By David E. Sharp
While attending the recent NCW writing conference, I heard first-hand advice from an independent editor. He spoke about the kinds of submissions he receives from writers and what does or does not "sell" a manuscript.
It seems writers are a humble bunch. He explained they often fail to mention why their writing should be of interest to him. For instance, the author of a manuscript for a police procedural should say she has been a homicide detective for thirty years. And yet...
|Ladies and gentlemen, let me direct your attention to exhibit A.|
Is self-promotion shameful?
We don't want to be obnoxious. We shouldn't start referring to ourselves as the next Hemingway or declaring our work is a mega-hit. I'm not justifying an inflated ego here. But if we've spent hours upon hours on our latest project, there must be something we like about it. Surely it's not a crime to be a fan of our own writing. And if we are, we might as well say so.
Talk about it like somebody else wrote it.
If you could detach yourself as the author, would you gush about this manuscript you're shopping? What kinds of things would you say about it? What makes it great? What do you enjoy about it that others would appreciate as well? If you're a reader (and you indeed should be), then gushing about your latest literary find is second nature.
|Don't be like this guy.|
He's photo-bombing my blog post.
What a sad cry for attention.
Look at me! Ain't I swell?
We all know folks whose favorite subject is themselves. That's not what we're striving for. We are presenting ourselves as professionals who have something to offer. Even if it's just a good yarn.
When our car breaks down, we want a mechanic who says with confidence, "Yes, I can fix that." We don't want a mechanic who says, "Baby, I can fix anything. I'm the next Tony Stark! Once I work on your car, it won't never break again." For that guy? A restraining order.
So, what do we say?
State the facts.
My manuscript is about the genres. When pitching, I mentioned I'm a librarian. It's not bragging to point out I work in a field that gives me expertise. I'd say how many drafts I'd written, it won a manuscript contest a few years ago and I've written stage plays. All factual statements. All pertinent.
During this session, our presenter assigned us to write a letter of recommendation for ourselves as attendees of the conference. I soon realized he was making a point. He did not intend for us to complete this "assignment." But I did.
To whom it may concern,
It is my esteemed privilege to recommend David E. Sharp for your consideration as a most distinct conference attendee. Indeed, an attendee of distinction. Did I mention he is distinct? He has attended session after session with steely resolve, absorbing the wisdom of industry professionals and his literary peers.
Though he is too modest to say so himself, I find him to be quite distinguished. Distinctly distinguished. His conference attending abilities are first rate. Let me direct you to the following bulleted list:
• I have personally observed his abilities to caffeinate himself for optimum alertness during a full day of informative sessions. His questions are both insightful and informed. They’re also pretty distinct. And he ends every one with the appropriate punctuation. You can tell because he pronounces his punctuation with perfect fluency.
• His social networking skills? Yes, they are distinct. He has performed introductions with the professional mastery of an Olympic figure skater. I don’t know if Olympic figure skaters are good at making introductions, but I’ll bet David E. Sharp is at least as good. Common introductory phrases from his ice-breaking repertoire include “Hello.” And “What’s your name?” and “Sorry about your shirt, let me get some paper towels.”
• David E. Sharp is able to play his name on a standard musical keyboard. (D#) While his vocal ability is limited, and some karaoke aficionados have used the term “tone deaf” about him, it is still a remarkable feat to play one’s name in a single note when it requires three syllables in the spoken word. It is true that many conference attendees can spell their name on a computer keyboard. This offers nothing of distinction and only demonstrates that they own fingers.
• If these skills were not enough, David can attend multiple sessions at once. As a member of the greatest critique group on the planet, David utilizes a divide and conquer strategy with such phrases as, “Hey, did you go to that Todd Mitchell session?” and “Did you take notes during that Todd Mitchell session?” and “Thanks for that copy of your notes from the Todd Mitchell session.”
In conclusion, David E. Sharp is a conference attendee of such distinction. He is quite IN distinct.
Thank you for your time.
-A writer. Not necessarily named David E. Sharp.
Now it's your turn
Jump in the comments and tell me why your writing is incredible! I want to know. And I want you to tell me.