Thursday, January 7, 2010

Topic Selection is Key

I honestly have to question the brain activity of some authors when I read submissions. No, don't panic if you are someone who just submitted and haven't heard back. I am not necessarily talking about you here. What confuses me is the amount of time people will spend on their manuscripts with storylines that are just plain stupid. Sorry, but there is no way to say it in a nicer tone. Frankly, some of the storylines I have seen are just garbage. What is more frustrating is that many of the authors have a great writing style. So what happened?

All of this comes down to topic selection. As an author, whether you are a pantster or a plotter, you need to sit down and really think through your story before you get going. You need to decide on a story that is honestly a worthwhile story to tell. I don't care how much time you spend writing it. I don't care how well your C.P. loves the story, you have to sell it to the agents and the editors. Although we joked about it in October with the Alien Vampire Bunny contest, this is just what Kate Duffy was talking about when she referred to stupid stories.

I honestly think the biggest issue stems from authors who begin with characters instead of the plot. In an attempt to get "the hunkiest" guy, or the most amazing K-A heroine, they forget these characters have to do something in the story. The plot is the road they have to take together throughout the novel. If that story is impractical or awkward, all of the hard work (which I really doubt was there) on your characters will be wasted.

Go back to your basics from literature class and remember plot, characters, setting and theme. All of these elements have to work in harmony together. You don't want your reader, especially an agent or editor to keep asking "Why did you do this?" or "So what?" You want them to enjoy.

So please, before you send out that next project, really look at the storyline. Is this really a worthwhile story to tell?



  1. I noticed no one has left a comment today.... Could it be that you scared everyone away? (smiles)

    I appreciate your straightforward honesty, even if it chills me to the core. It makes me think about my story and forces me to wonder if I just wasted a year writing complete crap.

    If nothing else, it was practice, right? (bitter laughter)

  2. I think your last comment was the answer, Scott. Likely too many writers are just trying to publish a book, not tell a story.

    How many writers have a story in their head that the world needs to hear?

    Not that many.