Are you a writer? When you answer that question do you look at people in the eye and say it with gusto? Or do you say it quietly while waiting for the barrage of questions that comes next? What kind of writer? Are you a journalist? Do you have a book published?
My answer in the past (although I’m slightly ashamed to admit it) has been: I’m a freelance writer. I work mainly in advertising. I write blogs, branding, videos, websites, and whatever a client needs me to write. But I’m not a “real” writer – you know, the kind that has a book with her name on it.
Hold up. Me?
I used to be a Creative Director at an advertising agency. I’ve been happily under deadline for over a decade thriving as a freelance writer. And yet my answer always had a bit of shame to it.
Because my goal has always been to get my novel published. Just going into a bookstore both inspires me and depresses me as I see all the beautiful covers taunting me.
But no more.
"I am a writer. And I’m making strides in my confidence. It’s helped my querying and pitching."
And now I want to help you too.
4 simple steps to query stronger and achieve your writing dream.
Step 1: Let go of your past.
Let go of that college teacher who told you your writing was not good enough.
"Let go of looking at everyone else and seeing their strengths."
Some writers are more detailed. Some are great with dialogue. Figure out your strengths and own them.
Step 2: Work on your book pitch. But not until you finished Step 1.
Why? Because I realized the first time I worked on my pitch and query letter I wrote it like someone who didn’t believe in herself. And why would a literary agent believe in me if I don’t?
But no, I didn’t come to this realization on my own. I had an editor tell me that the self-deprecating jokes in my query, which I thought showed my tone, actually showed my insecurity.
I rewrote my query letter with a different attitude. Instead of thinking that the agent was doing me a favor by reading my book, I wrote it with the confidence of what I could offer her/him as a team.
That’s right, I wrote it like we were equal. I had value to bring. This new query letter went out and I received a full request for my novel last week. No, it wasn’t magic. It was confidence.
Step 3: Embrace beta-readers. Use them to empower you, not defeat you.
Ok, this step is easier said than done. I love writing. As a freelancer, I love making my clients happy. And I’m good at that. I’m a hit it out of the ballpark kind of writer when it comes to freelance projects.
But novels are different. It’s not a straight win.
"You need people’s feedback to make your work stronger."
So, take a deep breath, let your guard down, and don’t take it personally. Don’t think about it as showing your weaknesses. Think about it as sharpening your awesomeness. Share it with beta-readers. Share it with the lady down the street.
Get perspectives beyond your mom or partner. (No offense to your mom or partner.)
Step 4: Use Twitter. But don’t let it use you.
The Writing Community on Twitter is amazingly supportive. But we’re all writers. We compare. We can get discouraged by others’ success. We can get drained. It happens.
But your eyes should be on you. Because there’s only one of you.
"Once I stopped worrying if what I was writing was right or wrong or lesser or better than others, it felt freeing. My writing is mine. And that’s the one thing I can be sure of every time I write."
Once you own your voice, use it. You’ll gain more followers just for being you.
And with your newfound writing swagger, you should take advantage of the unique opportunities on Twitter like #PitchMad or #IWSGPit where you can catch an agent’s eye without the dreaded query letter.
It’s also a great time to see what agents are actively looking and then query those. (Yes, poaching is smart. I’ve done it and it works!)
I will confess, I find pitching fests on Twitter exhausting. It brings out a lot of emotions, but even if you don’t get an agent “Like,” it allows you to hone your pitch.
And that’s what this is all about – you figuring out what works for you. It also lets you put out the claim that this is my novel, and I’m really doing this thing! And every time you define your novel to yourself and the Twitterverse, it builds your confidence.
"So, repeat after me. I am a writer. My journey is mine. My voice is mine. And watch out world, because I kick ass."
Now go query, self-publish, whatever your goal. But most importantly, keep believing in yourself and your writing.