WILDCARD – 10 Reasons You’re Not Getting Published

 

Thanks to bensound.com for the intro and outro music.

ASK THE AUTHOR: From Jenny Snow via Facebook: What are the major plot points and reader expectations an author needs to hit for a romance? Mystery? Fantasy?

AARON: Super good question, but I worry we could do an entire episode on each of these genres. Maybe we should do that in the future. I’d say the best thing to do for each of these is to read widely in the genre. I’d also talk with publishers and editors that work in these particular genres. You can do this at conferences. But many of the set-ups and tropes are pretty clear: Romance–boy gets girl, boy loses girl, boy gets girl back. Fantasy–hero’s journey. Mystery–solve the crime. It’s the details that allow for originality. In any genre fiction, the number one “rule” is this: satisfy the reader. And there are multiple roads to do this. For more info on genres and the like, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6mXv2J7oGj0

AL: I’m a big believer in the three-act structure. You don’t have to be rigid in this but it won’t let you down. I’ve done books with just two acts, and one with four acts. Most readers would never know. Introduce the problem in Act 1, between Act I and Act II (25% or so) set a plot point that makes things worse, escalate the problem throughout Act II, then drop another plot bomb about 75% through the story that makes things even worse, then solve the problem in Act III. Don’t sweat the percentages. Remember structure supports story. Story is what matters. The difference in genre (at the story level) is centered on potential loss. What happens if the protagonist fails? Loss of love (romance), a crime goes unsolved (mystery), evil conquers all (fantasy), a bomb is going to go off in a big city (suspense), and so on. For more on the three act structure, visit: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZumxBZx6xWQ

MOLLY: So I don’t have enough professional writing under my belt to answer this question with authority. I’m glad to hear Aaron’s and Al’s responses. I agree with them, and I would also add for reader expectations, to forego the expected. That is, while there’s a certain structure and guidelines, create a new story with unusual twists. Romance? Don’t just have the boy lose girl. Create a reason they can’t be together. Mystery? Throw in a barrel of red herrings but do it in a way that the reader doesn’t know they’ve just read a clue or distraction. The reader wants to be entertained. That is their first, and most important, expectation.

WILDCARD: 10 Reasons You’re Not Getting Published

So why aren’t you getting published? Publishing is a tricky business, and often times the answer is that the publisher wants something different than what you’ve written. You have no control over that. But you do have control over your is your manuscript, and if that’s no good, your chances of publication are virtually nil. So rather than focusing on the trends of publishing, we’re going to focus on what we can do to make our manuscript shine.

AL: You’ll notice that we have set this up in the negative. We’re not casting aspersions, but sometimes we all need to be told what we’re doing wrong so we can fix the problem. Also, it’s a great rhetorical device to help people remember the points.

  1. You think writing will be a fun and easy job. Stop it.
  • THE PROBLEM:
    • OR, you’re writing to become rich and famous. Writing can be enjoyable, but it’s work. It’s never easy. And the chances of becoming rich and famous are astronomical. If you’re not in writing for the love of it, you’re in the wrong line of work.
    • Visions of a fireplace, Irish Setter at your feet, hot chocolate in one hand, manuscript on your lap and a No. 2 pencil in your hand. Nice image, but most writers know that the work is, well, work.
    • Some like the “idea” of being a writer. In a way, for some, it is being in love with love, not in love with a person. Writing takes at least some sacrifice.
    • There’s an old saying: “It is far more fun to have written than to write.”

 

  • THE SOLUTION

 

  • Know that writing is sweet torture. It ain’t easy, but it is satisfying.
  • Know that it involves an intricate craft.
  • Understand that there is a great deal to learn and to know.
  • Know that writing is an art and art takes lots and lots of practice.
  • Remember, we are seldom as good as we think we are.
  • Be honest with yourself.
  1. You think stream of consciousness writing is all you need. Stop it.
  • THE PROBLEM:
    • “I have a great idea. All I have to do is knock out 300 or 400 pages.
    • A well-written book is a well-rewritten book. (Al’s Axiom #6)
  • THE SOLUTION:
    • You need craft and craft is learned.
    • Craft also has to be practiced and studied.
    • Ruin your reading.
    • Learn the basic structure of a the novel.
  1. You think your book is the greatest thing since Lord of the Rings. Stop it.

