Won’t take advice? Good luck.

 by Tess Gerritsen

I’m a big fan of persistence.  Anyone who’s listened to me talk about what makes a writer successful will almost always hear me say that persistence is one of the characteristics of the successful author.  The business is designed to weed out those of us who don’t have the determination to keep writing, through rejection after rejection.  But the flip side of persistence is sheer, blind stubbornness, and that is just as likely to doom your chances of making it as a writer.

            I ran into just such an example of blind stubbornness a few weeks ago.  I was attending a writing conference and had the chance to meet many aspiring novelists. Over lunch, I got into a conversation with two of those unpublished novelists, and asked them  about their work.  Both had completed their manuscripts.  Both were eager to tell me about their plots.  The gentleman on my right, an attorney, quickly launched into his premise.  Within three sentences, he had me hanging on his words.  I got that wonderful punch in the gut that told me: Yes!  This guy has a story I want to read!  I don’t want to give it away because it’s his plot, not mine.  All I can tell you is that he was able to tell me in short order who his main character was, what motivated that character, and what the over-arching crisis was.  And it was a doozy.

            I then turned to the writer on my left.  She too had completed her manuscript — in fact, she was almost finished with her second.  It took her about ten minutes to tell me what the story was about, and basically it was this: a man and a woman are in love, but the man decides to go to sea, and spends the whole novel coming to the realization that he loves the woman enough to give up his seafaring life and marry her.  In the meantime, the woman has to convince her family that she belongs with this man.  Finally, in the very last chapter, the man and woman meet up again and get married.  The end.

            I asked the writer, “What’s the major challenge these characters face?  Other than finally making up their minds?”

            She said, “That is the challenge.”

            Is there something keeping them apart?  A villain, perhaps?  Someone or something that keeps them from their goal?”

            “No.  The real story is about how the woman finally grows up and decides that she shouldn’t listen to anyone else, only her own heart.”

            “But what’s the conflict?” I asked her.  “Something external, not just two people fighting with their doubts?”

            “Oh,” she said.  “I hate conflict! I don’t understand why stories always have to have conflict.  It’s so formulaic.”

            I told her, quite honestly: “Without a central conflict, the story sounds like it might have a hard time selling.”

            She gave a dismissive wave. “That’s what the agents keep telling me.  All they ask for is conflict, conflict, conflict! 

            She had submitted the manuscript to dozens of agents and editors. Needless to say, no one wanted it.   So she’d gone the self-publishing route, and all her friends told her the book was a work of genius.  “I’ve decided that this book deserves to be hand-sold,” she said.  “Not handled like all that popular junk out there.”

            (Which is probably what she thinks my books are.)

            The conversation, I’m afraid, didn’t much improve over the course of that lunch.  I kept trying to offer her bits of advice.  Based on the plot description, I thought the book sounded like it belonged in the romance genre.  “And if it’s a romance,” I told her, “There’s a problem with keeping the hero and heroine apart for the entire story.”

            “I hate romance novels,” she said.

            “But it’s a love story, isn’t it?”

            “Yes, but it’s not a romance.  It’s not one of those books.”

            “Have you read many romance novels?” I asked her.

            “I’ve tried.  But they’re all so horrible.”

            “So what is your book?  How would you categorize it?”

            “It’s not any genre at all,” she said.  (By that point, I think she was pretty well fed up with my asking her idiotic questions.  After all, who the hell was I but a popular fiction author?)  “It’s something bigger!  It’s    why, it’s a coming of age novel!” she said.

            At that point, I think she expected me to genuflect.  But secretly, I was thinking: Oh no! Another one of those dreaded coming-of-age manuscripts.  Not that there’s anything wrong with a coming-of-age novel — it’s just that so many of them are written by people who can’t sell theirs, and they proclaim loudly that it’s because publishers only buy crap.  They can’t come up with any other explanation for why no one wants their work of genius. 

