Saturday, March 12, 2016

The Destructive Power of Good Enough

Nearly 40 years as a writer has taught me some important lessons:

One of which is that writers, whether they’re just starting out or well into their career, all need access to the ABSOLUTE, STRAIGHTFORWARD TRUTH about their craft and the journey they are taking as writers.

This is especially important for first-timers because there is so much information out there – much of it from dubious sources – which makes it very difficult to know whom to trust.

So here we go – three points of absolute truth:

TRUTH ONE: Established successful writers – sadly - get away with mediocrity all the time.

How often have you been disappointed with a favorite author’s most recent offering? Or the follow-up movie by a screenwriter you respect? 

I know I have – and OFTEN.

It’s because they already have a threshold market – a group of people who the publisher can accurately predict will buy any author’s next effort.  If that number is high enough, take company will publish or produce that writer’s next work - essentially regardless of the quality.

And, for example, even if the a successful novelist’s next book is not up to snuff, the publisher is likely not to reject the book and risk having the author take his future books elsewhere.

For them “Good is probably good enough.” and so they move on to the next project.

However, for first-timers like many of you, Good is never good enough

TRUTH TWO: You must be great. Your first book must be great in order to sell.

Why? Because it had two challenges that it must meet. 

First, it must be better than the mass of other submissions from first timers.  Luckily, this may not be so difficult if you do a great job. 

But second, your work must be strong enough to shoulder its way through the ranks of the established writers to find a place in the production budget.

Consider for a moment the conversation being held as these decision makers are considering your work.  No one is going to back your project if they’re on the fence.  I like it - it’s an interesting idea - but I don’t love it” is not a statement that gets you a contract. 

So, how do you ultimately tell if your work is great?

Simple. It’s, of course, the Money.

If the editor or producer or agent who has just read it doesn’t want to give you a Contract to purchase the piece, then your work – as it stands at that moment - simply isn’t good enough.

And this sucks. Because current sensibilities exist so that these readers will not have either the guts to tell you the truth or are scared that he/she will hurt your feelings and says - instead - something like “Like the Concept, Characters need a little more depth and Act II is a little weak”.

And also, don’t buy into any of these “Facebook rah-rah posts”, where someone has had a professional reader read their manuscript and really liked it… This is more of the insults done to writers here in the 21st Century. For, if anyone inside the industry reads your work and doesn’t instantly contract that work for production or publication (aka: they send a check)….then he/she doesn’t like it enough to produce it . . .

In the end, you have to WOW them.  Anything less leads to a failure. 

You must understand this. Make no mistake - There is no middle ground. 

For there are only 2 types of submissions!

The works is either (1) great-and-wonderful and anyone who reads it wants to buy it …

or (2) it’s not good enough and it gets rejected.

But here is our final truth for today: as disheartening as this sounds,

Because I KNOW that you CAN write something that is great - if you understand the stakes that you are playing for. - I have built my reputation as a teacher on this one fundamental belief

Therefore, TRUTH NUMBER THREE: you must-must-must spend all the time, skills and talents necessary to master your re-writes.

I repeat - your success and failure as a writer lies almost entirely on your ability to rewrite your work.

So - Here endth the sermon.

I’ll return next week with more on Mastering the Rewrite and more truths about finding success as a writer.

Now, while you may have found this information startling, this is the reality that all my students face from the very beginning of their time with me. 

Because by embracing this truth and truly learning your craft, you can develop a process you can use to write compelling, exciting and page turning novels, screenplays and stage plays. 

If this sounds like something you’d like to be part of, we current have a pair of opening as students with me for the upcoming few months.  If you’re interested, reply to me here – at - and I’ll send you more information.

Until next time – keep writing and I’ll talk with you again next week.

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