that rejection had stopped affecting me because rejection was so often balanced by success if I just kept on going. In fact, most times when I almost quit, I suddenly received a new opportunity for my writing. If at some point in the future, I get tired of banging my head against doors, I’ll quit. In the meantime, I love writing and the frustrations don’t bother me that much.

Sharon Mayhew said...

Nathan,
I read your blog daily. I learn something everyday. I am one of those sensitive creative people. I've only had one story published so far. At first rejections felt very personal to me, but now I look deeply into rejection to see what I can learn from them. If you're not able to take rejection, self-publish.

Colette said...

I think it's fair to say that sensitive types exist in every field -- this is not a distinction reserved for writers or other artists. Everywhere -- there are sensitive types and not-so-sensitive types. We'll all get over it.

Stephanie said...

Oddly enough, I am sensitive about everything else in the world, but I have always been able to accept critiques of my writing. The very first time someone gave me a critique, I said, "I know I'm new at this and I don't know what I'm doing, so tell me what I need to work on." The feedback was better than I expected, and I have gone on to have harsher and more complimentary critiques. For some reason, I always KNEW writing was hard, so I didn't expect to try it once and be a star. I want my writing to be the best it can be and I am a big believer in "life-long learning". The more I learn, the better my writing can be. You notice, the more I learn, the better I will be. Most likely, there are some great writers who are terrible people, and some great people who are terrible writers.

jongibbs said...

Well said :)

Diamond said...

1) Inartfully??? Artlessly, perhaps

2) Just as all Math teachers/politicians/lawyers can't be evil - there are some good ones out there - neither is it probable that all agents are good. That you've never met an agent who wasn't of surpassing integrity possibly says more about you and the company you keep than the essential nature of the profession

Regan Leigh said...

You'd think with such sensitive writers, they'd have more respect towards the feelings of others. Even the feelings of *gasp* agents. It's pretty sick to see people bash agents and the job they do, but demand respect for their writing. Just sayin'.

Thanks for continuing to give us great posts. Now I must go and have my daily writer's cry... ;)

Alessa Ellefson said...

The Carthaginians were people from Carthage. Were you thinking of the Corinthians, a line of "French" kings back in the mega-olden days?

I don't think you ever sound mean. You may be sarcastic at times, but I don't think that's a bad thing.

Thanks for all your posts!

Nathan Bransford said...

The (not very good) joke is just that Carthaginians aren't really known for anything. Except possibly elephant riding.

Dawn Hullender said...

I think writer's need to keep in mind just how hard an agent's job really is. They practically hold a writer's fate in the palm of their hand (or on the flat of their screen) and then they have a very tough decision to make.

Will this sell? Am I excited enough about it to work with them? Do they have what it takes?

It has to be complete torture at times to turn someone down. I just take my little rejection letters and store them away in hopes of bettering myself as a writer.

I was given two ears and one mouth, I'm supposed to listen twice as much as I speak :-)

((hugs)) to you Nathan for all the hard work you do.

Jen C said...

Pretty much the only thing that riles me in the writing world is, funnily enough, overly-sensitive writer types.

When people start with the "I'm a writer therefore I have the right to treat everyone like crud and blab on about how awful everyone is and then go and eat some worms" I generally have to look away. I think because I feel like they're giving us all a bad name...

Jason said...

I know this applies to me Nathan...I think this is great practical advice. The hard part is having the humility to not only restrain from lashing out, but also to realize the value in the critiques we get.

I was reading a post by Rachelle Gardner today and it so applied to me, but it's sometimes easier to convince yourself that you're the exception to the rule...funny, the human creature's ability to deceive itself.

Dawn Maria said...

Good post. This is a hard business. Some days are hardier than others; some days are just fantastic. And you never wake up knowing which it will be until you're in the middle of it.

Amy said...

