Thursday, 12 May 2016

Why Writing To An Author, Agent or Publisher for Advice Is A BRILLIANT Idea

So, you've hit a problem with your writing.  Maybe you're not sure where to go next, maybe you thought you'd finished, but your feedback isn't great.  Now is exactly the time to write to a writing professional whose opinion you respect.

You might not know them, but don't worry.  This will solve your writing problem.

First, recognise that they're busy.  So busy that they won't have time to read your work, you've got to explain the problem clearly to them.  Write as much as possible - for example, if you're not sure where to go next in the story, you might write about the options you've considered, the pros and cons of each, the possible consequences, what each option will mean for each character, how it will affect back-story and so on.

Write lots about the issue - you want them to really understand - then re-write concentrating on stating the problem as specifically and clearly as possible.  Write your uncertainties, your hesitations, your thoughts.

Then write your question.  Again, this needs to be as clear and specific as possible.

Finally, don't send it.

When I've done this I've always found that, actually, I know the answer to my questions or problems. My real problem was that I was looking for an easy way out, a magic wand: do this, and all your problems will be solved.  But it doesn't work like that.

Writing down the problem specifically and clearly defines it.  Like the marvellous story in your head that doesn't translate to the page, the undefined problem is nebulous, uncertain, insolvable. Writing it down makes it concrete.  It's no longer a vague issue, it is specific.  You don't need to send the question or hear someone else's opinion because your way forward is clear.

You probably won't like the answer you're getting (it usually involves more work) and that's why you wanted the magic wand. Sometimes I find that just beginning to define the problem is enough, I don't need to finish my letter before I know the answer.

Next time you find yourself in a quandary try it - it really does work.


Joanna (Lazuli Portals) said...

Thanks for this, Sarah!

Yes, I've found this approach helpful, too! Perhaps it's particularly effective for writers because narrative and questioning are 'what we do'?

I've learned that it also works well for personal issues which need to be tackled into some sort of clarity!

Sarah Duncan said...

There's a sort of magic in writing it down, isn't there? Of course, sometimes one doesn't want to hear the answers, but that's a different problem!