            Even though this particular writer had heard the same advice from multiple agents, she refused to believe that there was anything wrong with her manuscript.  No, the problem was with everyone else — the agents, the editors, the monolithic monster known as New York publishing.  Everyone, including yours truly, was telling her that her story needed a central conflict, but she refused to re-write her novel.  She was right, and everyone else was wrong.

            Now, it’s true that you can’t  always trust the advice that others give you.  During my career, I’ve been told not to write a series, only stand-alones, because “stand-alones always sell better”.  I’ve been told that I should stick with medical thrillers and not write crime novels.  I considered that advice carefully, and eventually chose to go with my own instincts. But the point is, I did listen.

            Even established writers don’t have total control over their creations.  We listen when editors tell us our stories still need work.  We listen when the marketing department tells us our “perfect” book titles are clunkers.  We’ve learned to accept advice and work as part of the team, because even though writing may be a solitary profession, the business of publishing is not. 

 

46 thoughts on “Won’t take advice? Good luck.

  1. J.D. Rhoades

    "That’s what the agents keep telling me. All they ask for is conflict, conflict, conflict! "

    Okay, so the agents keep telling her it needs something, a bestselling novelist keeps telling her it needs something, and she’s still not listening.

    Comedian Ron White has a point: You can’t fix stupid.

    Reply
  2. Peter

    This is textbook perfect and should be framed by any writer, published or unpublished. I’ve never run into someone who wants, really truly deeply wants, to make me a worse writer (few, if any, people are that evil). Therefore, what would make me believe that advice (sought after, requested, advice) from people with knowledge of the field I supposedly want to be in is NOT for my eventual benefit? Do you go to the doctor believing you have cancer of the everything because you once read on the internet that cancer of the everything was sweeping the nation and when the doctors (repeatedly, and different doctors in different fields) keep telling you ‘you’re allergic to wisdom, knowledge and self-discovery’ you immediately self-medicate and never heal?

    Poor analogy but it was either that or the ‘going to the auto mechanic’ one and I flipped a coin 🙂

    Reply
  3. Jake Nantz

    This reminds me of a little girl a few seasons ago who found herself in front of the American Idol judges, and flat out told them, "Oh, I can’t sing at all."

    They sort of sat there, with Simon eventually asking (something like), "Then what the hell are you doing here?"

    She proceeded to explain to them that she would be unique. Someone on a singing program who couldn’t sing, and so would learn, and it would take the show in an entirely new direction. She was so frustrated with them, telling them, "You’re not understanding. I’m unique!"

    Simon promptly told her, "No, you just can’t sing, and there are millions of people that can’t sing." Then they sent her out in tears.

    It sounds like this woman is trying the same thing, Ms. Gerritsen. She hates conflict, and so she rails against the establishment for not letting her do what she WANTS to do instead of finding what she has the TALENT to do (because it doesn’t seem to be storytelling). Someone will eventually tell her to know her limitations and find happiness doing what she was born to do.

    Unless what she was born to do was annoy the shit out of people who are trying very hard to help her, in which case she’ll continue to be frustrated and to frustrate others….

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  4. Jude Hardin

    Great post, Tess.

    It’s so much easier to blame the "system" for rejections than to admit that what we have might actually just suck.

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  5. billie

    Coming from another angle, and of course I have no idea if this actually applies to THIS writer or her novel mss:

    Perhaps the conflict is interior, and psychological. In which case it would be much harder to distill into a "pitch" or a query letter paragraph.

    I can easily imagine a ms that lacks external conflict but exquisitely portrays the inner workings of a character/characters. A ms that has difficulty finding a publisher, b/c it’s "different."

    I’m thinking of Virginia Woolf right now, and Mrs. Dalloway, or The Waves.

    My point being – I do think there are exceptions to the "rules."

    Conflict comes in different forms, stories can be good and told in different ways. Agents can totally miss out on something good if they base a decision on what the author is able to say in a query letter or reveal in a quick pitch. Writers who don’t listen aren’t always stupid.

    Not suggesting this was true in this particular case, but I’m compelled to say that it *could* be.

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  6. Ellie

    With all due respect people starting out sometimes do have something of value.