I agree over and over, but I think it's more the freedom of the Internet for writers to vent than just their insensitivity. I think that many people had no idea they were so rude and nasty until they had the opportunity to vent their opinions anonymously in the open internet environment. I don't mean just on this blog, but anywhere. Have you seen the nastiness that pervails on Youtube or sites that deal with disposable diapers vs. cloth diapers? Yikes. There are people going berserk on anything, and it wasn't until the net that they could throw out their "charm" so easily. Everyone has an opinion and now it's pretty much acceptable to take offense and make a scene over things that would never happen IRL.
As for writing, how many writers complained before they internet? There was no forum to do so as easily. I'm not anti-net, I love it. But I have seen normal people wrap themselves too tightly with their own opinions now that they think they have a listening ear.

Jen C said...

RE: Nathan and time management - I'm with you, Nathan. Busy is just a state of mind. When you look at it, there are so many hours in a day it's just ridiculous... plenty of time to get things done if you just sit down and do them.

Anonymous said...

All I can say is no one knows the feeling of receiving a bad book review until it's happened to them personally. Critique Groups don't count. Agent blogger first paragraph contests don't count. I'm talking about an amazon book review (or it could be any review site that could affect book sales) that takes their work out of context and bashes it completely.

And guess what? In these digital times, it happens to almost every single writer there is. Some worse than others. Not too long ago there was a thing called "romfail" on twitter. This "romfail" was formed by a group of other writers and reviewers who didn't like certain romance books. So they all ganaged up, in a pack, on several different writers and trashed them all over twitter on Friday nights. I was not part of this, but I heard it was brutal. And one of the writers was fairly well known, with books that many other people love.

Yes, writers are often overly sensitive. But there's also a lot of criticism going around these days that isn't constructive.

Rebecca said...

Terry Gross of Fresh Air on NPR asked Matt Groening what is was like to know that he offended someone with every episode of "The Simpsons."

He said, "Terry, some people are eager to be offended."

Mira said...

Yeah, sadly, I'm not done.

I feel a pressure to continue. I really wish I didn't.

So, I talked about my own process. Which I'm now re-thinking, because if I hadn't participated in this contest, I would never have discovered that character. And I like that character. But anyway, in terms of what happened on the blog as a community.

It was not just a case of writer's over-sensitivity.

I thought and thought about what happened. I've seen other contests here, and none of them had this feeling to it. Not even close.

So, why this one?

I think it was very innocent, and just a bunch of factors that came together and went awry. It had to do with Nathan using the contest to promote the site - which is an excellent thing to do. Promote the site, that is. On top of that the lure of the prizes: people who have won this get published and/or agented by Nathan, the most adored agent in the blogsphere.

The combination of those two things led me, at least, to eventually feel like a cog in the wheel of literally thousands. I was just another number being counted in the submission thread. And then, another one of the solicited thousands who were publically rejected.

Difficult.

Also, totally innocent and unintended. Just sort of a combination of factors.

It's important to air these things and name them. It's helpful. It loosens the tightness.

I hope.

I'm very nervous Nathan is going to be mad at me and argue with me here, and I want to announce that I'm going to take a nap before I study for my mid-term and write my paper, so I won't be available to argue for at least 2 hours. And then I might pretend to still be sleeping.

I'm a bad liar said...

sometimes a reality check, however obvious, may be just what a writer needs to hear. i think people in all sorts of industries can have a tendency to play the blame game for their struggles. personally, i think it's nice to have the agent's perspective from the other side of things.

Chazz said...

Or is this projection? Almost everyone who comments, almost all the time, agrees with you. Some even gush. It's a lovefest. Sometimes it's close to worship.

As a journalist, I can tell you that's not the rule. Most of the time, people write to complain. Look at any Letters to the Editor column in just about anything.

Sure, people get cranky about things from time to time. That doesn't necessarily make them overly sensitive or wrong, though sure, we hope they are diplomatic enough. I hope I'm being diplomatic enough for you right now. (After all, you don't have to do any of this nor do I have to read it.)

