Posts Tagged ‘publishing’

When writing well isn’t good enough

ABWP had a rough day yesterday.  She is still looking for a new copy day job, and has been fielding rejections.

(Also London was dark and cold, and when she tried to go running, it rained on her.)

Feedback has been this: her writing samples are good, interview responses are good, but others have more experience.

Darkness falls.

This got her thinking about her manuscript, and all the factors that go into finding an agent/publisher/etc.  ABWP has been of the firm belief that the key to getting published is to have a good story, and write it well.

But what if that is not enough?  The market is saturated?  The theme is unpopular this season?


But then, today, London was all blue skies and sunshine.

And she thought:  I can’t change my experience.  But I can polish my portfolio.  I can change how many agencies I approach.  I can overhaul my cover letter.

And also: I can’t change the market.  But I can polish my manuscript.  I can change how many agents I approach.  I can overhaul my query letter.

And so.  The point, blogger friends, is this:

Stop stressing about the stuff you can’t change.  Do something about the stuff you can.

ABWP is still trying to follow her own advice.  But tomorrow is meant to be sunny again.  That should help.


“Oh, you should write about (insert random event)…”

March 2, 2010 4 comments

Recently Bethany made a comment on one of my posts highlighting how this hated phrase (Oh, you should write about…) suggests that we writers are often confused with stenographers.  Oh, how very true.  Does this happen to anyone else?

Here’s the scenario:

You’re in a bar, enjoying your very first delicious gin&tonic (Tanqueray with cucumber, which came only after a fifteen-minute discussion with the bartender, where you had to explain that you know it’s Hendrick’s that’s supposed to be served with cucumber, but you really, really like Tanqueray with cucumber and couldn’t they drop a slice of cucumber into your drink instead of a lime wedge since you can see the sliced cucumber and it’s sitting right next to the sliced lime), when you mention very vaguely (because God knows you want to avoid the “Oh, I’m thinking of writing a book too…” debacle) that you are a writer.

Big mistake.

“Oh, really?”  comes the response.  “You should write about (insert random event that means absolutely nothing to anyone beyond the parties involved).”


Well, gee, thanks for the suggestion.  Since I am a writer, I MUST be all out of ideas.  I’ll get right on that.  I’ll just forget about that half a manuscript I’m desperately trying to finish while holding a full-time day job.  Clearly I should be writing a play-by-play of my day instead.

My gin&tonic is now gone.  Another discussion with the bartender ensues.

Halfway through this second drink I am usually able to casually say, “Oh, that’s a good idea.  Maybe I will.”

And maybe I actually will write about how pee rained from the office ceiling today (okay, that’s a bad example, as that was pretty funny), but chances are that it’s gonna be a lot lower on my priority list than that half-manuscript I’ve been toiling over for the last two years.

And sometimes it ends there, and I have a third drink, and all is well.  Other times, however, I get this:

“It’d make a great novel.”



No, it would NOT make a great novel.  It has to be fiction to be a novel.  And it can’t be fiction because it ACTUALLY HAPPENED.  It wasn’t even a good story.  I HAVE an idea for a great novel.  I’ve spent TWO YEARS trying to turn said idea into a great novel.  I have enough ideas.  What I need is to produce a great novel.  Believe me, you do NOT want to have a discussion about the difficulties of producing a great novel.  Or even a good-enough-to-be-published novel.

Lets discuss the merits of cucumber as a garnish for a Tanqueray&Tonic instead.

10 Fiction Writing Rules

February 28, 2010 4 comments

The Guardian posted a great article on 10 Rules for Writing Fiction, asking literary greats to share their personal rules of writing fiction (thanks to Nathan Bransford, who always seems to know everything about anything related to publishing, for this link).  It’s an amazingly varied list–testament to how the experience of writing is different for every writer.  I’m no Elmore Leonard, Margaret Atwood, Zadie Smith, or similar, but I thought I’d do my own list here.

1 – Have something to say

2 – Say it in the way you would tell a friend a really important secret–no fancy prose.  You’re just telling someone you love something that means a lot to you.

3 – Be honest–resist the temptation to make your characters extraordinary human beings.  Make them human beings.  That, in itself, is extraordinary.

4 – Write about people you care about–create characters that you want to be around, and your readers will want to be around them as well.

5 – Make someone feel strongly–it doesn’t have to be joy.  It can be sorrow, hope, despair, terror, love, anything. We need to feel strongly.  It reminds us that we’re alive.

6 – Get writing–planning, thinking, talking about writing is all well and good, but if you want anyone to read it, you first need to put the words on paper.

7 – Realize this may never make you any money–still worth writing, in those spare wee hours of morning?  Good.

8 – Let someone read it–those hours spent following agent blogs, reading submission guidelines, re-submitting queries–those are all part of an effort to be read.  Yes, it’s personal.  Yes, it’s your soul on a platter.  You still need it to be read.

9 – Believe in your writing–maybe you aren’t good enough to do your story justice, but fretting about it does nothing.  It’s your story, so it’s your responsibility to write it, and to believe in it.

10 – Remember that you love it–we forget, sometimes, with all the stress of querying, editing, etc. that we love this.  We love, love, LOVE what we’ve created.  That’s the whole point.  Forget this, and you may as well give up and become an accountant.  The hours are shorter and the pay is better.