When someone recently asked what he should do with his 47,000-word "novel," first into the fray once again was a remarkably misinformed and misinforming would-be author with a ton of garbage novels in print. They, of course, make her the quintessential diseminator of authoritative information. Don't they? Here's what I told the writer-in-making.
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Well, the Queen of Wrong missed the mark yet again. Does anyone actually pay attention to her responses anymore? I hope not, because they can be damaging to a young writer's future. If not deadly. Here's how.
First, she says your novella (it's not long enough to be considered a novel) needs to go through "at least five edits." She can say this with all impunity because she's clairvoyant. No one else could know what skills you possess, the amount of determination you have, and the editing abilities you enjoy. Nor could anyone else understand just how much editing your opus will require—if any! Does it sing like a wren with every word that's read, or does it drop with a thud like a hollowed-out Wiffle Ball? Without her clairvoyant qualities, Queenie couldn't possibly know. Thank you, Uri Geller.
Second strike against her? If the people who read and liked your book are relatives or friends, they won't be objective. That's a little dismissive, don't you think? If not outright presumptive? In fact, just the contrary may be true. I read lots of works by friends, clients, and even relatives, for example, and I'm brutally frank with them all because I know that's the only way they'll learn. By Queenie impugning the integrity of your readers, she does you—and them!—no favor.
Strike three takes place when she announces from the Mountaintop (sure, they play baseball in Heaven—what do you think, I'd spring a mixed metaphor on you?) that, even working with a professional editor, your book won't be ready to shop around for "at least a year" or longer. And you thought psychics were a bunch of hooey!
The painful truth may well be that your readers suggested your book should be a film or the beginning of a series instead of a novel because they know it's not a novel. It's not long enough to stand on its own two diminutive feet. That doesn't mean you should reach out into areas even tougher than publishing to create a pitch and a property to show off to Hollywood. That takes a lot of insider knowledge, a little bit of pull (okay, a lot of pull), and some luck. And, I'm not even going to get into the specific formatting skills required in screenwriting, let alone an entirely new set of authoring abilities.
If that's the direction in which you want to travel, though, of course you have my blessing. But be prepared for some tough sledding. I would think, instead, you might fare better to take all the hard work you've done so far, think things through while expanding the story line to include additional elements that blend into a cohesive beginning, middle, and end, and shoot for the moon. At least then you'll have a completed story to shop around—whether or not you hire a professional editor to make sure your baby is as polished as it can be.
Remember, in publishing—as in life—you're likely to get only one stab at the gold ring. Make it count by doing the best you possibly can right from the start.
And forget about all the bad information some people insist on doling out time after time, ad nauseum. It seems to me that some of these folks can only feel big by making you feel small. So, keep up the good work and, hopefully, now that you're armed with the truth, you'll have the confidence to press onward, whichever way you choose to go.
Until then ...
Smoke if you've got 'em.
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D. J. Herda is author of the new series of writing advice, About Writing Right, available in eBook, paperback, and hardcover formats at Amazon and at fine booksellers everywhere. You can check out his column, "The Author-Ethicist," which runs at Substack.com weekly. Well, almost weekly. Occasionally weekly. Sometimes weekly. (Hey, I do my best!)