    With all due respect just because a writer doesn’t take advice doesn’t mean she can’t have written something wonderful.

    With all due respect just because someone isn’t socially correct in how they treat a "big" author trying to help doesn’t mean she needs to be skewered on a blog or have her words or comments made fun of.

    We were all there once. Writing takes a lot of ego – to believe you can write something worth reading takes hard work and a strong belief in yourself – it’s not so easy to just give up when a someone tells you you’re all wrong about everything.

    The contrary personality, the original, the iconoclast, the self starters – these are often the ones who change the world. If she doesn’t want to take your advice or a handful of agents advice, that doesn’t automatically make her an object of derision.

    Everyone has to start somewhere and starting with some attitude isn’t the worst thing in the world.

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  7. Brett Battes

    For those who know my crazy path to becoming a published author know that for me persistence AND listening to good advice was the only way I got to where I am today. I think it takes a never-give-up attitude with a willingness to hear what others are saying. Sometimes the advice is crap, but often it is not.

    Great post, Tess. I couldn’t agree with you more.

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  8. Louise Ure

    With all due respect, Ellie, I didn’t take this post as derision or scorn of the neo-writer mentioned. To me it was a cautionary tale, and could have been titled "There’s a difference between writing and being published," or "There’s a difference between being published and being in print."It all depends on what one’s goals are. Tess’s advice to the writer was solid, if her goal was to be published.

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  9. tess gerritsen

    It’s true that I’m going only by what this writer told me, and didn’t look at the manuscript. It’s also true that a dozen literary agents could be totally wrong, and that this book is Pulitzer Prize material. But a writer who needs ten minutes just to summarize what her book is about strikes me as someone who herself isn’t clear about what her own book is about.

    I used this example not to ridicule her, but to illustrate a point — that it’s too easy to blame everyone else when you can’t sell your book. Sometimes you have to step back and ask yourself, "Could all these agents and editors and published authors be right? Could it be that my manuscript really isn’t all that good?"

    Bad manuscripts are, I’m afraid, all too common. And iconoclastic geniuses, I’m afraid, are all too rare.

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  10. Christine

    Huh. That reminds me uncomfortably of my first novel (unpub’d and waiting for another revision before trying to query again). Things happen to the four main characters, but I don’t know if they fall into the category of conflict or just plot point, though it’s probably the latter. I will need to think about this when I go back to it for another revision. Until then, the project I’m working on now has tons of conflict, so yay! =)

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  11. toni mcgee causey

    Great post, Tess. A friend and I used to joke that writers really needed to heed the old "drinking" Rule of Three: If one person tells someone that he’s been drinking too much, he might just shrug it off as their opinion. If two people tell him he’s been drinking too much, it’s a cause for some concern, awareness. If three people tell him he’s been drinking too much, he’d better sit down and pay attention to what’s in his glass. And ultimately, if the entire damned room is telling him he’s been drinking too much, he’s been drinking too much, whether he thinks so or not.

    Same thing applies to feedback. Now, a writer can’t just change a ms. based off three people, if they are random and not in the business. But if every single person in the profession is telling that writer the same thing, then it’s an issue. They might not know how the writer ought to solve that issue, or the creative way that writer could reinvent their story, but there is a core issue.

    The only time lots of negative feedback is misleading is if no one says the same thing, or there are rarely agreements about what’s wrong. When the feedback is vague, the cause for that vagueness is a problem, and the writer might have something strong there with a few minor fixes (or might need to chunk it and start over). It’s harder to tell. But if everyone in the business is telling a writer that something is an issue, it’s an issue. It’s our job to solve the issues so that the majority of people who are reading are not stopping and having issues with it. If that’s not happening? The writer has not yet hit that point where he or she has done the job well enough.

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  12. James Scott Bell

    There’s a fine line between healthy ego and obstinacy. A certain amount of the former is in everyone who writes. On very rare occasions, as Tess’s comment indicates, someone of genius comes along who may be able to indulge the latter. Far more prevalent are those who are convinced of their genius when it isn’t there, and throw tantrums.

