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where to go if you already know enough about writing...but don't have an agent

Because of my (*ahem*) vast intelligence and superior literary talent, I have always had this pompous idea in my head that goes something like this: "There is nothing anyone can tell me about writing that I can't figure out for myself."

Now, I admit, I have not been entirely hardheaded - thank goodness. I have read Stephen King's On Writing several times (an invaluable resource), and I have searched out everything that Hemingway and Fitzgerald and Vonnegut - and other luminaries such as Gertrude Stein and Hunter Thompson and Elmore Leonard - ever said about writing.

However, I also dropped the English Literature side of my double major three semesters into college, and I have staunchly refused to seek out (or even heed) advice from any remotely "up-and-coming" writer. In fact, if a writer is below the age of about 53, I am more likely to see them as "Competition" than to...I don't know, actually appreciate them at all.

And this is not entirely a bad thing.

Last year I shared a house with a guy who had an English Lit degree, and not only had we read all the same writers and all the same books, but we could comfortably discuss the different eras of literature and the different periods in each writer's life as if we had both taken the same classes. There is something rewarding - something savory - about learning these things out of passion rather than out of obligation. It's as Matt Damon said in Good Will Hunting: "You dropped a hundred-fifty grand on a f---- education you could've got for a dollar-fifty in late charges at the public library."

Maybe you can identify with this sentiment. Maybe you have even read this blog, or have read tweets of mine that encompass my thoughts on writing, and have found yourself shaking your head and wondering why on earth you're wasting your time reading what I say when you probably know more than me as it is. And it's this sort of sentiment that drives someone like me (or drives someone like the theoretical "you") to continue chasing our passion until we hone our craft to a sharp enough point where we can wield it effectively and prove to everyone what we have known (believed) all along. It's an awesome intensity to follow.

All the words above this sentence sound as if...well, as if all of that was actually, you know, the point of this post. It's not.

I wanted to tell you a really quick story, and then to send you to one place that you absolutely should visit for the purposes of learning - even if your sentiments are like mine.

Several years ago (fall of 2004 - I was 19 years old), I finished writing my first manuscript. I spent some time editing, and then I began to approach agents. I had no clue what I was doing.

I don't remember exactly how everything unfolded, but I'm sure I got several form rejections and then started looking stuff up online, trying to figure out how the whole "query process" works.

It was probably in the summer of 2005 when I stumbled across some forums in online writing communities where people were discussing the identity of a woman known as "Miss Snark." I visited Miss Snark's page...and I immediately left.

This was a mistake.

Over the next couple years I saw her name pop up from time to time, but I always shook my head and thought, "What a bunch of idiots," and kept trying to figure things out on my own.

Had I visited Miss Snark back then, my life would have been so much easier than I even care to imagine.

Of course, the five years I spent between then and now (writing and scrapping new manuscripts and growing in my craft) would still have been required in order for me to reach this point in my climb. However, the whole "query process"? Yeah. I could have circumvented a lot of frustration.

Miss Snark's true identity is still shrouded in mystery (although, the majority consensus seems to lean toward Janet Reid), but this anonymity makes her work all the more impressive.

Miss Snark ran her blogspot page for two years. In that time, she gave the writing community over 4,000 posts, and she received over 2.5 million hits. And this is how much profit she received for her efforts: $00.00

Miss Snark - an (anonymous) AAR agent with over 25 clients, a keen hankering for gin, and an unhealthy George Clooney obsession - donated all this time answering questions and helping authors so that our lives could be easier. If you are an unagented writer, you would be foolish not to take advantage of her labor of love.

As I have been reading her page over the last couple days, I'm amazed (and embarrassed) to realize how much time and frustration I would have saved myself had I swallowed my pride and gone there before I learned all this stuff the hard way.

Miss Snark rests, but her page lives on.

Happy writing, Dear Friends.
Happy querying.
Happy day.

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  1. I love Miss Snark--she's so valuable. But it's more than that because, like you said, she provided information even though she didn't have to, selflessly spent her time with us confuzzled writers.

    I have to admit that I relate to the idea of "figuring things out for my own" and I'm glad I'm starting to snap out of it :)

  2. Miss Snark is a cold, self-righteous bitch. Maybe. I read pretty much everything in her entire blog, in spite of that. I hated that she was belittling unpublished writers and seethed at her upper-handedness. How dare she tell ME how to write! I'm the next Vonnegut, for Christ's sake! My stuff is so good that Bukowski is jealous from the grave!

    But, you know, that was a really nice thing to do. It isn't everyone that's going to go out of their way to tell me I'm no good, point out my mistakes. This, and she hadn't even read a word of my stuff.

    In the end, I actually wrote her an email and thanked her for being a kind and unselfish person (I'm sure the email went unopened, which is fitting in a way).

    I also recommend her blog as a resource for all unpublished writers, but I do have to warn them in advance that Miss Snark is a cold, self-righteous bitch. Maybe.

  3. I owe a huge debt of gratitude to Miss Snark for everything she taught me about querying and writing in general.

    And since I fall into the camp of people who believe firmly that Miss Snark and Janet Reid are one in the same, I continue to read Janet Reid's blog, along with her "Query Shark" blog. Even though I've got a fabulous agent and a book deal, there's still plenty I need to learn.



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