Things That Don't Matter

Writers can be an odd bunch. Though it might seem the type of profession which, by its very nature, attracts a certain sort of off person, there's still rather a lot of unexplained behavior in the writing world.

Specifically, unpublished / undiscovered / new to it writers.  Writers who are querying, or just finishing their first / second book.

It's not oddness that comes out in every day life - the sort of madness that would inspire you to move to Kent, or put on a hat - but instead, a strange, overworked anxiety about trivial matters.

Matters like worrying, very publicly, about including one hundred and two pages when an agent requests one hundred alone. Matters like fretting over chapter titles or dedication wording before even having written the book. Or maybe spending so much time quantifying and researching the very best query letter there is, that you end up with a drab and lifeless information dump.

Essentially, writers who are looking for agent representation or publishing contracts can - and sometimes do - lose sight of what they're trying to do. Yes, writing is a business, and a professional approach is key. But agents are people, and so are most editors. They're not miserly gate keepers. They're, for the most part, creative, nice people who want to find great books, and they're not going to leap upon a technicality to screw you over.

Imagine it:

The Agent, her Machiavellian schemes beautiful in their simplicity, horrendous in their scope, sits at the center of her empire - her web -, stroking her chin with a perfectly chiseled nail. She sips from her martini, one eyebrow raised in amused contempt as another query is placed upon her ebony desk by this week's trembling intern. 'That will be all,' she said. The intern bows and backs away. The Agent makes a note to have him fired - and possibly killed - by the end of the week. She returns her gaze - icy and intense - to the new batch of letters. She sips again, and sighs.

Dear Agent, please find enclosed the first 49 pages of my

Aha! Agent cackles with cruel mirth and throws her glass into the roaring fire - itself fed on copies of the Bible and first editions of Harry Potter. 'I require fifty pages, my sweet,' she purrs. 'I fear - it's the trash for you! Haha'

Dramatic? Perhaps (Okay, definitely). But the point stands. Agents might seem a barrier to be overcome, but you're supposed to do it hand-in-hand with them. Not so much a barrier as - um - a bridge?

Basically, they're nice people. I think the competition of today's market encourages writers to be overly worried and anxious that small mistakes will screw you. But you know what? There are three rules that still overcome most things.

  1. In the end, it's about the writing.
  2. The writing is probably most important
  3. Mistakes can be overlooked if the writing is good enough
Disagree with me? You're welcome to - I'd love to hear thoughts - but it's something I think is true in most cases. 

So what's the message for today? Remember why you want to be a writer - because of the stories themselves - and focus on that most of the time. 



  1. Are you on Twitter? I've just joined and there was (it seems to have disappeared now) a great account called 'Fake Literary Agent' who posts as if they were just the kind of literary agent writers fear. Tweets along the lines of, "Just read an absolute masterpiece, but had to reject due to typo on page seven".

  2. I am - @araenvo - and I shall have to hunt that down. Sounds about right!