They’re all going to laugh at you!

Two years ago, I had lost all contact with other writers. I didn’t have a Facebook, Twitter, or WordPress account. I had never even read a blog! But I was back to spending several hours a day writing, and I needed someone who could relate. So, I googled for a critique group in my area. I discovered one that, coincidently, was having its first meeting the next night.

Did I go to that meeting? Of course I didn’t. I finally worked up enough courage to make it to the third or fourth meeting. And that was only because I feared I would quit writing again, if I didn’t have to answer to anyone. So, when one of my sons offered to go with me because he thought I would never do it alone, I realized how silly I was being and forced myself to go.

I had every intention of getting to know the members for a while before I submitted anything, and listening to their feedback on three submissions that night made me question whether I’d ever be ready to let them read anything I’d written. Then, at the end of the meeting the group leader asked if I could submit for the next meeting and, to my horror, I heard a YES come out of my mouth.

For the next two weeks, I debated whether I should quit the group or face them. I kept hearing Piper Laurie, as the mother in the movie Carrie, shrieking, “They’re all going to laugh at you!” Only, I didn’t quite think they would laugh to my face; I imagined they had already laughed when they read my submission. As it turned out, they gave me some helpful feedback on my story—and no one laughed.

In my rational moments, I didn’t believe they should have laughed, that they had real cause to laugh because, for the most part, I have confidence I can write. I just lack confidence in myself as a writer … or something. There’s a fine line in there somewhere. (Explain this, if you can.)

ANYWAY … now, I’m in the agent querying stage for my novel and every time I look at the list of agents I’ve compiled on QueryTracker, I hear that same Laurie shriek. Every time I paste my query into an email and hit that send button, I suffer a moment of what-have-you-done panic. If I’ve been following an agent on Twitter, I unfollow before I query for fear I’ll recognize my query in one of their can-you-believe-this-stupid-query tweets. But, barring a miracle, I have to query if I want to find an agent who can find an editor who can publish my novel.

At least agents don’t carry chef’s knives … right? Right?

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24 thoughts on “They’re all going to laugh at you!

  1. Oh God, as I was reading your story about how nervous you were the first time you summated a piece of writing to the group, it reminded me my terror- I felt exactly the same way! I was 19 and I had never ever shown any piece of writing of mine to anyone but to my best friend and now I had to read it OUT LOUD to these more experienced, older people and they were going to think that it’s silly, childish and armature and they are all going to laugh at me… It took me a mouth to finally read something and I remember how my voice trembled …
    Two years after that I couldn’t wait to read it out loud and hear the feedback 🙂 I think the difference between writing and being read is the line that you are talking about…

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    1. Lua, I am thankful my group was not a read aloud group. Now, two years for me too, I can’t wait to hear what my critique partners have to say. I’m disappointed, of course, if they find too many things wrong, but I can’t fix a problem, if I don’t know about it.

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  2. No– Agents carry switchblades. Easier to hide in their stomping boots of doom. 🙂

    You’ve conquered more fear than a lot of would-be writers out there- congratulations! I get the same feeling when I submit. I’m not at the querying stage, yet. Not even at the stage where I have a full novel ready for revision, but I’ve been sending out short stories, and doing a crit group, and every time I get a little wigged out.

    But, Heinlein rule # 4: You must put the work on the market.
    Even if that market is just a crit group for now. Fear never helped anyone. (Well, except for that guy who decided to be afraid of alligator infested waters and just take a trip to California instead, where he met and married a beautiful actress and lived Happily Ever After. Yeah, except for him.)

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    1. Thank you for the laughs, Eliza. And it’s always nice to know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

      I think the only fear that will help me is the fear of losing my ability to write. Use it or lose it, so to speak.

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  3. Lovely. And so on the spot. I kept avoiding those groups like usually the gym just out of the same dreadful fear.

    The first time I overcame it was once, in a writer’s workshop in Dublin, for the first time reading out loud the short summary of what my book was about to Irish writers (an Irish topic, as an Austrian non-native writer). What can I say? I never was in so much sweat my whole life (see gym aversion), but I did it. And I got positive comments.

    Three days later I decided that if I could do that then I could just as well finally call that agent with a good reputation who had asked to call her first before submitting any manuscript (eeeeek – why can I not just send an easy and comfort-zony e-mail?).
    And so I did. She asked for the first 20 pages and offered me a contract a couple of weeks later.

    What am I trying to say? Just do it – it is worth the risk. Most agents are not out there to get you. Just straightforward. All the best for your submission process – fingers crossed!

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      1. Dear Linda – didn’t mean to upset you … it was in fact my 4th submission, I got rejected by the first three agents, one of them was kind enough to give a reason which helped me loads. And the offer came after the agent asked for and read the full manuscript, which overall took 6 weeks. 3 more agents that I inquired to via e-mail rejected, too (I guess, 2 of them never answered). So no miracles there. 🙂 I merely wanted to encourage the courage to go out there. Keep my fingers crossed for you in any case. 🙂 Eva

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        1. You didn’t upset me. My mind just boggled at the idea that someone had queried one agent and got representation after a 20 page submission! Still, if you succeeded after only four agents queried, that’s excellent.

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  4. Just to clarify – the time between the first three and the second 4 submissions was nearly a year, in which I kept working on the manuscript….

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    1. Oops, I replied to the first part before I read this. Okay, now I think I have it straight, you had time to revise. I would like to find an agent who gave more than a form rejection. I think that would be quite helpful.

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      1. Oh yes, this “friendly” rejection helped me a lot to work on a better outcome. Still it hurt when it arrived … so I wish you some, but not too many of those and a good agent to jump on board. I definitely consider myself extremely lucky it worked out so well. The submission process to the publishers now drags much longer. But hey, guess that’s part of the game … Best from Berlin!

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