The other day I grew nauseous when I visited the Facebook page of a well-known literary agent. It was strewn with groveling posts from newbies who'd attended one of his writing retreats and threw dignity to the winds as they gamed for his representation.
I'll conflate what I saw there to spare you and them:
Post 1: 'I just attended a weekend writing retreat by X, one of the world's greatest agents...and over the course of three days, my life was changed forever along with my vision of writing. Back to the first novel I've worked on for so many years, but now with a new sense of purpose thanks to X.'
Post 2: 'Two weeks have passed since my return to my novel, freshly recharged and inspired by that great weekend with X. I swear he stands over my shoulder with every word I write. And this has become his book now, as well as mine. Is it any wonder that I call him Mr. Excitement?'
Post 3: 'Another month has passed. I and Mr. Excitement work 6-8 hour shifts daily on our book. I won't submit it to him until I know that it's perfect! In a way--I shouldn't say this--but I have become his bride, I swear. And I need to appear in a snowy white dress, unstained by typos, inaccuracies or failure to master the gospels in his priceless books on writing. Wait for me, Mr. Excitement! I'll be there in three more months. Then do with me what you will!'
Post 4: Clearly written by a friend: 'You are the most diligent and committed writer on this earth. And X will be lucky to have you share his professional bed.'
Post 5: In response: 'You're too kind, dear stranger. I'm doing no more than all great writers do. And I've sworn to be one of the great ones. After all, Mr. Excitement doesn't deserve any less!'
Most agents get letters from Bedlam: writers sending their undies along with nude photos or threatening to jump from high bar stools. To what possible end, they should wonder. When agents dump clients they've handled for years, why waste time on a newbie with pudding for brains?
Years ago one might send a mad letter....receive some brutal feedback...and have time to fine-tune his approach. But now, online, one runs the risk of world-wide exposure at frightening speed.
When I receive a Tweet praising my genius and asking me to read a book, I may check the sender's other Tweets--and see that the same Tweet has gone out to hundreds.
Another way of putting it:
We've all made mistakes. And we'll all make still more. Right or wrong, though, let's move from our centers...and not:
For the agents who count, like great readers and friends, want straight arrows shot from our own hearts to theirs. Besides, leave your head where it doesn't belong for too long, you'll forget that you're not eating chocolate.