Second Blunt Truth about Writing

In the last blog, I wrote about a college kid that was looking for a mentor to help him finish and publish his novel. I discussed why no one stepped up as a mentor for him the last time. Today, I wanted to address the other part of his message.

The individual knew in his heart that it was a great story and he had put part of his soul in it.

I am not intending to mock or belittle this person’s statement. I’m sure he feels like his novel is going straight to the New York Times number one spot and he really did put his heart and soul into it.

Big deal.

The blunt truth is that he is not alone.

All writers put their hearts and souls into their manuscripts.

Every author bleeds out his memories, feelings, politics, beliefs, and more into every crafted story. That is, if they are any good. The writers who say, “I don’t do that,” are probably creating barely coherent dross. In addition, all authors think their fiction rocks, no matter if it is a novel or short story. We know our work is wonderful because we loved creating it. We simply have to convince others of that. Right?

The truth is not that clear or perfect. If a writer’s material wasn’t flawed, why would we need editors? Critique groups would be useless because all we would want is adoration. The creator doesn’t see the flaws because they are too close. Like parents who believe their son is perfect while others are convinced he’s only average or a brat, we must distance ourselves from the work or get someone to help us in order to see the flaws that can ruin even the best of tales.

In addition, the kid’s statement had two effects on me. The first was a simple “hope he doesn’t put that in his query letter.” After years of hearing conference speeches, putting out queries, and creating pitches, I repeatedly notice the fact that the agents and editors don’t want to read about how perfect your work is, nor do they consider the amount effort you invested in it.

It is just business to them.

It may be an emotional roller coaster for you but they don’t care. They look at how marketable your idea is, whether the story flows, and if it is in a genre they like, among a dozen other issues. Making statements about heart and soul indicates that you are a newbie author who lacks professionalism. In addition, they also don’t want to know how much your family, friends, spouse, or even fifth grade class liked it. None of those people are truly objective or qualified enough to pass judgment on whether the material is publishable or not. In addition, most of them are too kind to tell you that your work sucks to your face.

The second effect of the kid’s comment was that I felt mildly offended. The implied statement that comes after “I put my soul into my work” is that “and other writers do not sacrifice as much as I have.” The kid probably didn’t think about it that way, but the words are still there, hanging in the air like a foul stench.

I wondered if this new writer thought about the implied comments and nuances of his statement. He should have because many of the most powerful sentences come cloaked with extra depth and subtle meanings. Good writers use this fact to their advantage. If you don’t believe me, then consider using the words, “Mexican bakery,” “pawn shop,” “old buildings,” and “overflowing garbage cans.” into a sentence or two without adding much else. These words provide a touch of the neighborhood’s ethnic flavor, social-economic status, cleanliness, and local population attitudes in a quiet, subtle way.

In conclusion, remember that you’re not alone. Whatever you feel now about your work, others have experienced some point as well, including the elation, frustration, depression, and other -tions. You can discuss those feelings with your peers for mutual support and emotional venting. It is cheaper than seeing a shrink. However, realize that a career in writing and publishing is a matter of profits and losses. To succeed, you must be professional in your correspondence. So leave your heart and soul in the manuscript, and out of the business end of your work.

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