Tuesday, April 3, 2018

It Is All About Looking For Patterns

I was just thinking about this over my coffee this morning. So much of what we do in publishing is about looking for patterns. This is something that new and certainly experienced writers should be doing on a daily basis. This is certainly what editors and agents do. Let me explain. I want to look at this from several angles.


I know, this is the one thing no one likes to deal with, but there can be a lot to be gained from looking at the patterns. As those letters come in, you need to take a look at the responses that you are getting. Are there patterns to the answers. Is it coming down to plot, characterization or voice? Now, I do understand that many of you would just beg to get a rejection letter, so work with the letters you do get.

This came up today in my email. I just received a letter from an author who I have now rejected at least 5 times. In each case, it was because this person had a project that was not a genre I was looking for. Today? I received another one. This person is not looking at patterns.


This is a relatively easy thing to do. If you subscribe to things such as Publishers Weekly, you see the latest deals that are made. This is not what just was released to the public, it is what people are signing at that time. If you see a ton of historical fiction in a particular time period, you know what the editors think is hot right now. Again, look for patterns.


I always like this approach. If one person says there is a problem in a story, that is just one person's perspective. But, if you get the same comment from 2 or more people, guess what. You have a problem. Pay attention to the comments. You can get the same feedback from some contests as well, if they are providing you feedback from the preliminary and final round judges. Look for those trends.

All of this is really about thinking and using your brain. Too often, writers just sit at their computers and bang out stories. They really don't take the time to look around them and see what is going on in the world. It doesn't take much though, and, the benefits will be huge.

1 comment:

  1. On the topic of critique partners: I brought up a situation to my writers group last night. A few years ago I wrote what I thought was a great prologue. In my mind I knocked it out of the park. Long story short - I struck out.

    12 out of 12 people - 2 separate writers groups said it didn't work. They were right and I was wrong. Enough said.

    As for rejection letter feed back - I welcome it. Unfortunately most are form letters. I'd say 90 percent and most of them, from different agents, say the same thing. It would be nice if the form letters actually said something that I could learn from.