Feel the love. You're pretty much at the max any agent is going to get in this dimension.

Hackpacker said...

Rejection is a part of writing. Finding an audience for your work is the biggest struggle with writing moving online.
I'm interested in the converse of your point - how do we encourage resilience in writers? Or should we encourage more to give up?

JohnVise said...

Damn those sensitive artist types! Seriously though, even though my paragraph didn't come close to the top contenders, I was rather pleased that it fit none of the problems on the 'everyone is doing it too much' list. No one waking up, falling asleep, covered in blood as the sun set upon them cliche silly fun. Yay me! If I can't be the best, at bloody least I am not predictable.

Nathan Bransford said...

chazz-

Half of my posts are reminders to myself as much as anyone else.

Laura said...

I'm guessing some didn't take too well to your list of overused beginning paragraph motifs. It had me rereading mine, trying to look at it with fresh eyes and see if it needed more work. Though it begins with dialogue, my protagonist is talking to herself, so I think I'm okay. Time will tell!

And yeah, you hate writers... that's why you read through over 2,000 paragraphs and gave away prizes and accolades... yeah. You're a hater all the way.

Gordon Pamplona said...

Under certain circumstances, people should give up. If setbacks are ruining the rest of your life, or overcommitment to writing is closing off other options, you need to rethink. Let's go back to the athlete analogy. Take a high school kid who's convinced he's going to make the NBA. He's good but he's not that good. Or he's that good, but he's already suffered a serious knee injury. Or he's that good and so far he's lucky too. He spends all his time playing ball, so schoolwork is falling by the wayside. If you were that kid's parent or teacher, what would you tell him?

Let's say that former high school ballplayer goes to college, gets an education, lands a good job and still wants to play ball. There are always adult recreational leagues. For writers who follow the same pattern, placing priorities on job and family and writing in one's spare time, self-publishing can play the same role as the recreational basketball league. And people who take this route deserve our respect as much as the high school kid who gives up basketball to focus on education.

uch said...

please, i'm too sensitive to live. and each time i lose
one of these contests i want to throw out my computer and take to the bed. but i never, ever think you hate writers. and i only mildly take it personally. you are wonderfully patient and respectful of the craft and the writer--and you love the written word. oy, what you have to deal with...

Anonymous said...

I entered the contest and I didn't win or get a mention.

Ya know what? My paragraph was at least as good if not better than the winner.

Arrogant? Cocky? In denial?

No, I'm a writer. If I don't think I'm at least as good as you are, why am I doing this?

You HAVE to believe in your work. Joe Montana or Michael Jordan or Hank Aaron didn't go into a game thinking 'Man, glad I'm #46 out of 45!'

Winners think of themselves as winners. There is a very famous quote from Henry Ford I have on my desk at work that says - 'You you think you can or you can't - you're right.'

Assume you suck and you will. Bow down and say Guy X won because he's better than I am and you can pretty quickly put yourself in last place in any contest.

I am the best writer here. I have to be or I can't get up 2 hours before work every morning and do this.

When someone asks YOU who the best writer in the world is YOU are.

That's how you succeed. That isn't arrogance or fantasy - it's what keeps your ass in the chair and the typewriter going.

Don;t be bummed that you 'lost' - the only person you are competing against is yourself. You are the best, remember? That's a big challenge and you have to rise to meet it everyday.

Nathan (with all due respect to him!) is no the final arbiter of how good you are. he's human (ok he;s a cyborg, but he;s MOSTLY human) and he has his own likes and dislikes. So does every other editor and agent in the world - just like readers.

Don;t worry, you'll reach them eventually.


You're the best.

Terry said...

Another thought, these are hard ecomomic times. A lot of people are worried, or worse, they may have lost their homes and also suffered other tradgedies we don't know about, so they lash out.

It's unfortunate, but I feel for them too.

The more I read the comments, the more I think we should try a little tenderness. And Nathan and others, do. So that's good.