 

  • THE PROBLEM:

 

  • You’re probably wrong.

 

  • Dream big; live practical. (Al’s Axiom #9)
  • THE SOLUTION:

 

  • It’s fine to love your work, but you’ve got to hone your “inner editor.” You should be able to see the flaws in your writing so you can improve them.
  1. You think it’s all the editor’s fault. Stop it.

 

  • THE PROBLEM:

 

  • It’s seldom the editor’s fault as much as we wish it were.
  • Usually the editor is right. They’re in this position for a reason. Trust them. They’re better able to see the flaws in your writing.

 

  • THE SOLUTION:

 

  • Know that editors have committees and publishers and guidelines.
  • Publishing is a team sport.
  • Learn the market.
  • Like it or not great ideas get rejected all the time; sometimes bad ones get published.
  1. You think like a writer. Stop it. Think like a reader.

 

  • THE PROBLEM:

 

  • It’s natural to think like a writer, but it’s better to think like a reader and an editor.

 

  • THE SOLUTION:

 

  1. You bury your characters alive.

 

  • THE PROBLEM:

 

  • The writer has presented characters that are plastic, unbelievable, forced, or thinly drawn.

 

  • THE SOLUTION:

 

  • Remember readers are people and drawn to people. They related to the story through the characters.
  • Put your characters up front.
  • Make your protagonist capture readers (and editors) alive.
  1. You don’t understand your own plot.

 

  • THE PROBLEM:

 

  • Lacking ability to to describe the story quickly and succinctly using the right terms.
  • Discovery writers are especially prone to this. If you don’t know where you’re going, the reader won’t, either. Be sure to go back and revise once you know what your plot is.

 

  • THE SOLUTION:

 

  • Know your genre.
  • Know your protagonist and antagonist.
  • Know what person you’re writing in.
  • Know your audience.
  1. You read like a reader and not like writer.

 

  • THE PROBLEM:

 

  • Readers and writers read differently. The former want to be entertained or educated; the latter wants to analyze.
  • Writers read differently than readers.

 

  • THE SOLUTION:

 

  • Analyze the books your read. Look at structure, dialogue, and setting, and everything. Every book you read is a graduate education in fiction writing. Even if all you learn is what not to do.
  • Al’s Axiom #4: Successful writers read like a writer and write like a reader.
  • We did a whole episode on reading like a writer with friend of the show and sometimes co-host Heather Luby. The video is at the bottom. I’d suggest giving this one a view.
  1. You haven’t been ruthless with your writing.

 

  • THE PROBLEM:

 

  • You write “The End” and think you’re done. You’re not.

 

  • THE SOLUTION:

 

  • Good writers are ruthless with their work.
    • Revise.
    • Challenge their decisions.
    • Wrestle with scenes and characters.
    • Attack adverbs, exclamations marks. POV shifts, stilted dialog, and everything else.
  • Gotta kill your darlings, y’all. Don’t be so attached to your writing that you sacrifice the story. You have to be ruthless to make it great.
  1. Your story starts off slow and then bogs down from there.

 

  • THE PROBLEM:

 

  • Failure to engage the reader from the start and the reader leaves before they finish the first chapter.

 

  • THE SOLUTION:

 

  • Start in the middle of things.
  • Know that you only have the first couple of pages to win or lose a reader.
  • Introduce the problem early then make it a bigger problem.
  • The problem and antagonist should be bigger and badder than the protagonist.
  • Evoke emotion early on.
  • Kurt Vonnegut tells us to start as close to the end as possible. I believe that, too. Get to the action. Don’t make us wait around through boring normal day stuff.

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