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Would you finish writing a trilogy if a publisher didn't accept your first novel?

Discussion in 'Publishing' started by Lorna, Aug 21, 2012.

  1. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I guess that's a "Thanks" that could serious, sarcastic or bittersweet. I'll assume the best.

    I'm ambitious so I try and write for the "Wow" factor. I try and imagine a moment that would make the readers go "WOW!" and build the scene around it. Sometimes I get that "WOW!" and sometimes I don't, but it helps.

    I find posting in the Writing Questions and World Building forums more helpful to me than the Showcase because they help me develop my own idea of what a good story looks like. When it comes to prose, I think you're going to learn more by interacting with prose that's better than yours.

    If you want to learn how to write, grab a book off the shelf that you have criticisms about, open to a chapter where there's a lot going on, and rewrite it to make it better.
  2. Ankari

    Ankari Hero Breaker Moderator


    I think I'm with Lorna in that I give the wrong critique on these forums. If I understand this properly, you actually suggest that I critique the story elements itself, rather than the writing technique. My question are:

    1) Based on feedback I've received when I do address story elements, the authors tend to stiffen their spines and defend their story. How do you suggest I circumvent such tension?

    2) If the word choices are truly distracting, is it wrong to critique it and suggest an alternative?

    3) I sometimes find that certain mini scenes within their submissions are missed opportunities that require expanding. Is it wrong to address what I feel as missed opportunities and allow the author to write as they please?

    4) And finally, do you have an example of a solid critique?
    Lorna likes this.
  3. Lorna

    Lorna Inkling

    @ Devor

    I'm not being sarcastic. Admittedly I had an "oh s**t!* moment but I'm grateful for your comment as it will help prevent further mistakes.

    Perhaps it might be helpful if there was an article on the showcase on the qualities of a good critique and some examples to prevent well meaning people such as myself giving poor critiques and possibly having negative effects on people's work?
  4. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I probably say this stuff often enough that I should just make a big post or article about it.

    People do get defensive, and others really do need to work on their prose skills, so I didn't mean to post a blanket criticism of every critique everywhere. But if you're really working towards getting something published, you've got to talk about story elements first, and then look for people to do a full line edit rather than debate every phrase.

    I can come up wifh some examples when I'm not on my kindle.
    Lorna likes this.
  5. Lorna

    Lorna Inkling

    Ok, cool. I'll do some reading up on story elements and prioritise these the next time I critique something.
  6. Penpilot

    Penpilot Staff Article Team

    I'm not Devor but I've come across some of the issues you've faced in the various writing groups I've been in. My basic approach to critiques is start from the big picture issues like plot, character, and logic of the world, then work your way down. If the big picture issues are plentiful, and in your opinion significant enough to require a big rewrite, there's not point in telling the writer they missed a comma. Also the little problems may be just symptoms of the larger issues that will go away once the big stuff gets resolved.

    This is a tough one, probably one of the toughest for me. The standard approach for me is find the good stuff in their work, mention these first to acknowledge there are good things in the writing and that you see them. This establishes to them what they're doing well. Only then do I start in to the problems. Usually I try to phrase things in the form of a questions like, What do you think if instead of X the story does Y? I try to avoid telling them what they should do but instead provide options of what they could do and why. I try to get them to think about a suggestion and process it, but at the same time give them opportunity to easily say No. And finally, it's kind of silly but I find it works, is never say "You did this wrong" or "You missed this". It's confrontational to the person when phrased that way. Use phrases like "The story missed this opportunity."

    This approach is good for people you really don't know. But once people get to know each other and are comfortable, things can be more blunt. You can just start saying stuff like "What this character is doing is actually kind of dumb."

    Usually I just say the word choice was jarring and didn't work for me. I don't tell them what word to use unless they ask. Finding that new word and knowing when to take a suggestion to change and when not to are skills they should develop.

    I never say they require expanding. I say they could be expanded and explain what they gain from expanding and leave it at that. Never tell the author how they should write their story, because sometimes there's a method to their madness that you just don't understand or see.

    These are things I've gleaned from my experience. I don't know if they work for everyone, but usually they help me. By the writer's responses I can usually tell if the writer is ready for a critique of any sort. Some people are not ready to receive a critique no matter how nicely or logically you present things. I can usually tell by their attitude and this look they get. It tells me no matter what I say they're not going to really listen.

    My two cents.
    Last edited: Aug 25, 2012
  7. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

    I think PenPilot's got the right idea here for the most part. Saved me the effort of writing it myself =]
  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I don't want to sound arrogant, but I'm going to quote my own critiques. I wrote seven short critiques for the Legendary Sidekick Trigger Challenge, and the stories they're reviewing are all on the same thread as the critiques. Don't take it as me saying "These are the best critiques ever!" but rather, "this is how I try to do critiques when I write them.

    They're here.

    These are short, so bear that in mind, but I've tried to talk about story elements. I do talk about their prose, but in a you've-a-pattern-of-this sort of way.

    Also, the link in my signature connects to my Mythic Scribes articles, the latest of which does talk about some of these things as well.