A little kindess goes a long way.

ann foxlee said...

Am I sensitive? You Betcha. I cried my way through most of Junior High because I didn't have any friends (didn't realize no one else did either), and smashed apart my $400 flute in 8th grade because I couldn't play it well enough (that went over real well, let me tell ya).

In the end I realized that nothing mattered except doing the things that made me happy, even if they didn't do much for other folks. I just do the best I can, and let the rest take care of itself.
It's worked out pretty well so far!

I also realized that it is every bit as hard to give good, useful critiques as it is to receive them, so I take to heart the opinions of professionals, even if it takes me three months of staring at my manuscript to break down and make the changes :-)

Terry said...

I just saw anonymous 5:29 above me. Yes, we need to have confidnece in ourselves, in spite of it all, or we are doomed.

Keep on keeping on, guys.

Anonymous said...

I'd like to know where writers said that they feel agents hate writers?

Nathan says he wrote this blog before the contest, so I guess something happened before the contest?

I didn't see any disrespect against agents during or after the contest.

I also agree with whoever said it's not fair to tell someone to toughen up and get a thicker skin, it's who they are.

Some people are sensitive, some people don't care (or they appear not to care), we are all different and all entitled to our feelings.

This is a subjective business as is most art medians, and nobody is a real expert, because of the subjectivity.

I would bet that we could get 10 other agents to look at those same entries and we'd have 10 different opinions on what they liked, didn't like and the advice they'd give us.

It's a good basis, but I don't think anybody should walk away feeling like a loser or that they need to obsess over a paragraph.

I still would like to know when and where writers have said they think agents HATE them. Very strong statement to make without any backup, in my humble opinion.

Future RN said...

My day job is working as an RN/punching bag for a bunch of high-strung surgeons. I routinely get ridiculed, laughed at, or even cursed at during a shift. The one silver lining I've managed to find in my job (other than that it pays enough so I can have 4 days a week to write) is that I have become much less sensitive about my writing.

And as an RN I'd just like to say you do NOT resemble Chace Crawford with FAS. :)

Kristi said...

Chazz - that's because of the environment Nathan has fostered here. It's a very positive community which is why I'm a regular, even though Nathan doesn't represent the type work I do. I'm not a fan of the Bill Belichick type teaching style and I'm guessing the people that prefer that would find a different blog.

Marilyn Peake said...

Mira said:
"The combination of those two things led me, at least, to eventually feel like a cog in the wheel of literally thousands. I was just another number being counted in the submission thread."

I think you hit on something important here. I don’t know what happened toward the end of the contest because I was on vacation, then came back with a cold and raging headache, and never got around to reading more than a few of the paragraph entries or comments. But, when I saw Nathan’s word cloud of frequently entered first paragraph words and themes, my eyes glazed over. (Sorry, Nathan). I suddenly realized there are a flood of writers submitting manuscripts during tough economic times, and that combination just won’t allow for very many writers to make it past the floodgates. For anything to be valuable, like diamonds, they need to be rare. Writers are hardly rare. One current theme of writing was sunrise. I kept thinking that if Hemingway lived today, he might receive a rejection that said, "You named a book THE SUN ALSO RISES? Are you nuts, man? Sunrises are so overdone."

Sarah said...

The Carthaginian thing made me laugh. It's just fun to say. Carthaginians were also good at getting wiped out by Romans who really resented that whole elephant thing.

(I'm such geek.)

So agree about the sensitivity. Far better to channel the angst into writing.

Marilyn Peake said...

Mira,

I forgot to add that this news story is all over the Internet today: Book-Price War. Ugh. This was not a good day for me to wake up with a raging headache, then try to catch up on book news on the Internet. Ugh.

Journaling Woman said...

Rejection is not a growth serum or vitamin that makes us stronger. Rejection is what it is, another's opinion of what we are doing. It doesn't make what we write neither right nor wrong. It just is what it is.