    Brett suggests the right balance. Persistence (fueled by belief in yourself) coupled with a willingness to learn.

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  13. John Dishon

    You can’t really judge a book based on what the plot is. Plots are a dime a dozen and it doesn’t matter how good it is if it’s not told well. The woman has a legitimate plot which would make a great story if it’s told well. You say you’re not trying to ridicule her, but it comes off that way, to me anyway. The reason is because of how you’ve treated your two subjects.

    The first guy you said you didn’t want to tell his plot because it was "his" plot, yet the woman, you go right ahead and explain her plot. Maybe you don’t like her plot or the way she presented it, but it’s still "her" plot right? So why is his plot sacred and hers isn’t?

    What advice did you give to the first guy? You said they were both unpublished, so if his story idea was so great, why was he still unpublished?

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  14. Flash Bristow

    Another great post, Tess. I too admire your patience!

    I think if it was me in your position, I’d suggest she tells her family and friends to be honest with her – to be a "critical friend". And then to ask them "Is this as good as a book you’d pick up in the shops? Did it keep you hanging on to know how it turned out? What improvements would you suggest? What did you NOT like about it?

    I can’t believe that this woman didn’t want to accept criticism – how else does she expect to improve, no matter what standard she’s at?

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  15. JD Rhoades

    John, I think that, while they may both be unpublished, the first person’s a lot closer than the second.

    Toni, I love the Rule of Three, to which I’ll add Tim Wilson’s classic observation: "you been married five times, maybe the problem’s you".

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  16. tess gerritsen

    John, I’d disagree that plots are a dime a dozen. Maybe bad plots are, but great plots aren’t, and it’s not easy to come up with a great plot. Even really good writing may not save a mediocre plot. The art of plotting is too often dismissed by those who don’t write books. It’s not as easy as "and then this happens and that happens." It’s far more difficult, and being able to recognize what works and what doesn’t is what separates the published from the unpublished writers.

    As for the plot she told me about — I don’t think it’s giving very much away when it’s essentially "a man and a woman have to decide whether to marry or not." Is that particularly unique? No. It’s an element of every romance novel. There was nothing in that description to make it stand out as anything different.

    As for the lawyer with the great plot, he’s still in the final revision stage. He hasn’t submitted it to anyone yet. I don’t know if his writing is any good, but what I heard made me happy to give him my literary agent’s name.

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  17. Mary-Frances

    Tess,
    Loved this post. Someone once told me that if you hear a particular criticism about your manuscript once you can blow it off. If you hear it twice you should think about it. If you hear the same criticism from three different people you need to re-work it. I don’t know if this can be applied to every situation but it always stuck with me.

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  18. Mary-Francs

    Great minds must think alike because I just saw that I replicated Toni’s advice. See that’s what you get for commenting before drinking a cup of coffee in the morning:D.

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  19. terri

    This woman’s writing, and book, may be utterly brilliant and award winning.
    However, it’s not a story. As long as she promotes it as a story – she will continue to have people ask, "What’s it about?" and not be able to answer with any clarity.

    It sounds like an introspective look into the emotional journey to two people separated by an ocean, to prioritize why they will rebel against the norm of their lives, to be together. But even that breaks down for me in the end, as the two come together after their individual journeys – because – unless both characters remain unchanged, they are no longer the same people from the beginning of the book, prior to their journey, with an ocean between them. The actual story begins where this author states it ends, that after the separate journeys to define their intent to be together, they finally are, but have made choices and created change within and in the exterior details of their life. Which means they are no longer the same people, and now will have to redefine their relationship, from a whole new beginning.

    Now if this author’s second book begins where the first ends, there may be a story in that one…

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  20. tess gerritsen

    John,
    a "bad" plot? One that has no inherent tension or conflict. As an example, I listened to one writer describe his plot which he summed up as "a man’s journey to self-discovery." It was about a hero who matures from a callow college student to a wise middle-aged man. There’s no central conflict. There’s no real climax or resolution. The protagonist graduates, gets married, gets a job, and becomes an environmentalist. When I tried to dig for any particular point of tension, he couldn’t really pinpoint any. (Of course, the book turned out to be autobiographical, which is why he found the story so interesting.)

