Archive for June 20th, 2011

Jun 20 2011

Signs You Might Need a Confidence Adjustment

Published by under Professionalism

I provide advice about how to write novels, comic books and graphic novels. Most of my content applies to fiction-writing in general, but I also provide articles specifically about superhero stories.

1.  You feel the need to bad-mouth your writing to readers/reviewers. There isn’t any advantage to including a disclaimer like “I’m sorry, but this isn’t very good.”  It reduces your authorial credibility and will scare away some prospective readers. Give your readers a chance to decide whether it’s good without inflicting a bad first impression on them.  PS: Some authors are so self-flagellating that they might come across as fishing for compliments to reviewers.  Please don’t be that writer!


2. Your query makes unsubstantiated claims about your story. Some red flags include hype words like “fascinating,” “compelling,” “interesting,” “excellent,” “well-written,” etc.  It’s much more effective to describe the characters and plot of your book in such a way that the readers conclude on their own that the story sounds really interesting.  (Show, don’t tell).  YOU telling me that the story is interesting is not at all convincing because, ahem, that’s just your opinion.

  • UNSUBSTANTIATED HYPE: “D.O.A. is a gripping detective story that will really excite a variety of readers and editors.”
  • MORE EFFECTIVE: “John Kimball is a poisoned detective that has 48 hours to solve his own murder.”  This is a lot more persuasive.  I can totally see why this would excite a variety of readers–I’m excited!

3.  Your query/proposal talks too much about you and too little about your novel or comic book. In fiction, I generally think 0-1 sentences is the ideal amount of self-description for an unpublished author.  A few sentences might be helpful if your background is unusually interesting and relevant to the story you’re writing, like a SWAT officer writing a detective story.  Unless you have something genuinely interesting going on, don’t worry about it.  Unless the publisher or literary agency specifies otherwise, it’s okay to say nothing about your background, because the author’s background doesn’t matter much for most fiction books.  (Nonfiction is totally different).


4.  You hype your writing talent. Excessive egos are always unattractive, but if there were ever a time when it would be acceptable for an author to have an ego, it’d be after hitting the big time.  I think that unpublished authors that are completely convinced their work is ace tend to strike me as delusional and doomed.  If there weren’t anything in your work that could be improved significantly, why haven’t you been published yet?  (But don’t take this too far in the other direction–there’s a huge gap between “My writing can be improved and I’m working on that,” which I think is mature and professional, and “My writing  sucks,” which suggests an unappealing lack of confidence).

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