With that said, I say we receive the rejections, throw them in the pile, rework the work and proceed with writing.

Deep huh?

Rissa Watkins said...

Ah yes. I was saying what a jerk you are just today, Nathan. I mean look at your last contest...you read over 200K words from first paragraphs, picked winners and even included non-winners who did a good job just to encourage them. You didn't even charge an entry fee and probably judged the contest in your free time.

Wow. You horrible little man!

How dare you spend so much time encouraging and teaching others without getting a thing back for it.

You obviously hate writers. I don't know how you can live with yourself.

*smile*

Anonymous said...

Rissa, can you show me where SOMEONE said that writers hate agents, or slammed Nathan in that way.

I'm just not getting this whole thing at all.

That's a pretty big statement to come out and say, some writers say agents HATE writers. I've never seen that posted here or other forums.

Sure, I've read rants about agents and editors, at the same token, I've read rants from editors and agents about writers.

It's a great lovefest in here and nobody as far as I can read, is taking away the hard work Nathan puts into his blog, advice or the contest, but it sounds like some are defending him. But for what?

Where is all this supposed hate thing coming from?

Anonymous said...

Correction: I want to know where a writer claimed that agents hate writers.

This hate word being bandied around is confusing.

maggie m said...

Wonderful. Don't let the sound of your own wheels drive you crazy.If you put yourself out there, you're asking for it. Just suck it up. Anyway, so what? Who cares?

Anonymous said...

As with Anon @6:51 PM and Anon @6:52 PM, I am also confused. There is way more gushing and praise than hate here. Is this referencing something in particular? I have no clue what Nathan meant by “to the point an author has to really, really act badly for anyone to surprised anymore (but writers also happen to be inventive types and manage to find new ways).” There are so many pleasant writers in so many writers groups on the web and so many friendly participants on this blog, I’m not sure what this comment is in reference to.

annerallen said...

Actually, tradition has it that Carthage was founded by Philistines (otherwise known as Phoenicians.) So I love the idea of Carthaginians being sort of uber-Philistines: Smug ignoramuses—with elephants. I think you’ve coined a new expression, Nathan--and you ain't no Carthaginian!

Thanks for all you do for the vast unpublished out there!

Jack Roberts, Annabelle's scribe said...

lol!
So true. We all need to chill and get back to writing!

Sarah said...

Carthaginians = ignoramuses with elephants.

I love it, Annerallen!

Anonymous said...

This has nothing to do with this post, and I don't know if this is too late in this strain to add, but I wanted to say that I am NOT a writer. And yet, I come here everyday. This is my favorite blog and I enjoy learning about new things. I wish I could write, but I've got no stories inside of me. Meanwhile, I truly enjoy everything Nathan Bransford. Getting published is similar to trying to get noticed in many areas in life. I think this blog applies to many things. I love it here.

wendy said...

Well, perhaps it's not so much writer's being sensitive but this being an element of human nature. Humans are intensely insecure and tend to negativety. If we were strong and confident in ourselves then outside influences wouldn't matter. The longer one lives, the more one realises the extent of that fragility. And as you pointed out, Nathan, it's easy for misunderstandings to occur, especially when we are of a negative nature, half-expecting the worst...some more so than others. But we can try and make every situation a win-win for everyone by trying to ease each other's burdens with understanding and compassion.

Btw, thanks for providing such a great blogging home for us to come and play in.

Anonymous said...

Authors are sensitive because amongst all publishing players they have the least power.

Unless they are bestsellers they are often treated quite carelessly by agents and editors alike and garner very little respect. Many people in publishing assume authors need to be treated with kid gloves. Authors are usually the least informed about sales, marketing budget and other important items because too many people assume they are touchy as car alarms and need to be kept out of the loop.

So which comes first? Are authors inherently sensitive or do they become sensitive because of the patronizing way they are treated?

And may I mention one other thing? Truth is, agent-editor relationships are often very adversial and fraught with difficulty but agents don't dare complain about editors on their blogs because it isn't smart.