    Might the writing itself have been wonderful? Yes. It could have been poetic, lyrical, whatever. But lyricism in the service of the mundane just isn’t enough.

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  21. Aaron Trance

    Her book sounds a little like Gone With the Wind, except without the war, and without Rhett Butler, and without the born-again will to succeed after being devestated and ravaged, and without the historical setting.

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  22. Gayle Carline

    OMG- that woman and I wrote the same book! Okay, not really, but my first book was a "coming of age" story where nothing really spectacular happened to my central character, inside or out. To take that mulch and turn it into complete crap, I worked with another writer, who loves romances. By the time we were done, I’d turned 90,000 beautiful words of nothingness into 90,000 beautiful words describing a crappy romance. (insert sound of cat coughing up a hairball here)

    After a couple of days, sitting in my bedroom in the dark (there may have been some rocking and moaning involved), I moved the whole thing to my backup drive and wrote a murder mystery, Freezer Burn. It may not be a lterary tome, but it’s being published by Echelon Press because it goes somewhere and does something. Oh, and I have no problem pitching it.

    Gayle
    http://gaylecarline.blogspot.com

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  23. John Dishon

    I agree that a story without conflict is not going to be interesting no matter what, but what I don’t get is how you don’t see the conflict in the woman’s story you described. Obviously you know more about her story than I do; I can only go on what you’ve written here, but I can see where there could be conflict in this story.

    The man loves is seafaring life and has to choose between it and this woman. There would need to be a reason why he can’t have both, but assuming you have that taken care of, there is the weighing of loves to determine which he wants. That’s internal conflict.

    The woman needs to convince her family she should be with the man, so I assume her family is against it for some reason. We would need to know what that reason is for the story to make sense. Maybe it’s a social class thing, maybe this man had some kind of past with a member of her family. You could go a lot of ways with it.

    Now maybe her story doesn’t have any of this, in which case I would be inclined to agree that it is probably not a very interesting story. I just don’t see how you can write a novel-length work based on this premise without conflict.

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  24. Cara

    If agents say there’s no conflict, if a best-selling author says there’s no conflict, and if the author herself says there’s no conflict, then there’s probably no conflict.

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  25. tess gerritsen

    john, oh yes, there were so many ways that conflict could have been introduced into the story. I brought up the possibilities of society or a secret family feud or a romantic rival or even a political situation being in the way of their happiness. But every one of those suggestions was shrugged off as being too formulaic for her. She wanted it all to come down to the woman "growing up enough" to see the light, and the man finally realizing that the sea wasn’t where he wanted to be. And it’s so hard to portray those internal struggles in a dramatic fashion without external conflict.

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  26. JT Ellison

    Tess, thank you. Thank you for your willingness to attend these conferences, to brainstorm with the unpublished, to spend your priceless time trying to give advice. This post was a far cry from belittling or talking down to anyone, it’s the best advice new writers will ever receive.

    I try to explain to new writers that this is a collaborative environment, that editors and agents DO have a place, WILL make suggestions and criticisms, and if you can’t take that, you’re in the wrong profession. I’m always amazed at the sheer number who believe they know better, that they are unique and will never need editing, much less input. They get mad at me for suggesting something so ludicrous. Ummm, yeah.

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  27. Allison Brennan

    This is a great post, Tess. I think what some people struggle with when they write is thinking that everything they pen is perfect. And well-meaning friends and family tell them what they want to hear. So everyone in "the business" is wrong and they resort to self-publishing because they don’t want to practice and improve. And honestly, I believe that. Because if it was JUST about the writing and the writing itself was beautiful even if the story wasn’t publishable (i.e. marketable) by today’s standards, then they would be content to write beautiful stories and give them to their friends and family. That she chose self-publishing tells me her goal is to be published. When that is your goal, there are some compromises you must be willing to make.

