The Importance of Being Yourself

Dear Writers:

So you have a manuscript you think is ready to be shopped around. What’s next? The query letter.

The query process is quite terrifying. And that’s even before you even find out that every agent has a different idea of what makes a good query and writers’ resource guides and forums offer different advice.

Lost in all of this is perhaps the most important element of the query: You. Yes, you! The writer. Don’t try to write a query that will appeal to everyone; you’re setting yourself up for a great disappointment. Write the best query you can that will appeal to many.

This advice should be practiced within the actual writing as well. It doesn’t work to write the book that you think you should write or that you think everyone will like. Don’t try to write for everyone, write for many. Mainly, write for yourself, then worry about everyone else.

More importantly, this motto applies to how you should conduct yourself as a writer. Sometimes people get so nervous about doing, saying, and writing the wrong thing, they hide who they really are. If someone doesn’t want to work with the real you, it’s probably for the best, as it’s very likely you won’t want to work with them.

Just be yourself, everyone will appreciate and respect you more for it, in the writing world and in the real world.

William Zinsser, the author of On Writing Well, says, “If you work for an institution, whatever your job, whatever your level, be yourself when you write. You will stand out as a real person among the robots.” He’s talking about the voice used by many in institutional settings, but his advice applies even more to the professional writer. When you’re yourself on the page, you have a better chance to “stand out as a real person among the robots.” The robots in this case being the folks in the pile of manuscripts on an agent or editor’s desk.