I do not know one single writer that has not, at some time or other, asked the question: Why does my writing suck?
Of course, I thought I knew why. I thought that all my drafts were horrible. I dare not show them to anyone. They might figure out that what I deem is my only talent is rather a figment of my imagination.
Then, I came across this video, which is a shorter version of Baltimore radio host, Ira Glass’ explanation why we expect so much from our writing. Writing takes time to mature. So, if you have been beating yourself up over your lackluster writing attempts, have faith. I now play this video every time I secretly torture myself over my writing attempts. It centers me.
If you write fiction, everyone tells you rejection is part of the process. If you were selling a hammer for instance, how is your no name hammer different from the Sears, True Temper, or Stanley model? What makes yours better?
This is the very same question publishers and agents ask when you submit your novel. Why this novel and not the next one lying on the slush pile?
Noah Lukeman is a literary agent in NYC. He has written a book called The First Five Pages – A Writer’s Guide to Staying Out of the Rejection Pile.
This is a book for both novices and seasoned writers. It is about the craft of writing, but unlike Strunk and White’s classic Elements of Style, this book will increase your chances of staying out of the rejection pile. As a literary agent Lukeman shares with us exactly what agents and publishers look for in a manuscript.
The First Five Pages covers common manuscript errors, gives solid advice on what attracts agents and editors, and provides writers with the tools to take their craft to the next level.
The topics range from listening to how a writer puts words together to creating effective dialogue, to designing a more holistic picture of getting all the other elements working together (viewpoint, narration, characterization, hooks, tone, focus, setting and pacing).
What I like about this book is that it is more than just a text defining what constitutes good story telling. Lukeman isolates the problem, illustrates and defines the writing technique and offers a better solution. He adds exercises at the end of each section to help the writer identify weaknesses.
Yes, I am guilty of breezing through exercises without doing them. However, Lukeman’s suggestions were different. He didn’t burden you with “assignments”. He asks you to take the work you have already created and examine it from a different perspective.
Lukeman’s writing style is easy and conversational. He talks to us in the lowest common denominator, which really helps if you are reading this past midnight.
Perhaps, my only real criticism may not be with the content as much as the publisher. All his excerpts were difficult to read because of the size of the type. Passages looked as if they are in 8 pt., New Times Roman, italic. Anyone in the business knows that comfortable reading is 10 pt. or higher.
This book gets a thumbs up from me for its content and usefulness. Noah Lukeman may not have all the answers to keep your first novel from being rejected, but if you practice what he outlines in his book, your work will surely show promise.
I really don’t know how I connected with this well designed and well written site for writers, but I am glad I did.
Camy Tang, www.camytang.com, is a Christian romance writer, focusing on Asian American characters. She describes her genre:
Nosy relatives, sibling rivalry, and parental angst are the same whatever your ethnic background, and I hope my stories give people a fun taste of Asian American culture.
Although I have not yet read her work, I have read her articles on writing. If she writes anywhere near her understanding of the mechanics of novel writing, she will no doubt receive due recognition.
I encourage you to read her articles. They are succinct and supported with great examples. Her writing is easily digested and punctuated with humor.
These articles serve not only the novice fiction writer, but the mid-list writer. If you read Camy’s suggestions, and are able to dissect and analyze your own pieces with a modicum of objectivity, you might find the answer to pushing your writing efforts out of the midlist.
Marketing, perseverence, discipline and talent are the essentials to boost sales. Read Camy Tang and let me know what you think.