    I know many writers who write wonderful stories and agents and/or editors are willing to take them on if they will make a few changes. Some writers refuse to make any changes. Sometimes they may be right–I didn’t take all the advice from agents when I was sending around my book. But sometimes the advice felt right and exactly what I needed to make the book better.

    And I really don’t like people who flat out say that all romance novels are formulaic and horrid. You can dislike romance because you find stories about relationship conflicts boring or trite; you can dislike romance because they tend to be more emotional, or because you don’t want to have sex in your books (though there are romances without sex) or because you think all men should be shot and every woman who wants one an idiot. But to trash the #1 best selling genre as a whole because they are all "horrible" is ignorant. And look at murder mysteries: someone is killed, murder investigated, crime solved. Doesn’t get more "formulaic" than that.

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  28. Amulya Malladi

    Great post, Tess. As always, your blog is one of my favorites and for good reason. You start some very interesting discussions.

    If this writer was at a conference, essentially, she was looking for a way to sell her book, which translates to getting advice on how to get published. It’s easy to say the publishing houses just buy crap…tell me how many people think Murukami is crap? Or Dan Brown? Or John Irving? Or Salman Rushdie? Publishing houses are not stupid. They are in the business of making money – crap doesn’t sell, no matter how you package it.

    I also meet unpublished writers who refuse to edit their work. I had one unpublished writer send me something and in those days I used to read what people sent me. I told him that his work needed editing and he said, "I don’t believe in editing, it takes the spark out of my writing." And I thought, good luck to him. I remember Toni Morrison once saying that you have to write a book and then edit, edit, edit. But I meet quite a few writers who are afraid to edit their work.

    Sometimes it’s just easier not to follow advice. Following advice means rewriting a book. Changing plotlines. Changing characters. Chucking hours of work out and starting from scratch. Following advice isn’t always easy but if you trust the person giving you the advice, it’s well worth it.

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  29. Jill James

    Tess, you were much more patient than I would have been and I’m unpublished. If everyone is telling you the same thing it is time to listen. Oh well, you tried your best.

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  30. Alexandra Sokoloff

    It’s such a tightrope professional writers walk, between taking ALL criticism as inherently useful, and having enough of a center to not ever let anyone talk you into doing anything that doesn’t feel RIGHT for the story.

    I don’t know how to help people develop that balance.

    But oh, it’s not hard to spot the people who don’t have it. And I’m afraid that when I come across the ones who KNOW they’re right, I just smile and nod and take the first available opportunity to excuse myself to the bathroom.

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  31. MJ

    To play devil’s advocate – I don’t know that I would have reacted any differently -my first reaction is always to defend my work. I think it’s a natural and important response. If you don’t believe in it – who will. And she might not be writing commercial fiction.

    If Hemmingway sat down and described a book about an old man fishing for a few hours on a rough sea…..

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  32. J.D. Rhoades

    If Hemmingway sat down and described a book about an old man fishing for a few hours on a rough sea…..

    Man vs. Nature. Classic conflict.

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  33. Sylvia

    CoNfLicT? Who needs stinkin’ conflict? Yes, I’m kidding. Sorry to say that all too often I’ve read that book which did get published and after finishing thought it was just one long clearing of the throat (and a waste of paper).

    Take the critics but be true to your message. Did no one watch last season’s Top Chef? Carla in the finale?

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  34. Carolan Ivey

    [[a writer who needs ten minutes just to summarize what her book is about strikes me as someone who herself isn’t clear about what her own book is about.]]

    Yes! This is what I tell aspiring writers who ask my advice. If you can’t pitch your book in under a minute (the classic "meeting an editor in the elevator speech"), you need to rethink the main conflicts, internal and external.

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  35. Doreen Orion

    This brings up the thing I hate most about writing workshops: There’s always a "yes, but" person in them. Invariably, this is the person who takes up the most class time, because instead of listening to the critique, he or she argues with it. You may not agree, but when a bestselling author gives you advice, at least listen.

