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Write with No Apologies

It happens a lot, I get a query, or even an email from a client, full of apologies. The email starts off with an explanation of why the author has broken the rules or is tired of the rules and explains in great detail how. Sometimes there’s an edge of defiance to the correspondence, other times just an apology. Or a tone of apology.

The first step to success is being proud of your work and letting it stand on its own. You will never get the opportunity to explain yourself to readers or reviewers (at least not before they read the work). You need to feel the confidence that whatever you’ve written and however you’ve written it is enough. Not just enough. Incredible. If you feel the need to explain yourself, your reasonings, or your writing you’re not ready.

When you put your work out there make sure you’re ready to put your work out there. Do it with a sense of nervousness of course (that’s natural), but also pride and confidence that what you’ve got is what we want.

Category: Blog



  1. In my opinion authors can totally be confident especially if they’re perfectionists and know they put in the hard work, but the element of the doubt is a healthy thing to have too. I think to be completely sure of oneself is a shade pathological, but mostly these people and narcissists seem to make it in life. Or is that just my opinion? I’m juding by the arrogant-casual attitudes of stars on Larry and Oprah, it’s true, I don’t have a true basis for this. But I do know that I can get downright bitchy to people who come across overconfident, especially if they want to sell me something. I usually slap overconfidence right off their faces (with words, off course) because I find it offensive. Might be something wrong with me though, at least that’s what my imaginary friends say LOL

  2. Writers have to be this schizophrenic combination of pathologically confident (otherwise you’d never finish what you started) and almost-cripplingly insecure (otherwise you’d never clean up what needs to be cleaned up). Additionally, they have to be sensitive creative types (otherwise they’d never write with any degree of vulnerability and heart) and hard-boiled businessperson (otherwise they could never survive the querying/publishing/marketing process). This is similar to any creative field. Doubt all you like, doubt everything, doubt it all, but don’t doubt in a query. That’s when you slip on your businessperson mask. I continually doubt my writing and yet have made a living off it for 20 years because I’m able to push it out the door even if I think it sucks. At the end of the day, it’s not up to me to judge my writing.

  3. LOL, Ana! I had a bit of your reaction. I think there’s something else here, though. Jessica knows I’m a mess of fidgets. I am a perfectionist, so I’m always aware of how my works falls short. I’m tweaking and editing until a deadline–a drop dead deadline–forces me to finally send the thing off. And I have to catch myself from quibbling with readers at book signings when they tell me how much they love my books. Are you sure? I want to say. But under all my fussing, I think I have a rock solid confidence in the heart of my work. Maybe it’s craftsmanship? Jessica and/or editor will give me editing suggestions, but they–fortunately–know better than to tell me how to fix something. They tell me the problem, and I fix it in my own way. Whenever I start a new book, I think OMG, I can’t do this! How do I do this? And all the way along I’m thinking what if this doesn’t work? What if I get to the end–and the deadline–and I don’t have a book, just a bunch of words? And yet–eventually–the book becomes real. The people and setting take on depth. And I have a nanosecond where I think, hey, this isn’t so bad. Sorry–(apologies!)–long winded rambling. But I think for some writers being a conflicting stew of insecurity and confidence is normal.

  4. Being a writer is definitely an emotional roller-coaster. But I think when you start querying it’s not just about pride and confidence, it’s also about professionalism. You can break the rules when you query (there are great examples at Query Shark) but if you do it has to be with confidence and it has to be professional. I think if you start apologising you aren’t really confident with what you are putting forward and when you do that you lose the professional shine a query needs.

    1. AJ, I think you just pointed to one of my shortcomings – I NEVER break the rules. I’m such a submissive kid… Maybe I should check out those examples at Query Shark 🙂

  5. Over the past year, I’ve met some new people with whom I share a passion – feeding hungry people. In addition to a common purpose, there’s a social aspect we share beyond food (we’ll it often does take place at a restaurant). One evening, after just a few month’s interaction with my new “friends,” one of the men came up to me and said, “I really like you.” (No, their wasn’t that much alcohol involved and I’m pretty sure he wasn’t hitting on me.) Before I could rein my insecure self-image, “Why?” flew out of my mouth.

    If I’m being honest, I’m filled with self-doubt (thankfully, not self-loathing). I suppose this is common with artists of any variety no matter their success. The good news is, when I write my stories, my muse has enough confidence for the both of us. I hope I’ve learned enough about querying to bring her along when I write that love (as in loving my product, not my agent-to-be) letter.

  6. It’s helpful for you to say that even your clients do this. I think it’s important to write all those apologetic feelings out – but then tear, bury, or burn them.

    Writing through our feelings helps us process them, and then we can better recognize and excise them from public actions. I was super apologetic sharing a chapter once, because everyone had liked the first chapter and I was so worried the second would be a let down. The initial feedback had a lot more to do with my feelings than the work (in a gentle, supportive, way).

    It’s actually related to the blog post a few days ago about our online presence. One of the commenters said we have to stay out of the way of our work – all these apologies and feelings get in the way of readers being immersed in our story, whether it’s a query or a book signing.

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