A Queryfail/Agentfail letter...

Dear fellow, frustrated writer...

I wasn't going to post an opinion on the queryfail/agentfail death match that's been going on lately. I try to stay out of such things if I don't have a strong opinion, and I didn't have one for Queryfail. I found it amusing and informative, though I can understand the point of view of those of you who thought that it crossed the line.

Nor did I have a strong opinion on the Agentfail blog, at first. But something did bother me, and it stayed with me, nagging and tugging at the back of my mind. So I finally decided to bring it up.

What struck me the most while reading the Agentfail blog was not the good points some of you were making. It wasn't even the amusing and unrealistic expectations I read.

What struck me the most was how much anger and frustration was being expended, how much emotional energy was being wasted.

This is a lesson it took me years to learn. If you were lucky, in high school or college someone taught you how to manage your money. If you were even luckier, someone taught you how to manage your time. However, most of us were never taught how to budget our emotional energy.

But emotional energy is limited. It's as finite as money, and as easy to waste as time. And nothing swallows up energy like anger that is horded and caressed and clutched tightly against the world.

That's what I read in a lot of those posts: long-standing anger and hurt, even some bitterness and resentment.

Now let me be very clear. I'm not saying there are no bad people/agents/editors in the world. I'm not saying you should never get angry. Nor am I saying that venting is a bad thing, if it helps you to resolve your hurt and frustration and move on. I've been frustrated as well, watching a book come back over and over again with no idea how to fix it.

And I've made mistakes. I once sent an editor some tea and packaged apple cider in a submission. When I learned better, I almost died of embarrassment. When you're just learning how things work, it's hard not to feel that the world is laughing at you, and to be hurt by it. It's hard not to make it personal.

But let me tell you what happens when you make it so personal that you become permanently angry.

~The rude agent who hurt your feelings isn't hurt-- he/she isn't affected at all.
~The good agent you misunderstood isn't hurt-- they might feel bad, but then they move on.
~You're not hurting the publishing house or the industry or that one person in your writer's group who gave you a harsh critique.

The thing that suffers is your book.

Do you remember your book? The one that needs all the emotional energy and passion and excitement that you can give? The story only you can tell?

The reason you're doing all of this is THE BOOK, right? And writing is hard. It needs work and commitment and perseverance and joy. So I have to ask...

How can you give emotional energy to the work, when you spend so much of it on people you may never meet?

How can you devote time and attention to the things that matter most when you're playing that imaginary conversation in your head? You know the one.

"If I ever saw her, I would say this, and then she would say this, and I would retort, and in the end I would be justified and everyone would see how badly I was treated!"

This applies to all areas of a writer's life. Because if you're playing that imaginary conversation in your head, for any reason, if you're constantly telling yourself the story of how you were ill-used by your agent/boyfriend/parents/boss, then you won't have room for other stories.

Including the one you want to write.

Best wishes,



  1. Bravo! I hadn't read ANY of this stuff until I just clicked over from your link for a little look. Sometimes, no matter how hard it is, you just have to let things go and move on, learn what you can, b/c there's always something to learn there, and get back to the writing.

  2. I think a class in high school about wasting emotional energy would be great. It took me years and years to learn that fuming over something ruined my day and did nothing to the offender. My son understood it as a two year old, but his friend down the street...oy.

    I hadn't heard about Query/Agentfail (hard drive down; surfing limitations abound). But after your post, I've been mulling it over for an hour, and the thing that stuck with me most was the Agentfail quote where someone said, "Just because I can't write a query, doesn't mean I can't write a book."
    Mmmm...I think I'll have a whole blog entry on that...I might even have to borrow your standard tag: "No one ever told me..."
    Stay happy!! :) And we still neeed to schedule for marketing pizza!!

  3. This is a perfect post!

    I'm reminded of one of my favorite quotes from Buddha:

    "Holding on to anger is like grasping a hot coal with the intent of throwing it at someone else; you are the one who gets burned."

  4. Joanne- Thanks! I agree, it sounds harsh to say "Let it go" but sometimes you have to, if not for the other person, then for you.

    Amy- I know! Why doesn't anyone ever tell us this stuff?

    PJ- So true... I heard it as throwing mud at someone, but I like yours better.

    FYI all, if you're curious, Colleen Lindsay (the originator of queryfail) and some other agents are having another one. Queryfail 2 will be hosted all day on Twitter on Friday, April 17th. Should be interesting... :-)

  5. Great post! I'm so with you on this. One thing that the internet really opened my eyes to was how many angry people there are out there, intent on spewing that anger into the world.

    Haters. I'm SO over haters. If people only harnessed all of that energy and did something useful/productive with it, think of what a world it would be.

  6. Renee, is it just me, or are there a lot more angry people around then there used to be?


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