Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Found my name in a list of acknowledgements in a recently released novel. On the one hand, pleased to have my input acknowledged. On the other, mildly annoyed at the implicit endorsement some readers may infer from the inclusion of my name. Because my main contribution to this novel's development was to explain why I was rejecting it. Even without having seen any of the writing, the premise struck me as a non-starter: cliches and coincidence do not a great novel make. But encouraged by friends and family, the author has now self-published.

I've downloaded the book out of curiosity, and the next time I'm in a line up at the DMV or similar, I'll read a few pages on my phone. Because I could be wrong; it could be extremely well written.

And the plot could be a lot better than it sounded. I am constantly amazed at how awful people are at writing synopsis or giving verbal pitches. But try describing the plot of, say, Romeo and Juliet without it sounding ridiculous. Can't be done. And I had the interesting experience recently of writing a synopsis for my own novel and my editor telling me, "That's just totally wrong. That's not what your novel is about at all." And am now awaiting feedback from my beta reader, and already know two things: (1) any manuscript always needs a couple of rewrites and (2) after three years of writing, I'm prepared to do another draft or maybe two, and then I'm publishing this sucker if I have to do so myself.

So I sympathize with this writer. Although my general advice is that the positive feedback of friends and family is not a reliable measure of quality or commercial potential, there comes a point where one has invested so much of oneself in a novel that commercial or not, ready or not, it's getting out there.... And that's okay. If you want your friends and family to have a copy of your book, go for it. Mine will have a spaceship on the cover.

The only downside is that if one is trying to become a professional writer, then one runs the risk of hurting one's brand if one publishes a manuscript before it is ready, or publishes an early manuscript before one has achieved professional standards.

And then there's Donal Ryan.

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