Why #MSWL is the Best/Worst Thing to Ever Happen to Writers (Like Me)

First of all, if you’re unaware of what I’m talking about, MSWL is publishing code for MS (or manuscript) Wish List. Created by literary agent Jessica Sinsheimer, this social media / multimedia phenomenon essentially turns publishing upside down, in a good way.

Here’s how I would describe it:

Instead of a bunch of writers sitting in their log cabins and mothers’ basements, shouting SOMEBODY LOVE ME!!! fruitlessly into the abyss of the internet, it’s a lot more like a bunch of agents and editors on a stage, telling us writers what they’re looking for in that special someone. Possibly even making fleeting eye-contact with us from across the room, thereby allowing us to dream of a day when WE become that someone.

If you want the real description, make sure to visit the MSWL twitter feed, tumblr site, or YouTube channel. (That’s right. They’ve got a YouTube channel. S#@* has INDEED gotten real, folks.) And of course, keep your eyes peeled for the next MSWL date, which is when new posts with current wishes will be going up.


Now, here’s why I think this glorious creation is the BEST thing EVER:

1. Convenience. Quite simply (pun?), MSWL makes it THAT much easier for writers to research agents and editors. What they LIKE, instead of dislike. SPECIFICALLY. When I was first querying, I remember doing SO much research. Mind-numbing amounts of research. MSWL is BY FAR the most detailed and comprehensive list of demands I’ve ever seen, and it’s all in one place. Winning!

2. Optimism. Because of its extremely positive nature, MSWL encourages HOPE. You know, that thing you used to have before you knew the odds? Or the stakes? Or how much it costs to self-publish the RIGHT way? Hope, my friends. HOPE.

3. Potential Wakeup Call. It lets you know if what you’re writing is part of a passing trend, or if your genre is uncomfortably saturated with similar stories at the moment. (Keep in mind that there are ALWAYS exceptions in every genre, but for most people it’s not a good idea to query something that looks like thousands of other queries that are already out there.)

And here’s why it can also seem like the WORST thing that has EVER happened to you as a writer:

1. Rabbit Hole Capacity. While great, MSWL has the potential to turn even the calmest, most pragmatic writers into Russell Crowe from A Beautiful Mind. Because really, when you read 3-4 MSWL tweets in a row that seem to fit your MS, it’s easy to get a little fanatical. If you aren’t careful, the more you start to inject this hopeful, wishful thinking into every MSWL description… until suddenly your MS is EXACTLY what the world needs to keep from being destroyed by dystopian love triangles from the future! OR, maybe you need to go take a cold shower and simmer down for a bit.

2. Occasional storm clouds of despair. (Black hole in the exact shape of your current WIP, anyone?) You might not see ANY requests for what you’re writing, and that might be a little bit discouraging. It might cause you to doubt yourself, or worse, consider throwing in the towel or shelving that current WIP. Before you do, please remember that this industry is INCREDIBLY subjective and that this list is far from exhaustive. Hundreds of other opportunities are out there. So buck up and keep looking, little camper.

3. Ever consider a career in stalking? I posted a little clip about this a few weeks ago, ironically right before MSWL’s latest installment went live. I confess, I then proceeded to break pretty much every unspoken rule of human decency, in my sudden and all-consuming NEED to know if Editor X was truly as wonderful as she seemed. Did she really love salted caramel lattes and Reading Rainbow reruns? Was she indeed my intended literary soul mate, who just happened to be currently unaware of our obvious cosmic connection? Or was I maybe giving Colin Hanks a run for his money in that one made for TV movie about a stalker that I can’t remember the name of but it doesn’t matter because I was so horrified by it that I’ll NEVER see it again? (God, that sentence was long.) Is my dream editor reading this? Does she think that sentence was way too long? (You see where I’m going with this?)


What I’m basically saying is, MSWL is a GREAT tool for writers. But do try to curtail your fantasies a little bit. Stop scribbling hearts on that notebook. For the love of god, do NOT start cramming your book links into the MSWL feed, hoping for a miracle. Use MSWL wisely, the way it was intended: to find industry professionals you might not have considered before, people who seem like they might be interested in your book. (The way it is NOW, not the way you’re going to rewrite it to fit their every whim. Don’t pretend you weren’t thinking it.) Don’t try to force something that isn’t already there. If your writing steals an agent/editor’s heart, they will TELL you.

And that’s how V…sees it.

4 thoughts on “Why #MSWL is the Best/Worst Thing to Ever Happen to Writers (Like Me)

  1. I did get a little excited when I saw Chuck Sambuchino tweet this. I’d never heard of it before. And when I looked at it, they all seemed to be looking for what I’m not writing. But I also think it is a great tool for writers (unpublished novelists like me!) who feel overwhelmed by the research.

    1. It really is great. Please excuse my bombastic and often dark sense of humor. Jessica Sinsheimer is pretty much my hero now.

  2. I definitely fell into the despair category after MSWL. No One was asking for anything I write. Then, of course, I realized there are only a handful of the whole number of agents out there that actually participated in MSWL. It’ll be ok 🙂

    1. Exactly. You also have to realize that MSWL is pretty much brand new in the social media scheme of things, and a lot of agents/editors are notoriously late to the party when it comes to things like that. Not me, of course. But others. ; )

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