#ContactForm1 { display: none ! important; }

Monday, January 26, 2009

From the stacks...

Dear Miss B.,
Doing some early spring cleaning I realize I have folders full of unfinished stories. I liked the idea when I started... but... er... I got distracted? I'm planning on the deleting the bunch, but my friend says to keep them. What do I do?

Matches in Hand in New Mexico

Dear Matches~
Step away from the pot boilers!!! Nothing says failed attempt like a pile of unfinished stories, I understand that. But those files you're about to commit to oblivion are also the bare bones of your next masterpiece. Instead of thinking of those gems as failed attempts at a story, relabel them your "Idea Box". Go ahead, it won't hurt.
Next time you need a plot twist, new character, or a whole new story to work on take the time to meander through your pot-boilers. The writing won't be as polished as your current level, so take the comma splices with a grin, and see if there isn't something of value in there.
My favorite example of a pot boiler resurrected? The first novel I ever finished was a space age adaption of a fantasy story I made up for my little sister when we were kids. The original was twin sisters separated at birth, one to become a princess and the other a street rat. When the princess died the twin wound up in her place. Not quite Prince and the Pauper material, but it worked when I was 11. In high school I rewrote the idea of switched identities with space ships and a wider theme. Since then I've scrapped the original, rambling, novel and the story is again on a back burner awaiting further incarnation.


Dear L,
I'm have a very full Real Life. I'm in school, I work full time, and I volunteer for charities. I *want* to write, but I never have the time to finish a novel. Not even during NaNo. I decided to try my hand at short stories, just for practice and because they don't usually take the same time commitment as a novel. But after several near misses with publishing I'm frustrated and disheartened.
Maybe I'm not a good writer. Or maybe I should just skip ahead and query a novel. What do you think?

Downtrodden Down Under

Dear Down,
Sounds like you have a bad case of Isuckitis, I recommend taking two of your favorite books and eight hours of sleep. Publishing isn't a fast industry, it isn't a place for instant gratification, and it isn't a place where every star gets to shine at the same time. Sometimes, it seems like publishing has very little to do with talent at all.
There's a reason for that.
Publishing is a subjective field. There is no hard and fast law like you would find in physics class. There isn't some magic formula or equation that will unlock a publishers door. It's a matter of getting the right story into the right hands at the right time. Just how subjective is writing really? Take a look at this post by Ms. Janet Reid. She loved the writing, I found myself uninterested half way through and wouldn't want to read a full book like that. She's an agent. I'm an aspiring author. Does that make her right? Not really... For the genre, that's a beautiful piece that will appeal to many people. But should the author query a sci-fi agent with hopes of publishing that piece with Tor, I think it's going to be a No Go.
So, here's what you do. After you've read a good book or two to remember why you love books. And after you've had eight hours of sleep to unscramble your brain. Look in the mirror and ask yourself: Do I really want to be a writer?
If, after eight hours of sleep, the answer is still yes the solution is simple. Make time every day for writing. Sick, tired, cold, hungry, exuberant, in labor with your 17th child it doesn't matter. If you want to go somewhere with your writing you'll have to put in the effort. And then you'll need to buy some kevlar armor plating and keep collecting those rejection slips. Rejections happen. What you don't want to do is rush to query a novel before it's finished and before it's perfect.
Impatience kills more dreams than hard work can save.
Keep working, keep trying, and stay focused on your end goal. You want to be a writer? Well, if you write everyday you are. You don't need a fan site, or an agent, or critical acclaim to be a writer or author. You just need to pin your ideas down on whatever writing medium is available and run with it.

Good luck,


  1. AWESOME post Lei. Very funny, but speaks true to me. Great encouragement :) Thank you!

  2. Great post, Lei. Especially the last part.

    What you don't want to do is rush to query a novel before it's finished and before it's perfect.
    Impatience kills more dreams than hard work can save.

    This is exactly what I needed to hear this morning as I get a serious case of the anxious bug to send out my partial to Nathan. I have to make sure it's super shiny polished before I send it to him. And that takes time and effort.

    *drags self away from the send button*

    CHANT: Almost done. One more chapter. Then I'm done. Then I can polish. Then I can polish...

    Thanks, Lei.

  3. *hugs and encourgaing cookies for Glam*

    You'll survive this too.

  4. Glam stole my line! I was about to copy that line about impatience and then saw that she had already taken it. It is a perfect statement for writers. We often shoot ourselves in the foot, don't we?

  5. This IS a great post. I laughed out loud at Isuckitis. Brilliant! I think I suffer from a recurring case of that.

  6. Great post, Lei! Gave me my first laugh of the day.

  7. Awesome post.

    I have the same problem as your first letter. My file isn't called the Idea Box, though, I call it the Inventing Room. lol.

  8. Excellent post, Lei, and I do like your advice column here. ;)

    I've been frustrated lately with shorts after a string of near misses... so I've decided to take a step back and make sure I've got these things where they need to be before trying again.

    Sometimes I'm too eager to test a story when it's done, and obviously that's a stupid idea and I should know better. ;) lol. Thanks for the reminder!


  9. To quote Rachel Weiss from The Mummy 'Patience is a Virtue'

  10. Unless you're being attacked by a zombie horde, in which case, "Not right now it isn't!"


  11. "Next time you need a plot twist, new character, or a whole new story to work on take the time to meander through your pot-boilers."

    Excellent advice.

  12. *laughs uproariously*

    Glad to know I'm good fodder for something :D

    Great advice, girlio. I'll get back to Jess soon, I promise :D