Friday, March 26, 2010

Sometimes Writers Have Bad Days, (agents and editors have bad days too)

I'm reading (in my spare time which is really limited right now) a favorite author of mine. No need to bring up who, just know this is one of those authors when I see a new book on the shelf, I will want to buy it. In any case, I am really fighting through this book. It just doesn't have the zip and the zing that the other books have had. No, this isn't the latest, just one in the middle that I missed. The others have been good. Needless to say, this got me thinking about the ups and downs of writing.

As much as we have to say it, professional writers will have good books and not so good books (O.K. and maybe awful books). It will happen. There will be things going on in your real life that somehow tap into that muse you love to use and suck all of the air out of the story you are working on. No matter how hard you try, the story just won't come out the way you think. Unfortunately, when this happens, the writer may not even be aware of the problem. As far as they know, the story is plugging along just like they had planned. Still when the story hits the shelf, or maybe even before when the editor or agent reads it, the story is flat.

Now what?

When this happens, the time comes to re-evaluate. This does not mean to go out and start a new genre, or to give up your career entirely. It is really a time to think about the process that went into the story. Whether you realize it or not, you did something different this time. It is your job to figure it out.

For established writers, I honestly have to believe the thing they did differently was to not think. The writing had become a habit and the story was cranked out in auto-pilot format. The thought and energy the writer used when crafting those earlier stories simply wasn't there. I joke about this a lot when a writer has one of those "what where you thinking" books. I ask, "was this their 7th or 8th book?" In other words, by this time, the writing was in auto-pilot mode, and frankly, as a writer, you can only fly manually.

I do think this is a problem we all have in anything we do. There is a class I teach at the local college every now and then that did that for me just recently. The class was flat and I found myself really just opening my mouth and the discussions just came out. Everything was expected. So what am I doing? Next time I teach the class, whenever that might be, we will start from scratch. Do things differently and breathe life back into the sessions.

Do editors and agents face this? I am sure they do! "This is the type of story I want," turns into "If it isn't exactly like this author, I will pass on it!" A move like that is dangerous and will create stagnation in the publishing industry. I am often frustrated when I hear, "well you know, that story isn't selling right now." Honestly, is it the story or is it the authors that you have that failed with that type of story. Could it be time to get some fresh blood out there and try it a different way?

I encourage all writers, during this next full week to think about what they are doing. This is not to say to think extra hard about the sentence you write, or the way a query letter is done, but just to think in a big picture idea. If something is not working the way it should be, take the time to examine the process.

And yes, editors and agents out there, it is time for you to think of what you are doing. Are you just acquiring things because it has always worked in the past? Are you shying away from those stories that are good for a justifiable reason?

This is a big challenge. Are you up for it?

Have a great weekend.



  1. I am more than happy for agents and editors to look for fresh blood. ;0 lol

    It must be hard to try and convince publishers a non published writer is a good bet. Especially in the financial climate we are faced with at the moment.

    Interesting post,thanks Scott.

  2. I'm guessing you mean some agents and editors also have bad days, not that writers have bad agents and editors.

    Sorry, the post clarifies this but the title just struck me as funny. :)