    Again, this is just what I try to focus on when I do critiques.
    Lorna likes this.
  9. The Dark One

    The Dark One Auror

    Talent and luck? Of course, but more important than luck is persistence...in everything. Constant rejection can be soul destroying, but you simply have to keep believing that you really do have what it takes (if that's what you really do believe in your heart of hearts). And what it takes is a hell of a lot of dedication to the ideal of being commercially published. It's like being a knight on a quest - totally giving yourself over to the cause, no matter how many years you have to spend alone in empty rooms tapping away and staring into the screen...sending off submisions...reading rejections...tracking down more potential publishers and agents and trying to establish a relationship...trying to learn from your mistakes and starting all over again...year after year after year.

    Amateur writers groups (in my opinion) can only take you so far. The trouble is that people develop relationships and can't be completely honest with each other, which means you gravitate towards the people who say nice things about your work and avoid the people who say uncomfortable things. The uncomfortable things aren't necessarily right, just because they're uncomfortable, but there's a better chance that they'll be honest opinions as opposed to opinions moderated to avoid hurting your feelings.

    Praise encourages you to stay the way you are. Criticism challenges you to change. If you're being praised by amateurs but being knocked back by professionals, you need to find people who tell you your writing is crap because the people praising you (in all likelihood) are preventing you from getting published.
    Last edited: Aug 27, 2012
    Lorna likes this.
  10. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

    I agree with Zero.

    Write for your enjoyment. If the first sells, great maybe the second will sell. If not you still enjoyed writing it.

    Write for money or fame, you will fail most of the time.
    Write for your enjoyment, you win everytime.

    You improve with every paragraph you write, so nothing is wasted
  11. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

    I think I've seen many, many successful creatives say it's important to put the audience first.

    That isn't true by default. You can definitely fall into the trap of training yourself to write poorly if you aren't heeding the right feedback and trying to improve.
    Last edited: Aug 28, 2012
  12. Important... for what goal? I can think of ways I could put the audience first that would make me absolutely hate to write. If I hate doing it, I'm not going to do it.
  13. T.Allen.Smith

    T.Allen.Smith Staff Moderator

    I say you are your own audience. Write the story you'd want to read.

    I'd certainly finish any story I'd want to read... Stand alone or series, it wouldn't matter.
  14. SeverinR

    SeverinR Vala

    1st: while what you said, might be true, what I said is true also. If you write trying to sell the product, you will fail alot. If you write to entertain yourself, you probably won't fail and will probably do it better then trying to sell what you think people want.

    Because writing to what you think the people want, tends to fall in a rut, or become cliche. You become a carbon copy of what came before you.

    2nd; true, you must get the right feedback to improve how you write in the future and how you edit.
    Read to see how others do it,
    heed the advice of others that have done it.
    feed your knowledge
    Proceed to write and use what you learned above in the writing.
    Last edited: Aug 30, 2012
  15. Rosered

    Rosered Dreamer

    Well said, Sheilawisz.
    In those days when I was a snip of a novice, I sent sample pages and synopsis of my sweeping epic off to a big mainstream publisher, believing that they would snap it up. I loved it, so why wouldn't they? Yes, that's how naive I was.
    When they asked me for the whole manuscript, I was overjoyed.
    The trouble was, it was a first draft and I hadn't even finished it. Didn't bother to do any editing and, when I look at it now, I squirm with embarrassment.
    I did manage to get a "rave rejection" but blew my chances with them for an eternity.
    Ten years down the line and the story has taken on a mind of its own while my writer's voice has really matured. Characters and environments are well developed and I'm glad it wasn't published then.
    Like a single malt, give your work time to mature to improve the quality.
  16. Darkfantasy

    Darkfantasy Inkling

    1) You should be writing it because you love and it's a story your yearning to tell.
    2) Just because one or two Agents refused it doesn't mean others will, plus your story not be 1 one ranking right now but in ten tears time a plot like yours could be hitting the ten most wanted list!

    Are you writing for the market? If so then No and writing for the market is an impossible goal anyway, it's always changing. That can be good and bad.
    If you write becuase of the story then continue if the Market is strong for your type of work it could swing your way in a few years.

    Don't worry, thoughts like this will pollute your mind and you'll go crazy, like me. Just chill out and enjoy your writing.

    All the Best
  17. Lucipher

    Lucipher Acolyte

    I don't think I would
  18. Butterfly

    Butterfly Auror


    One publisher is that... just one. Who's to say that once it's finished, the next publisher on the list won't say yes?

    Mind you, I think they are more likely to say yes once the entire trilogy is actually finished, and if it's been edited enough.
  19. Zero Angel

    Zero Angel Auror

    Is this true? It seems to be a recurring sentiment on this thread. It's better to go in with the entire series finished? Everything I've read about querying and such assumes that the first book isn't finished, let alone the entire series (although that also includes nonfiction with fiction).

    Does anybody have any data on this or personal experiences?
  20. Steerpike

    Steerpike Felis amatus Moderator

    Fantasy publishers like a series. That said, they are reluctant to extend themselves on a new unproven author for a book series. There are exceptions, of course, but I think the best thing you can do is have a complete first novel, but one that is susceptible to being developed into a series :)

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