    As for persistence: It took me 2 years and 113 rejections to finally land my fabulous agent for my humorous travel memoir. The comments I kept hearing from most of the 113 were, "I love this. I just don’t think I can sell it." Then, Broadway bought it on pre-empt, Borders chose it as a featured book club pick, Target chose it as a breakout book and it hit 6th printing in 3 months. Schadenfreude? I’m also a shrink, so I can’t help it if Schaden is my favorite of the Freud brothers.

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  36. ec

    My first book was accepted on proposal, but the story required considerable reworking. (When the editor advised me that it had enough plot for three novels, he wasn’t being complimentary.) His advice was to start by defining the central plot idea in 50 words or less. If I couldn’t do that, he said, the story wasn’t sufficiently focused. I’ve gotten a lot of excellent advice from him over the years, but I’d have to put this at the top of the list, and I firmly believe that if I hadn’t listened to him on this one, my first book probably would have been my last.

    Another quick observation: "Coming of age" is another way of saying "character arc." The story may indeed be ABOUT that character arc, at least on a thematic level, but character is revealed (and developed) through action and conflict. I supose you could accurately say that the first Star Wars movie trilogy was "about" a young man coming to terms with his father, but without all the other stuff that happened, it wouldn’t have been much of a story.

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  37. Elliot Grace

    …children’s writer Ron Roy once suggested that I "Be a Sponge" whenever granted the opportunity at receiving any amount of advice from someone who’d made it. Having won several literary awards in my youth, the local attention left me with an air of confidence which eventually soured to an attitude so brash that I assumed anything I penned would sell like T-shirts at a rock concert. Years later, having eventually given up, only to rekindle the flame after finally realizing why it all went wrong, and who was to blame, I’ve adopted Mr. Roy’s advice from so long ago into my everyday thought process. I now beg of advice/criticism from any of my peers, avid readers, and even family members who read my work. In my new humbled opinion, this person Tess speaks of, wasted a golden opportunity at receiving advice from a best-selling novelist due to an inflated ego. Money can’t buy what Tess was willing to offer her, and yet she turned the other cheek. Maybe this person really will manage to sell her story…but I’ve been there, so you can guess where I’m placing my bet.
    Elliot-Grace@blogspot.com

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  38. Jenni James

    Maybe my secret is that I’ve never considered myself a writer. Therefore I took critques and advice from everyone to help me with my book. And I instantly went to work fixing it. Which might be why I had an agent 5 months after I began writing. Shrugs.

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  39. pam

    Just wanted to add that I was at that writer’s conference, and Tess, your workshop was my favorite. Chock full of solid info based on real experience.

    Conflict IS story.

    Reply
  40. Phyllis K Twombly

    If there’s no conflict, why would we care about the characters? The journey we take in the book has to be more than just another boring road trip. I think you did her a favor, even if she didn’t realize it.

    Reply
  41. petervizel

    Tess, you are good ! Very good ! Maybe much better than even you realize. Been here for over an hour, savoring the tied-bits here and the warm compliments for you and towards you, everywhere. You started an avalanche as if the whole thing was either real or just an Illusion, not even Richard Bach would argue that it no longer matters. You did what people tried for years to get me to do, and that is to write. Now, I just had to. You and most of the comments said same thing, Don’t give advice, if it was NOT ASKED for ! And the lesson for all these times;
    Never try to teach a Pig to sing,
    1. It’s a waste of your time,
    2. It irritates the Pig .
    Again, thanks for the encouraging words and supportive chorus for a first time writer. Been hiding behind someone for years and now I need to tell a big story, need to write it.
    The Declaration is at; http://www.clubofbudapest.org and a taste of who http://www.shiftinbliss.com
    Thanks for the "kick start!"

    Reply
  42. Ali

    Great Post Tess, and throught provoking.

    And Mr John Dishon; I ran into your caustic manner at Crimespace; sorry that you come across as being so bitter, life is what you make it, you reap what you sow.

    Ali
    http://www.shotsmag.co.uk

    Reply

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