Self-Help for Writers

I’m a big fan of craft books. I’m building quite a library. The latest addition is titled with a phrase I’m rather familiar with: ‘Thanks, But This Isn’t For Us – A (sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing is Being Rejected’ by Jessica Page Morrell. She starts with the obvious: “A naked truth about the publishing industry is that far more manuscripts are rejected than are published.” She estimates the proportion of green lights to rejections at less than 1%. Yet, we dogged unpubs persist in trying, don’t we?

Jessica explains common “deal breakers” that hinder success. For example: excesses in terms of characters and plots, one-dimensional bad guys, all-too-coincidental concidences, stories where everything goes peachy-keen for the protagonist without any real conflict. While the book is sympathetic to the plight of the unpubbed, she also tells us to toughen up. “This business is as gentle as the main drag in Deadwood in 1876.”

What I like about Jessica’s guide is that she gives examples of what works, what doesn’t and why. Plus, she throws in doable exercises to combat cookie-cutter villains and outlandish plots. I’m sure I’ll be thumbing through this how-to for years to come.


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