With the Pitch Wars picks being announced this week, I thought it might be helpful to talk about subjectivity, a word thrown around so often it risks losing meaning.
Recently, I’ve begun reading multiple books at the same time (no, not literally :D). At one point in time, I’ll often be a good chunk into 2 or 3 books and depending on the day and my mood, I’ll switch between them. It seems like such a strange thing, but somehow I’m able to dive right back to where I was when I left off, even if it’s a few days and 100 pages of a different book later. It’s likely a testament to the quality of writing, and it also helps that they’re very different books.
Last month, when I was in the mood for something light, fun, and giggly, I picked up Jenny Han’s To All The Boys I’ve Loved Before (now one of my all-time favorites! My review here). It’s sweet, romantic, funny, and emotional, about family, first loves, and fitting in. Other times I wanted to get lost in a dark, intense world different from our own, and I turned to Sabaa Tahir’s An Ember in the Ashes, a tension-packed, often violent thrill ride. Sometimes I wanted something in between the two and I went to Mindy McGinnis’ Not a Drop to Drink, which takes place in a post-apocalyptic world similar to ours in some ways but different in others. The setting is limited to a house and its pond, with only a few characters. There’s violence and plenty of action, but not in the all-out-war feeling of An Ember in the Ashes.
Depending on how much was on my mind and what my mood was, one of these books stood out to me. Despite the fact that Book A was irresistible to me the day before, sometimes the following day it would be too much, too sad, or too hard to swallow.
When I think about how much my own tastes range day-to-day, it helps put the word subjectivity into a different perspective. And there are plenty of acclaimed bestselling books that I didn’t enjoy as much as others, and other flops that I fell in love with. If you haven’t already, think about your own reading preferences, how unique and dynamic they can be, to help understand why certain mentors/agents/editors are a better fit for you than others. There are only a finite number of mentors, and each mentor is only able to pick one mentee, so a no from them does not equate a no from an agent. And a no from one agent doesn’t mean a no from another agent. Finding the right home for your story takes time.
Operation Awesome’s Pass or Pages shows comments from 4 different agents on an anonymous query + 1st 250 words. It’s a great demonstration of subjectivity and how something in your pages can turn off one agent but draw the attention of another. Here is the Operation Awesome Summary Post from the July Pass or Pages.
As a side note, Pass or Pages is also a great way to learn tricks for your own writing. In July’s Pass or Pages Entry #2, I thought Patricia Nelson did a great job of articulating how “talking to the reader” openings are common and can be less compelling than actually being in the moment with the character. I’ve been thinking a lot about openings recently as I brainstorm my next manuscript, and I thought this was a good tip to keep in the back of my mind.
Congratulations to the Pitch Wars mentees! And if you don’t get picked, don’t be discouraged—it’s more likely due to subjectivity than the quality of your work.
Keep writing! Keep querying! Keep submitting! If any of you ever need a pep talk, I’m always here!