But here's the scary deal that a lot of agents don't think about: Every writer started out in slush. Every writer, no matter how many books they sell, remembers what it was like when they were trying to be published. So, when you write a post that is semi disrespectful to writers,you're writing it not just to the slushies, but to every single writer, from the bestsellers to the midlist. And yeah, while we don't hold the purse strings, there is no $$ flowing in your direction without us. So maybe it's not the best idea to nip the hand that feeds.

I think every agent should ask herself or himself this question before posting: Would I write such a post about editors? If not, skip it. There's lots of things you can write that doesn't make writers feel less than. And yeah, just sign me as one of those sensitive writers.

Can't use my real name cuz because I'm a writer and writers can't afford to alienate anyone.

Mira said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
M said...

My best feedback comes from my most ruthless crit partners.

You can't improve if no one tells you what's broken.

Just my $0.02.

Mira said...

Wait - needed to tweak that.

Marilyn, I enjoyed the word cloud, but I know what you mean.

You know there are lots of sites where I would feel like one in a thousand. But I've never felt that way here at Nathan's. That is one of his gifts, and one reason he is so wildly appreciated. I am absolutely positive the contest was not intended to give people that feeling - it just sort of happened - for me anyway. It may have been one reason I was sort of befuddled afterwards.

And you and I have disagreed on one point before. I think good writers - writers who are ready to be published and will sell - are very rare indeed.

I'm not one yet, but I'm feeling better and think I might be - someday. :)

You, hard and talented worker that you are, published and very well on your way. I have faith. :)

Well, that's a really interesting tactic on the part of Sears....I don't know what to make of that. I'd be interested in Nathan's take on that sometime.

Nathan - it's important to me that you know I think the world of you.

p.s. don't burn out. Take care of yourself.

Anonymous said...

Anon: 7:56 PM Well said!

I'm still baffled as to where this all came from?

Nathan or others who agree with him have not pointed to where authors are saying that agents hate writers. Nobody seems to have an answer for this.

Nathan explained he wrote this blog before the contest, so I can only assume it has nothing to do with the contest.

I think when anyone puts out a statements such as Nathan did in this particular blog, he needs to back it up with at least a few facts.

Is this just ranting on his part? I don't know. We all rant, editors, publishers, agents, writers, marketing people, but to put it out in public with nothing to substiantiate it, of course he's going to get some people who disagree.

I think Nathan does an awesome job of blogging, generous with his advice and information, but like everything else, you cannot take his word or anyone's word or advice as Gospel, as said many times over, this is a very subjective art form.

I'm still waiting to see where writers claim that agents hate writers. I know my agent loves books and encourages his writers and if he ever made a statement like that with no facts behind it, on a public forum, well, it would not sit well with me or with many of his authors (since we have discussed this blog today).

Nathan Bransford said...

anons-

I'm not going to give these people the traffic by linking to them or forward you e-mails I've received. Believe me or don't believe me, it's completely beside the point of the post anyway.

Jacque said...

I can be sensitive at times, but my real problem in the blog and online world is that I don't get emotionally involved. Sometimes I pick fights and join debates just because I know I can win and enjoy the exercise. So I have to take a step back and ask myself if it's worth the potential of offending someone. I usually have to keep it within my friends who know me too well to take anything I write seriously. Or go back to arguing with my characters. :P

Anonymous said...

Nathan, it's not a matter of not believing you, and no, I for one do not want to see any private email exchanges. I guess, I just wondered where this was all coming from.

I belong to writer groups, and read many good (non flaming) writing message boards and blogs, and never once did I ever read a writer say that he/she feels agents hate writers.

That's a pretty strong statement you put out there, and more than a few of us are curious as to why you would lump many writers into this category if a few drama diva's queens or kings are ranting about agents.

It's obvious if one is in this business they love the written word and want to work with wordsmiths to get the best possible book out there.

