Over the past couple of months, I've been dipping my toes into the query trenches.
One thing I've seen more than once while filling out submission forms is a space input URLs linked to your Twitter profile or YouTube channel. If the page itself doesn't have a spot designated for these, it's sometimes recommended that you make a note of relevant platforms in the query letter itself.
In my case, this means mentioning my blog. I'll usually slip in a line about how I launched the site in 2018 and mainly post about writing.
Except, in recent weeks, that part hasn't been as true as it's been.
Around November or so, I stopped writing about writing. It wasn't a deliberate move. I didn't wake up and decide I was done with it, but there were topics I wanted to talk about or felt compelled to address even though they didn't necessarily fit within the normal vibe. These posts were originally intended to be uploaded in a more scattered pattern, sprinkled in among writing-centric posts, but plans got shifted around towards the end of the year and they all ended up clumped together.
Entering the new year and planning out a few weeks' worth of posts, I started to realize that only a handful of ideas were writing-based. Aside from the traditional first post of the year talking about my goals for the year, it took an entire page of bullet points before I jotted down anything related to writing.
That was when I realized something was up. I needed to get to the bottom of it.
After a day or two of trying to figure this out, the conclusion I kept coming back to was Imposter Syndrome in the wake of querying agents and participating in Twitter events like PitMad.
Imposter Syndrome is something I've touched on a couple of times, most recently towards the end of 2020. To give a quick definition, it's a mix of feeling inadequate or persistent self-doubt that can leave one feeling like they're not qualified to be where they are or take a chance on things. It's like being a fish out of water while simultaneously being the small fish the others are feeding on.
It's rough, and to some extent inevitable.
A lot of Impostor Syndrome is internal, but I've also started to notice an external element rooted in a habit to compare myself and my work to others.
It's not uncommon to see posts celebrating writing milestones, especially major accomplishments like signing with a literary agent or landing a publishing contract. These successes are absolutely worth sharing, and there is no reason not to, but seeing so many of them at once can be as inspiring as they can be overwhelming if you're also trying to achieve the same.
These posts tend to rev up in the weeks following events like PitMad where people garnered an agent's attention and eventual representation. Writers who are in the process of querying their manuscripts post tweet-length pitches, and if an agent hits the Like button, that indicates interest and a request to send materials to them. Although this is not a requirement for submitting, having that invitation rather feeling like you're barging in on their inbox can lessen anxiety.
PitMad tends to make for a chaotic day on Twitter. The last time around I especially noticed posts along the lines of "RT my #PitMad pitches and I'll RT yours" drowned out the actual pitches (my feelings towards these posts are for another time and place).
It's also worth noting that, as far as I can discern, December tends to be a slower months for agents as they may be are more focused on their current agents and end-of-year housekeeping stuff than adding to their list.
In any scenario, pitching events can depend on mere luck.
There's no way to predict anything. You can't control the traction your pitches get or how people engage with them. All you can do is hope for the best.
Even with this in mind, the days and weeks after #PitMad can be hard-hitting if you didn't have the triumphs of others in your feed—as does the flood of announcements in the subsequent weeks.
This is around the time my blog posts started gravitating towards non-writing topics.
It's common to be warned against comparing yourself to other writers, but that gets a little harder to do when you're querying.
A key component of query letters is comp titles, which are stories similar to the one your have written. The object of these is to give the agent a sense of how your manuscript will fare in terms of publishing and sales. Essentially comparing your book to others.
Comp titles can be tricky, with a lot of suggested DOs and DON'Ts attached to them, but you can't avoid them.
When listing comps for Bound to the Heart, I'm often second-guessing myself because what I've written isn't exactly like this one or that one, which has me wondering if it's as good as the comp title and ultimately not good enough to be published.
It's this kind of thinking that really started to steer me away from writing blog posts about writing.
A lot of the posts you'd expect to see on a writer's blog are ones I can't write yet. I can't share the story of how I got an agent because I haven't done that yet. I don't have a cover to reveal or a signed copy to give away because they don't exist yet.
As far as simpler posts go, say How To Write A Good Protagonist or What Makes A Good Antagonist, I've started to doubt my authority on the subject. Like, who am I to say what works and what doesn't when I haven't made it work for me? What do I know?
Even though I do have a college degree and took numerous writing classes in that time, having an agent and/or being published has taken on this feeling of a requirement for me in recent weeks. Like that is the definitive proof or validation I need to show that I know what I'm writing about.
It isn't. It's taken me a while to talk myself out of that mentality, and I'm admittedly not sure if I have entirely or if I will ever be able to.
That inkling of self-doubt might always be there, even after I've teamed up with an agent and published. I'm learning to control it rather than allow it to control me.
I'm intending to get back to writing about writing in the coming weeks. If there are any you'd like to see me cover, I invite you to leave them in the comments.
Or you can hop over to the Q&A Submissions tab and send them in that way. I'm hoping to make Q&As a quarterly event throughout 2021, so don't be afraid to let me know what you want to know!