10 things you should NEVER worry about
Now maybe this guy was going for funny, but I didn't laugh. Because I have heard far more inane questions from folks trying to get published. There's so much advice floating around in the blogasphere, in how-to books and in magazines -- everything from plot structure to how to craft a killer query letter.
But I never hear one big thing that needs to be said:
Stop worrying about the dumb stuff. It drains your energy. It diverts your attention. It gives you a really good reason to NOT do what you really need to do -- write the best damn book you can write. See, if you're busy obsessing over what font to use you don't have to wrestle the hairy POV beast to the mat, do you.
So if you are trying to write a novel or you have finished one and are trying to get published, here is my list of things you should not waste one brain cell on. These are real questions I have been asked. I am not making any of this up, I swear:
1. Should I use Word or Wordperfect?
Whatever you are comfortable using. No one else gives a flying rat fart.
2. Will a publisher or agent steal my idea if I submit it?
No. If it is good and you show a basic command of the craft, they will buy it and work with you on it.
3. Do I need to get an agent?
Not unless you have finished at least one book. Preferably two. This is called counting your royalty check eggs before you have bought the chicken. Don't worry about renting out Carnegie Hall if all you can play is three chords of Heart and Soul.
4. What if they want me to change it?
They will. So don't sweat it.
5. Should I include a CD with my submission?
Paper is still the currency of choice in this business. Unless otherwise asked, don't bother with anything but. New York is a curiously 19th century place.
6. I don't want my mother to read the sex scenes, bad language or the character I modeled after my alcoholic Uncle Harvey. Should I wait until she is dead?
Being a writer means spilling a certain amount of blood on the page, taking emotional risks. If you aren't at this point in your life, you aren't a writer.
7. I'm querying an agent. Should I send my first chapter or my best chapter?
If your first chapter isn't your best chapter, you're in deep doo-doo.
8. Who should I dedicate my book to?
9. Should I include my picture with my submission?
Only if you're Brad Pitt or his wife old whatshername.
10. My life is kind of busy right now. Should I wait until (fill in the blank): my kids go to college, my wife gets her promotion, my basement is finished so I can set up a home office, I finish night school, I have more time, I have more money, I have more energy...?
No. You will never have the ideal conditions to write. Something will always come up to distract you -- if you let it. You must choose to write. You must do it knowing that nothing may ever come out of it but the satisfaction of finishing your manuscript. You must do it on faith. Poe was penniless and died in a sewer. He didn't wait until he had the right desk lamp.