A few rants here and there are not indicative of how the majority of writers feel about agents.

In summary, I guess I just didn't see the point of your blog today, other than you felt you needed to get something off your chest to the few people who perhaps were disrespectful to you in private.

I'm still confused though. :)

Nathan Bransford said...

anon-

I didn't lump everyone in together. I said it's a small, vocal portion who actually gets vocal about those sentiments. I'm confused why you're confused.

Nathan Bransford said...

mira-

Thanks for the kind words, I appreciate it.

Backfence said...

I don't think you're a Philistine, Nathan (although you clearly suffered from a temporary lapse in your usual good judgment when you rejected my recent submission)!
(JUST kidding!)

Seriously, though, I find your blogs very helpful and supportive. I even gave you kudos recently in Mike's "What is your biggest frustration as a writer" contest (Mike's Writing Workshop - Yahoo Groups).

Now, if you'll excuse me, I've got to go Google "Luddites."

Carol B

Anonymous said...

All this talk about getting books you can't sell...I've read this blog over a million times and it just won't. Sink. In. I feel like you'd have to be a descendant of McCarthy just to get a book deal. It is disheartening! I am 31 and I'd like to get a book deal. Yeah, it may take some time but I don't want to be 50 and publishing my first book! I want to have years and years to write. Ugh, just a wide-eyed novice, I guess.

DebraLSchubert said...

Writers are artists and artists are notoriously sensitive. Regarding agents, my experience has been exceedingly positive. There are certainly those less willing to share themselves with unpublished writers, but so be it. There are many who do share, and their generosity, support, and great information far outweighs the slights from others.

And you, Nathan, are a shining example of what an open, generous, well-informed agent is all about. Those who don't get you or get agents in general are sorely missing out. IMHO.

Marilyn Peake said...

Thanks, Mira! I appreciate your kind words. I’ve recently realized, while surfing the web, just how many writers there are out there! Good Lord, the slush piles must be mountains high. Earlier today, a writer in one of my writers’ groups posted part of an email they received from an agent in response to their query. It was a long paragraph, more like a formal review, praising their book. It was so complimentary, I thought the author was about to be offered a six or seven figure deal, or to have their book entered into auction for bidding. Not exactly. The last sentence in the agent’s email stated that, in today’s market, the agent wasn’t sure the book would sell enough copies and they were therefore not going to represent it. The writer sounded calm, just shared the information matter-of-factly. That’s where most writers are at, I think. I’ve seen those kinds of posts in writers’ groups several times within the past couple of months.

Mira said...

Nathan - very sincerely meant.

Very.

Anonymous said...

Gawd! It is YOU who is the sensitive one!

Given that 95% of the posters on your blog are slobbering butt- lickers who heap sycophantic praise on you at every opportunity, the few who registered some discontent are the ones who you center out? Is your ego so tender? Don't you have better things to do? How self-possessed can one be?

And you're wrong about Jordan totally. He never suffered in silence at the many "slights" he had to endure, he actively sought retribution at every turn, he humiliated his foes on and off the court at every turn, including physical assaults, in your face boasting and most recently evidenced by his pathetically whiny hall of fame speech where he called out and picked on every petty offense he'd "suffered" going back thirty years. Jordan was adept at putting a ball through a hoop like no other, but my admiration for him stops there.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, I'll just leave any more opinions on this to myself, it's obvious that one has to agree with the majority on this forum.

Have a great evening.

Peace.

Marilyn Peake said...

Backfence -

What a small world! I'm also a member of Mike's Writing Workshop and used to write for Mike's newsletter. I've been very busy, so I haven't stopped by or submitted articles for a while, but that's a very large, active group with some great discussions.

Anonymous said...

Don't rule out mental health issues. There are higher rates of depression (and thus panic and anxiety and agoraphobia) and Bipolar Disorder (thus the above, plus irritation and agression) among writer than among any other group, with the exception of maybe poets. Factor in a few Borderline Personality Disorder folk and you have most likely a chunk of your most sensitive types.

