Thursday, November 11, 2010

Taboos for Aspiring Writers

(Picture from this website)
Confession: I'm a nerd.

This won't be a surprise to my friends who have been following this blog for any length of time. I've always been a dweeb, but now it's getting dangerous.

Because now the cool kids are actually waving to me in the halls and signing my yearbook. And now they're going to notice if I do something horribly taboo.

So, I need your help to compile a list of taboos for aspiring writers. What are the common-sense no-nos that dweebs like me don't have the common sense to avoid?

I'll start it out with a few I've heard of (or maybe at some point actually committed myself). I'll let you guess (silently, in your head, please) which ones I've committed. Add your own suggestions in the comments. Here I go.


1. Complaining about writing/querying/agents/publishers/bestsellers in the public eye. Jonathan Franzen, I'm looking at you.

2. Responding to a rejection or a bad review, even politely.

3. Being too familiar or chummy with an agent or editor in email, blog comments, twitter, or facebook.

4. Querying a book that hasn't been written (unless it's non-fiction, of course).

5. Querying a non-fiction book without a platform.

6. Talking about yourself more than your book in the query letter.

7. Giving agents parenting advice using twitter @ replies.

8. Fangirling (fanboying?) over favorite authors/books/movies with excessive squee-ing and OMGoodness-ing on your writing blog.

9. Posting bad writing on your blog.

10. Publicly disagreeing with the mainstream of agents or others in positions of power ("And that's why, you see, agents should be querying writers.").

11. Querying a novel in a tweet.

12. Pitching an incomplete book idea in a tweet.

13. Proposing marriage to an editor in a tweet.

14. Emailing an agent at more than one email address, for any reason.

15. Putting a smiley face in an email to an agent or editor who hasn't first smiley-faced you.

Okay, that's a good start. I'm relying on you guys to fill me in on what I've missed. 

Other interesting links and tidbits: 

Operation Awesome (always something fun going on there)

Elana Johnson (she's been writing about her writing process--good stuff)

My logline contest has closed. THANK YOU to everyone who entered. My final decision will be posted Friday. I'm excited to read somebody's awesome Nano novel this December!

And my Nano update: 8,360 words

Yes, I am some odd-8,000 words behind. I'm aware of the problem, and technical representatives are standing by to.... I'm working on it, okay! :) Have a nice day, and happy writing!


  1. Ha! I do smiley faces all the time, though not in queries....but I've been the first to insert an old smiley in subsequent correspondences with agents and editors. I take that one on a case by case basis, but really, I'm a smiley nut so it's a hard habit to break :)

    For #5...very true, NF writers need a platform. However, it is possible to get published without one, or with a very small one. Case in point, me. I have the degrees and the experience but no professional platform at all. When my agent signed me, she said this would be an obstacle for us - but she believed enough in the book to go for it. And it paid off :) So, my advice regarding the best platform you can - but if you have a truly awesome NF book idea, something you are qualified to write even if you don't have the biggest platform in the world, go for it. All they can say is no :) And in the meantime, do what you can do beef that platform up :)

    Great post :)

  2. Michelle, I'm a smiley addict, too. :) I was looking through some past correspondence with a literary agent and realized I'd slipped a few in there. Some of them don't mind, but you know there are those who are uber professional and...frown...on the use of smileys. LOL. Sorry. Couldn't resist the pun.

    I'm so glad I have a non-fiction writer in my ring because you understand the intricacies, not only of writing it, but also for marketing. Thanks for expounding on #5 for me!

  3. Funny post and very true. Can't think of any you left out but then again I am an aspiring writer dweeb so I could be doing lots of things I shouldn't. HA!

  4. Oh, great! I can see that I might as well jus' hide my head in a hole an' pretend no one can see me. Ungh!

    ~ Yaya

  5. Rachel, that's exactly my problem. The taboos are common sense to some people (I've seen these assertions on other people's blogs) but I think they're giving me way too much credit. :) In many ways, I'm still a newbie. I hope this list helps other newbies avoid feeling foolish.

    Hee hee, Yaya, just stay away from #13 and you should be fine!

  6. I think I might have used similes (not in correspondence with agents, though) and excessively fangirl books/authors on my blog... I said might. ;)

    (But seriously, it's so difficult to not be a babbling fangirl when you read a book/watch a movie you absolutely love.)

  7. Emy, I'm guilty of that one, as well. :) But sometimes life is too exciting not to go fangirl on somebody.

    I hope to have a relationship with my future agent that allows for personality quirks like spontaneous squee-ing. :)

  8. I don't know if I agree with #2. There have been times when, receiving a rejection, I reply back and simple say thank you. Is that so bad? There are some agents that post the received threatening/angry/unprofessional emails from rejected writers and that is a BIG no no, considering you are just burning the bridge to a future relationship. But I'm not one of them!

  9. You're right. #2 is one of those that some agents appreciate and other agents are simply irked by. One agent explained that, say they received 200 queries in a day and then rejected fifty of them and got fifty, "Thank you"s in return--that would just be more email to filter through, no matter how well-intentioned the writer.

    But I have seen at least one agent who said she appreciates the sentiment. I save my thank you emails for personalized rejections where helpful advice has been given, but it's definitely a gray area as far as taboos go.

    Blah. Wouldn't it be nice if there was an official list posted someplace? I would totally tack it up on my wall.

  10. These were great! I think you've got most of them covered.

  11. Great tips Katrina :) Will have to watch my smiley use. How about ;) LOL


  12. Rachael, I think winkles are always professional! ;) I mean, how else are people supposed to know when you're being sarcastic or clever? Ha ha!


Speak up! You will be heard...or read.