As someone who works at home and lives in a small town, I often seek out situations online where I can be part of a community of like-minded folk who are also involved in the business of writing and reading. What I find, though, is that often these interactions create more anxiety and distraction than if I just hide in my bubble.
One great example of this sort of distraction is what happened to me yesterday. I recently joined a group of writers on Facebook. I probably should have left the group the moment I read the pinned post saying those who join are to be each others' BFFs.
Someone who is under 30 who has yet to publish anything posted asking if it is "ok" to target an agent by finding books they repped/sold on Good Reads and then dropping in the title in the query letter.
I made the simple--and I think reasonable--suggestion that they actually read the book, rather than just relying on Good Reads summaries. To rely on those summaries might lead to getting backed into a corner. Someone else in the group jumped on me and said the example the other person gave was "fine" and I should basically stop being a Debbie Downer and "support" the other writer.
What I had done in this situation was to go to Amazon and pull up the book title dropped in the query letter example. I noticed that while the novel being pitched is a middle-grade and "contemporary"/modern take on the topic, the book title dropped is categorized as historical literary fiction for an adult market. When I did other looking around (even just the blurbs from PW and library journals), it is clear that the title dropped book is a genre-buster and that it is focused on busting up gender stereotypes.
So, I asked if the writer could show how her book was in the same genre or how it actually is "reminiscent" in style or theme as the title dropped in the letter. She never responded, but I got "scolded" by another "scribbler" (let's talk about how problematic that word is to start with) and I left.
Here's the deal: I assumed that the original poster KNEW her approach to pitching is problematic. Let's be honest: When we post in the void and end our post with "Is this ok?" we already know IT IS NOT OK.
This interaction gave me teaching flashbacks. Interestingly, the poster went to undergrad somewhere I used to teach. One of the common practices of first year writing students when I taught there was to walk up to the instructor on day one when class was dismissed to say "Hi, I'm X. And I plan to make an A in your class." I bring this up because that's what this writer is attempting to do with the title-drop in the letter. The person who scolded me (who also has no publications and listed her education as "from the School of Hard Knocks") is like every peer reviewer who said to their classmate "Looks great! I think it's an A paper."
What's the point of my rambling here? I'm not sure. One thing is that at least I'm putting words down. But part of my realization that led to my quitting the group is that we're not all at the same point in our journey. I'm not a 20-something with no publications who has no awareness of what I don't know. I've been struggling a lot this year (2019) with the whole social media and connecting with strangers thing. I suspect that I'll continue to leave groups and "snooze" groups on my timeline and seek to spend less time there.
I'm not looking for BFFs online. (I'm also not in the market for some widowed military guy who has small children, despite the various "friend requests" I get from such accounts). I'm lucky to have actual people in my life, some of whom are pretty stellar and awesome writers who ask me questions like, "Do you even like X character?" Or, "What the hell are you doing?"