Writing groups, or “Oh my poor little ego!”

As most of you probably know, I’ve recently completed a novel and am currently querying agents, seeking representation. A large portion of this task is comprised of networking and research, research, research. As a result, I have a list of approximately 100 agents to query, which I have broken down into groups of ten for the sake of tracking and management. So far, I’ve queried the first ten, and received two rejections. Here’s where things get weird.

Part of my “networking” has been to join several writing groups and forums. I initially joined and participated in ten, and that list has subsequently been whittled down to two as I’ve seen what happens. The vast majority of them are people looking for an excuse to NOT write, as in “I’m blocked…help me!” instead of sitting down, turning off the distractions, and getting to it. A few have been legitimate, but not to my taste; instead of taking critques and suggestion from editors and agents about why their work isn’t quite ready, they prefer to bitch and moan about those MEANIES who wouldn’t take their work.

I’m about to quit the next one for a similar reason, except instead of being mad they get rejected, they get their FEEEEEEELINGS hurt. As suggested in the group’s guidelines, I have updated with the results of my queries as I get them, and the overwhelming response has been hand-wringing and oh-you-poor-THING messages, one going so far as to say she should call me RIGHT NOW to make sure I’m okay. I kindly explained my view of rejection:

First, it is NOT personal.
If an agent says your work is not right for their list, that’s what they mean. It is not a commentary on your writing, or you.
I have had someone literally take a dump on my lap; telling me no, sorry really doesn’t bother me.
Rejection letters, if used correctly, are invaluable tools. If you got a form rejection, was it because you didn’t research that agent enough? Was your query spotless? (proofread multiple times, addressed CORRECTLY, to the RIGHT agent?) If you sent a sample, was it also spotless and polished? If not, there’s your problem. If they sent a more personalized rejection, as in “This is good, but there are problems with xyz” did you take an HONEST look at what they suggested? When Sir Arthur Quiller-Couch said “Murder your darlings”, this is what he meant. No matter how much you like a particular phrasing, passage, or plot twist; if it doesn’t work IN THE STORY, you have to kill it. Enjoy it, save it for another piece, but kill it, kill it with fire if you have to, because that’s your job.

The overwhelming response to this was “But, but, but, they said NO!” Obviously these people have extremely thin skins, and have place entirely too much of their self-worth in the acceptance of their work, and are therefore very likely to be in the same place ten years from now: still whining about the same rejection letter. They’ve become so wrapped up in that single rejection, they’ve forgotten to keep querying, and to keep writing. I don’t need the histrionics, and I don’t have time to hold their hands through every form rejection. So I’ll keep looking for that one GOOD writing group, and if it doesn’t appear, I’ll form a new one. Although I’m starting to get the feeling most of the good writers don’t have time for them, because they’re too busy querying, revising, editing, and WRITING.

I’m starting to feel the same way.


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