Writer behaving badly, by Deborah Jenkins

 I've been deleting emails. Not in a measured, organised way but desperately, as my inbox kept warning me with increasing ferocity that it would soon refuse mail. The latest BIG SHOUTY MESSAGE warned me, redly, that it had totally had enough and was over 90% full! Well, you know, that didn't seem that bad to me. I have emails dating back to 2016, which is 5 years. So, by my calculations, I still have around 6 months to go . Not that I would put that to the test. Obviously. I don't want to risk rejecting emails from my family/friends/publisher (I put this one last out of respect to my family and friends).

I don't want to buy more storage and, after some research, I now know how to type in things like 'before:2018/01/1' or delete those with large attachments etc. So I gritted my teeth, took a swig of  coffee (extra strong) and went for it.

In the process of calling up all those old emails, I opened a few. Just to check they weren't the sort that I might one day wish I'd kept. The results were somewhat cringy. Particularly ones to publishers and agents for Books I Eventually Gave Up On. Finding them, it reminded me how much I've learned, some of it the hard way. No idea if this will be helpful to anyone else, but just in case: -

5 ways to avoid being a badly behaved writer (things I have learned)

1. Don't submit late at night. You will be tired and miss things. Agents and publishers will not be impressed if your email: is addressed to someone else; sent with the wrong (longer) synopsis; says Dear Bellie instead of Dear Nellie

2. Don't write long query emails. Your recipients won't have time to read them and they're not interested in that writing award you received when you were 15. Not at this stage anyway. Pare back your submission emails to a bare minimum and send EXACTLY what they ask for

3. Try not be too precious about voluntary writing opportunities. Just because your boss/your friend/your local church hasn't emailed back, rhapsodising about your contribution, it doesn't mean they don't appreciate it. They're probably just too busy juggling their own lives to have time to bolster yours. Back off a bit

4. Be less defensive about criticism. Read it carefully and think hard about which parts might be justified. Do something about those and dump the rest

5. Take. Your. Time. It's not a race, it's a marathon. For most people, the best writing will mean editing and re-editing, researching and planning, drafting and redrafting, reading and rereading. Then if it all fails, starting over again. Don't send off or publish anything, for anyone, that is less than the absolute best it can be

I only say these things because I have done them all, as some of the emails painfully reminded me.

So, I deleted 2 years worth of emails, and some with large attachments, but I still have 81% left. So Gmail, EXPLAIN THAT ONE TO ME!

I feel some bad behaviour coming on...

Deborah Jenkins is the author of textbooks, educational articles and a novella ,The Evenness of Things, available in paperback and as a kindle e-book.

Her novel, Braver, will be published in the summer of 2022 by Fairlight Books.

Deborah wonders aloud about the crazy, inspiring and inappropriate, on her blog, stillwonderinghere.net

Post a Comment