I have been more discouraged about writing lately than I have for the entire eleven years I have been at it.
Even though I know I’m improving as a writer.
Even though I made significant strides last year and came super close to landing an agent.
Even though I genuinely do love writing.
Life and writing, any creative endeavor really, can be unpredictable like that. Sometimes it’s hard to find the motivation, especially when it all has to come from inside you.
When I was approached about speaking with Sara Connell, an author and writing coach, I figured it couldn’t hurt. I scheduled an online appointment and filled out her little questionnaire about my writing journey and goals.
I’m not entirely sure what I expected. I’ve read all kinds of articles and books, listened to podcasts, and spoken with agents and writers and most of them have the same advice: Keep trying! Queries work. It will happen.
They’re generic statements that start to mean nothing once you’ve heard them enough.
This isn’t what Sara is all about.
First of all, she immediately drew me in with her infectious and positive personality. I felt better and smiled through much of our conversation, even though she couldn’t see me seeing as we were just on the phone. Although she lives in Chicago so maybe we can meet in real life one day and be friends, because I totally want to be friends with Sara.
After some quick small talk, Sara led me in a quick and revitalizing breathing exercise before we got down to business. She has advice to share not just based on her own journey but also on those of the writers she has helped get published.
Sara is a published author. Her book Bringing in Finn was nominated for Elle’s Book of the Year in 2012. Oh, and among many, many other appearances, she’s been on The Oprah Winfrey Show. Um … guys … I talked to someone who talked to Oprah!
Needless to say Sara has a lot of words of wisdom with the results to back them up.
I’ve heard a few writers say they were rejected ten or twenty times, but Sara said she recommends writers query at least one hundred times per project. You read that right: one hundred times. It sounds like a lot but she thinks it works, and honestly, I think that’s the only way for cold queries to work too.
When I was telling her about an agent who recently told me if I wasn’t receiving an 80% request rate, I wasn’t on the right path, she didn’t find that to be true in her experience either. She said that some people aren’t your jam and one opinion is not the be all end all.
The truth is it really does take just one and Sara has some serious examples of that in practice. Like an author landing an agent after a different agent tore them to shreds.
She’s also big on “mind set work.” It’s a lot like visualization, but perhaps a bit broader. Yes, she recommends specific things to focus on, like telling a writer to imagine getting offers from two agents … which they did. But she also plays into a generally positive mind set. And she recommends doing this work in the shower. That’s right, no need to take thirty or more minutes out of an already packed day. Take time you can’t be on your phone or sending an email or cooking or cleaning and focus on YOU!
I am also about to put her query letter advice into practice. I stepped away from querying for a bit, but I’m about to get back after it. I used to write personalized query letters, but then stopped because it felt like such a time suck and had produced no results. When I told Sara this, she was surprised since writers usually start personalizing later in the process instead of stopping.
But I had been going about it wrong. My standard line was “You’d be a great agent for me because …” It wasn’t very original and didn’t make me stand out.
Sara’s idea is a latitude bridge. A letter should begin with something I admire or respect about the agent and then transition to how that relates to my writing or me. Since I came so close last year, and I know it was all about the tweaks I made to my query letter, I’m eager to see if this tool seals the deal.
The truth is I have been super down about writing lately. But even writing this and remembering my conversation with Sara has perked me back up. I am a writer. No one can take that away from me.
If you are a writer and would like to have a conversation with Sara about your path, schedule your own introductory session at this link. You can also check out her website for information and inspiration.