f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n: The Most Contradictory Advice

f a i t h * i n * f i c t i o n

Friday, July 16, 2004

The Most Contradictory Advice

Yesterday we talked a little bit about how the worst advice you could listen to is advice based solely on readers’ desires. When I say this I’m talking about chapters like “10 Steps to a Better Novel” or the essays that fill magazines like Writer’s Digest or the workshops given at many writers conferences.

It’s the worst advice in the world if you want to write your novel.

It’s probably not bad advice though if you want to write a novel and possibly one that could see publication. Publishing, like every other form of entertainment, is mostly about following in footsteps. I don’t want us to get uptight or too haughty about this. Hollywood does it. TV does it. Churches do it. We mimic what’s successful. That’s just how life works.

Sure there are some folks who just completely rip-off ideas with no real creativity, but for the most part, it’s a matter of slow evolution. “This is a chick lit book, but with a twist.” Stuff like that.

I have no problems with that kind of writing. If you do it well and honor the craft and enjoy it, that’s wonderful.

It may not be everyone’s cup of tea, though, and that’s when advice touting such a route becomes problematic because your story may not fit so neatly into prescribed conventions.

You have to take a look at your priorities at that point. List them out—one, two, three. If absolutely getting published is at the top of your list, then you may need to rethink your story in more conventional terms. If telling your story, your way, is at the top, then you plow forward.

But realize that plowing forward will probably do one of two things.

Either it’ll open an opportunity to create something unique and well-received.

Or it’ll limit the appeal of your story and quite possibly cost you the chance to be published.

So the worst advice might you lead to get published and the best advice—be true to your story—might lead you to the rejection pile. That’s publishing.

So why do you write? Don’t worry about why anyone else writes or get frustrated that they’re getting published with less pure motives. Why do you write?