Wake Up and Smell the Coffee
Today we have a glimpse of my daily mailbag. Er, inbox. The following is an example of some recent correspondence with a writer I didn’t know.
Hi Rachelle. I have a problem and I need your help. I’ve been writing a novel for nine years, pouring sweat, blood, and tears into it.
Recently an acquaintance who’d read my book spoke up in front of 500 people and told them that I am an awesome, talented writer. Several other people have said it was a good solid story.
However, my book deals with topics that are often taboo in Christian writing circles. No one wants to touch it. Also, I am not well known. I get the same story all over the place. Sounds good, but not interested. Nothing else. Agents give me no feedback whatsoever. Who wants to take a chance on a little nobody home school mommy like me?
What in the world do I do? I need to know what avenue to take. If my stuff isn’t polished enough, or professionally written, I can handle that, not a problem. I just need to know what parts of it stink, and what parts shine. Can you help me figure out what’s wrong?
Please help me. I need a breakthrough. There are many reasons I need to be published. I have three children who want to write, and I need to pave the way for them.
You are a brutally honest person, and that’s why I want YOU to help. I admire you for your openness. PLEASE shoot straight with me. I’m desperate for your advice.
Needing an Honest Opinion
You don’t need my advice—you need a whack on the side of the head! Please don’t misunderstand, I mean it in the nicest possible way. It appears that you simply need a dose of reality. So here it is.
Everyone’s in the same boat. Everyone has to go through the same agonizing process, sending the queries, getting rejections, desperate for feedback that will help them figure out what’s wrong and why they aren’t getting picked up. You’re not going to solve your problem by writing to me.
If you want to publish professionally, you may need to step it up a notch and treat it more professionally. That may mean investing more money and time. You’re not going to get free writing advice. You can attend writers conferences and workshops. You can read books about the craft of writing (not just about how to get published). You can look into the possibility of working with an editor to determine the issues in your writing. (Many freelancers offer a “manuscript evaluation” that’s pretty affordable.)
There is no magic bullet, there’s no advice I can give you that is somehow different than what I tell everyone else. If you want to get in the game, you’re going to have to keep doing the work.
When you’re getting lots of rejections with no feedback, it usually means you’re not even close. What are you going to do to change that? You can’t keep doing the same old thing and expect different results.
Let go of excuses. (“They don’t like my topic” or “I’m an unknown.”) If your writing is terrific and you’re telling a compelling story, somebody is going to recognize it. Unfortunately in your case, nobody’s even saying “I love your writing but it’s not for us.” So your story is not working, and/or your writing is not working.
Enjoy the praise of family and friends who say they love your novel—but then ignore it and get back to work.
I hope you realize I’m not trying to be harsh, I’m trying to tell you what apparently no one else is telling you, because I believe it’s the only way you’re going to move forward.
You need to write a better book. Somehow, some way. Whether you do it by revising the current one, or writing a new one—that’s up to you. Just get back to work, and get some help.
P.S. I’m not a brutally honest person. Just honest.
P.P.S. Michael Hyatt posted on the same topic today, only his version is kinder, gentler, and much more informative.