I’m not saying there is, God forbid I would dare to say this, especially as I’m writing this blog, but I am asking the question, as it’s been bugging me this week, and not for the first time. And I’m pretty confident I’m not the only one with this dilemma.
I first felt I was suffering from too much information after I seriously started writing, and it is in the writing realm that it bothers me most, because there really and truly is so much out there – books, writing magazines, online advice. Of course I bought some books on writing, but I think you can control that by buying just a few, seeing their worth (or not, as the case may be), then calling a halt and getting on with the writing.
But when there are inevitably other specific things you quickly want to know, it makes perfect sense to ‘google it’. And of course you get results – so many results, it’s like going through a maze from the centre outwards with too many exits and to different places, and before you know it, by being human and therefore tempted by intoxicating tangents (I just want to see what’s around this corner), hours have passed by and you’re still not where you wanted to be.
During writing my novel, I needed to know more about writing dialogue, about different ways to convey inner thoughts, about grammar and punctuation, how to refer to songs, commercial products, and I coasted through many ideas on novel structure, character development…the list was pretty endless and Google was a friend I could ask. And I have to say a big Thank You to the people who wrote the information I was looking for – it’s been invaluable and much appreciated, and I may even contribute some myself. But I can’t be alone it finding it just too much at times (I said it was a dilemma, didn’t I ? ;>) )
Then there was the advice on making submissions – the ‘perfect’ query/pitch letter that will get you noticed, the ‘perfect’ synopsis that no agent/publisher can ignore, how to make your first three chapters shine…
And this week I’ve been looking at sites of literary agents (the novel again), then got pulled to other sites with list after list, with me bookmarking them just in case I need them later on – when? When I’ve exhausted all the rest? Just how many am I intending to submit to, and then there’s all the publishers too. Its mind blowing. Then I found myself thinking what’s wrong with the Writers and Artists Yearbook I have here by my side, and which I started out with in the first place? Well, there seem to be so many agents and publishers not listed in it compared to what’s available on the internet, that you feel you’re not making a proper job of it if you ignore the net, that you’re missing out, and quite frankly it’s not only overwhelming but downright offputting. So what are you realistically to do?
Being a pretty methodical person the range of information, the scope, the depth can be staggering, so many sites, so much advice, frequently conflicting and confusing, it just doesn’t sit well with me. How do you sift through it and be happy you’ve got what you need or wanted in the first place?
So, now, although the problem still very much presents itself, I have a few strategies I use, to save myself getting all in a knot which I can’t unravel.
Tips for unravelling the knot
I limit myself to printing off just so much that I’m happy with, then file it, and refer to that from henceforth…you also build confidence around the things you aren’t sure about at first, especially when you put them into practice, so you don’t need to look them up anymore. The more knowledge you have, the fewer questions you need to ask. And I record what I’ve found out that works for me in my own written up notes. It’s important for me to feel ‘in charge’ of information – where it can be easy to hand, right there when you need it fast, with no distractions from online searches. If I’m not in charge of it I feel intimidated.
I wrote up my own guidelines on novel submission which I’d previously collected, sifting from about three to four sources which I considered reliable. And when they disagreed with one another eg whether or not you should tell the ending of your novel in the synopsis, I made an executive decision (yes, you tell how the story ends). This was the only way I could engage with the process, as I knew there would be way too much information for me to handle on this.
Agents and publishers – this is the hardest one. You could argue that actual book entries have been researched well, like my new one, which arrived in the post the other day – Indie Presses from Myslexia. So I will probably use that before considering venturing into online lists – being systematic is one way of handling information overload.
And I suppose, more generally, for any other kinds of ‘too much information’ , the more you learn, the more you are familiar with, the easier it gets to sift through the sand and stones to find the nuggets. And for things you don’t know anything about, being as systematic as you can, and not going off on too many tangents should at least make the journey easier.
Good luck with your information searches!