If Bipolar people make up 2% of the entire population, their rate among writers is much higher (no statistics available but this is an educated guess), then a sizeable number of your readers are under theinfluence of neurological disorders that make them oversensitive, reactive-- and prone to long rants.

I'm anonymous because I have Bipolar. I run an online support forum for Bipolar Disorder and this year am leading a group into NaNoWriMo. This is my secret life. I would lose my job if anyone knew I had Bipolar (so there are valid reasons why we are paranoid sometimes) :)

All my best to you. :)

Mira said...

Anon 9:20......no. It's not worth it.

Marilyn, I hear you, but times pass. The economy will turn around, and that writer will find a home for their book - if it's that good - no doubt about it. :)

So, now, I've posted tons on this thread. Time to stop. Besides, I have a mid-term tomorrow. It's on chapters 1-9. I'm debating. It might be a good idea to actually read chapters 1-9. I think I'll wander toward the book and see what happens.

Nathan, thanks very much for the opportunity to talk all of this out.

Nathan Bransford said...

lol. My word. I do appreciate the anon's help in proving the point of the post.

Anonymous said...

Nathan, I think you are coming across as unprofessional and "sensitive." Steel yourself, Nathan. lol

Not everyone is going to bow down and agree with everything you say or advice in the publishing industry.

Just like not everyone is going to love a writer's work. You say you've been accused of hating writers in your blogs at times. To use your own advice - "Steel yourself sensitive Agent!"

I know it's hard to resist a group of people you probably will never meet adore you, but for the few who don't think you are the God of all Agents....STEEL YOURSELF! lol

Kristi said...

I've never posted 3 times in a day but I've finished my ms and I'm bored - I'm waiting on beta readers and need a week of downtime before I start my next ms so I'd just like to say...

Anon@9:21 - I'm certain that you do in fact have a story in you somewhere or you wouldn't have found this blog. You just haven't found it yet - but I'm glad you're here.

Most of the other Anons after that don't deserve the energy of feedback and prove that Nathan is a saint for keeping the Anon function.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nathan Bransford said...

And then anonymous comments were closed.

Bane of Anubis said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Nathan Bransford said...

Thanks, BofA, I appreciate the sentiments but let's just let anon fade into the blue yonder from whence he/she came.

AM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
AM said...

I deleted my previous comment because after another review, I realized that it is unlikely the Anons are the same person. (The timing of their posts are too close together)

Sorry second Anon.

But still - my comments about Anon. 9:20 stand.

Other Lisa said...

Late to the party as usual...and, wow!

What I've noticed is that the writers who approach their work with a professional attitude are the ones who tend to take rejection the best -- not that rejection is ever easy or fun, but they don't personalize it the way that that, oh, a certain departed Anon did. It's not easy for a lot of us to arrive at that place of professional detachment -- it sure took me a long time to get even to that neighborhood (oh, and Mira, I am an INTP. Not sure how that factors into your theory).

To the Anon who is 31 and doesn't want to get his/her first book deal at the age of 50...excuse me why I go laugh. Or cry. Or drink. Or perhaps some combination thereof. You know what, it comes when it comes, if it comes. Setting arbitrary deadlines is a recipe for unhappiness, in my experience.

And to assuage one of the other Anon's concerns, I am a very happy client.

Other Lisa said...

Although, as I understand it, Michael Jordan was an absolute jerk at his Hall of Fame induction...

Maya / מיה said...

Mira, I just wanted to say that I actually always look for your comments here and I truly enjoy reading your writing! I mean, I know commenting on a blog isn't exactly your publishing dream, but you have a Voice... I think you have that writing magic that will some day draw a lot of people to your books. I mean, who knows, maybe your first book will be a memoir about being a writer cobbled together using your comments on other people's blogs... wacky idea but I would actually read it. :) Don't give up! I would be disappointed if you stopped writing!

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