Dear Hopeful Writer!

If you describe your own novel as

A psychological medical suspense thriller and a courtroom drama with elements of a historical romance, a noir mystery and a vampire family saga,

then I have to tell you that, in all probability, your novel sucks. Writing fiction is not about making a list of genres that sell well and trying to include them all in your work.

18 thoughts on “Dear Hopeful Writer!

  1. Ugh. I concur. Also, if the pitch or flap copy or whatever for your book is bad, I’m going to assume the book is bad. I request advance copies of books on Goodreads quite frequently (and by frequently, I mean I have something like 15 outstanding requests right now and check for new ones every couple of days), and I can’t tell you the number of times a bad book blurb has made me move on rather than request a copy.


  2. Actually I bet the novel might not even be half bad. Its just that they are trying to get in as many buzzwords as possible in hopes that something will catch the reader’s attention. But of course the book might be awful as well.


  3. I describe my own novel as “That damn piece of shit I’ll never get around to finishing”, which is actually optimistic, for me.
    Better get someone else to write the cover flaps and synopsis.


      1. You could say that. I’m working on a series of short stories and vignettes threaded together by a bigger story (Like The Decameron or Blue Bamboo) which focuses on the power of the human imagination as being the most fantastic element in our world, far greater than genies, ghosts, wizards, etc etc. It’s a professor reminiscing post-retirement, and the novel is written as a series of letters she writes to her much younger colleague.
        See, describing it makes me cringe, but it will hopefully turn out to be better than it sounds.


  4. My one story about dealing with the American writing set was when I joined a writer’s group so many years ago, when I was but a young smidgeon of my present self. I’d written and submitted, for collective critique, a story about travelling late on an African road with only one headlight (the other was broken and no replacement could be obtained from any supplier). So, we’re zooming along on a pot-holed road at about 140 km/hour, in the pitch dark, when suddenly there is this a figure who looks to be in a trance, walking directly towards us, in the middle of the road. The car swerves to miss him, and as I look back I see the guy hasn’t flinched, nor changed his general course of direction. He is still walking at a slow to even pace in the middle of the road.

    “What was that?” asked my cousin, who was in the back seat, trying to get some sleep. “Was it an animal?”

    “No,” her husband replied. “A munt.” A “munt” in the old, colonial lingo, is a slightly dismissive term for a black person.

    As I recall, the guy’s eyes looked frozen over. I wrote in my short narrative that his eyes looked like frozen egg whites.

    I don’t recall whether or not my short story contained the term, “munt”, or indeed any kind of explanation of the term, but somebody did take the trouble to write back that it was absolutely pointless for me to use the term “eyes like frozen egg whites”, since nobody knew what it meant, and that I needed to use a more accessible term that ordinary people could understand.

    Since then I’ve become gradually more and more acquainted with American “ordinariness” to the extent that I’ve pretty much concluded it has its equivalence in the term, “illiteracy”.


    1. I have this problem in my writing group quite frequently. They fuss that I’m not explaining things thoroughly enough or early enough, and if I do, they fuss about slow plotting and info-dumping. Every so often I’ll get someone who tells me that I don’t need to explain so much, that I should trust the writing and the story to get my idea across, and I love those people, but going by statistics, I can’t follow their advice. 😦


      1. I’ve learned that when it comes to African issues, or the psychological states relating to them, absolutely no explaining is sufficient. It’s a different worldview and either readers have the capacity to leap into it or they don’t. Most people like reality to be delivered to them neat and tidy. African reality is usually messy, innovated, with things happening without warning.


  5. Hey the good thing is you can kind of tell exactly whats going to happen. Psych-medical mystery thingy is “whats killin this peoples???” and rest is answer: “Draculas!!!”


  6. bloggerclarissa :
    Statistics of what?

    Statistics of how many people demand more explanation NOW versus how many people either understand what I’m doing or are willing to wait. The latter are a vast minority compared to the former. Therefore, going by those numbers, I can’t assume that the average reader will be one of the latter and I have to continue to write in a way that *I* think insults the reader’s intelligence, but apparently doesn’t because they won’t get it otherwise.

    /end rant


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