Monday, November 15, 2010

Extra! Extra! Learn All About It!

Today, on Bookends’ blog, agent Jessica Faust said, “When an agent tells you that something isn’t working, it’s typically not because you’ve decided to break whatever rules you think exist in this business, it’s because it’s not working. A character not being likeable enough usually means that readers didn’t like her. Now, sure it’s possible another reader might have another opinion, but it’s also possible that in your attempt to make her tough and damaged you’ve made her unlikeable.”

As a professional editor, I can relate. There are times when a writer simply isn’t ready to receive REAL feedback. This often happens when she finishes her first or second book and is convinced this manuscript is going to make her famous. This writer jumps right in and starts querying, expecting nothing but praise from anyone who reads her soon-to-be bestseller. Most writers have experienced those same feeling. Who doesn’t want positive feedback? However, not all writers react the same way once they don’t get the praise they were expecting. Be very careful what you post on Twitter, Facebook, your blog, or any other internet site. You never know who’s reading and once it’s out there, you have no control where it might land. Bashing the wrong agent could affect your career, especially if the agent was only being honest. Other agents may read what you wrote and decide you’d be too difficult to work with. Publishing is a small community, and with the internet, nothing’s private anymore. Think twice before you post something negative about another person in the industry.

Now, step back and really look at your work. Have you taken the time to learn the craft or are you just winging it? Do you realize the odds of getting published are lower than they were ten years ago? Not many writers make it without learning the ins and outs of the craft. For example, while many writers probably believe they understand GMCs, there are many who are mistaken. Sorry that I keep harping on this, but not understanding how to use GMCs is a big deal—or rather, a deal breaker. The same goes for “show, don’t tell”, “1-2 dimensional characters”, “lack of inciting incident”, and so on.

Please, please, please. Do yourself a favor and learn about the craft of writing BEFORE you send out your queries. I promise you’ll receive more favorable feedback if you do.

How have you learned about the craft of writing? Did you take courses, read books, hire a writing coach, or what?


  1. I was much more stubborn about changing things when I first started writing than I am now. Now I look forward to the feedback, I look forward to the ideas. People who take the time to make comments are taking the time to HELP and I think that's something that is very often lost when the receiver of the comments is defensive.
    Great post, good thoughts.

  2. Critiques are hard to take, but I try to understand them and move forward with them. It's hard though the first time-no matter how many books you read, you're never fully prepared!

  3. Good advice to watch what you say online. I'm always hoping maybe an interested agent is watching. And they offer feedback, you can bet I'm gonna follow it.

    That GMC book looks interesting. Thanks for the tip.

    Good luck reading through all those queries :)


  4. After several years of freelance writing, I've developed a pretty thick skin. Still, my first reaction to most critiques I get is but, but, but...I think the desire to defend our work is a good thing. It shows how invested we are in it. But I have to admit, I'm always happier with my second (and third and fourth) drafts after I've applied some of the critiques I've gotten. And on that to work on strengthening my GMCs. ;-)