December 7, 2009

Should Writers Learn About Publishing?

I was listening to an old audio interview with a literary agent today, and when she was asked if writers should learn about the business and about writing query letters, she said, unequivocably, yes. Not only that, but her voice stumbled with disbelief at the question, and it dripped with disdain as she answered. She said that when teaching a class, she asked her students what genre they were writing in and half of them had no idea.

I’ve heard other people ~ often established writers ~ claim equally as vehemently that the business of writers is writing and the last thing that they should be doing if figuring out how to write a query letter. All the energy spend updating your blog and building your platform would be much better spent honing your craft. Writers write, they say.

So, all this to say, I tend to be a practical person and believe that we should learn about the business. If we want to publish, we should learn about publishing. If we want to be taken seriously, take it seriously. But I also believe that the most important thing is the writing, so most of our energies should be focused on that, and when we find ourselves pulled into the maelstrom that is blogging (she says hypocritically) and publishing and raised-then-dashed hopes and all that, we need to step back and remember the most important thing: the WRITING.

However, the contempt in this agent’s voice as she talked about those writing hopefuls made me sad.

What I’m Reading Today: “The Laugh” by Tea Obreht in this fall’s Atlantic Fiction Issue. Wow! The atmosphere of danger is palpable ~ and then realized ~ yet the moving part of the story is the emotion. It inspires me to start a story set in the early 1900s about two sisters living in southern Montana. Don’t you love reading something that makes you immediately say to yourself, “That is such a cool story! I want to do that,” and then you think of a very cool idea.

PS Your acronym of the day: SWIM = “someone who isn’t me” but can ironically indicate it is, indeed, the same person; similar to AFOAF (“a friend of a friend”)

PPS An agent requested a partial of the novel today!

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