Writing is a bitch.
I say this with deep love. Over a year ago I was a literary assistant for a fantastic agent. What I learned while under her tutelage was priceless, but before I go into all the ups and downs of query and submission reading and what makes a query/submission good and all that malarky, let me first say: I learned more things about myself than I wanted to in reading YOUR query.
What brought on this reflection was that I had a writer friend (@TQuigley_Writer ) e-mail me and complain about the incredibly rude and uncalled for statements put out there by agents via twitter. I laughed a little ironically (okay, I laughed a lot and it was very ironic). There is no clear villain in the writer/agent face off. There just ISN'T. There are good writers out there, who KNOW they are good writers and yet they get rejections. Rejections hurt. So much so that we obsess over them, pick them apart, read in double meanings and lose sleep over them. While I do not condone this as a healthy activity, it happens. I should know, I used to obsess over rejections myself.
I don't anymore.
I did not go to a spiritual retreat or become adverb born again. All I had to do was be a literary intern. This is where I learned a lot about myself and that I have a deep, dark side of me that could rival Darth Vader.
As I began to read queries, it was obvious that there were a lot of writers out there who had no clue what they were doing. They didn't know how to write a query letter or express themselves professionally. These folks got the "Whew, quick rejection. One down, fifty more queries to read" kind of rejection. On some days I liked those, because they were so clear cut and an obvious "no" that I didn't have to put on my literary thinking cap to reject them. The no-brainer got that fast rejection and I have to say, they clog up the inbox to the point of insanity because writers like that don't get that no means no and keep hitting the send button.
Feeling: Mildly annoyed.
So, say your query is decent, I liked the premise and I request a few chapters. Note that at the agency I worked for had a listing of submissions a mile long and some dated back a year. It's a never ending cycle and time is precious money. If I went to the trouble of adding the submission to the list, I am hoping to read something fantastic. Not exclamation points every other sentence, improbable to physically impossible sex scenes and writing so incredibly bad it makes my eyes involuntarily tear up. Such submissions left me with my mouth hanging open and wondering what hole this cretin crawled out of and decided to write a book.
Cue snarky comments on twitter.
Now, I am not condoning agents ripping submissions to shreds on a pubic forum, but as an intern I can understand where their frustrations stem from. Too many times, I would shoot off a form rejection wishing desperately I could write... "PS. I implore you to not quit your day job" at the end of it. In fact, I don't want to think about the many... MANY times I snarked off at my laptop as if I was having a private conversation with the author about their written work. I sounded a lot like this... "of course he shrugged. I think your character shrugged for the five millionth time in the past ten pages" or "really? Another F-bomb? Do you even own a Thesaurus or do you just lack the intelligence required to formulate any other word?" Interning wasn't a healthy time for my brain. I visualized me Force gripping that author around the neck and begging... nay, demanding they don't show their faces in the literary world until they've gotten an editor to douse their manuscript in red ink.
So, is it right to mock the writer's literary baby? No. Is it fair that agents spend countless hours wading through so much garbage that they despair from never being able to find anything worth publishing? No. However, I have noticed that the writers who complain the loudest about agents, sure sing their agent's praises when they are finally signed.
Writing. It's the new manic depression roller coaster.