Jun 20 2011

Signs You Might Need a Confidence Adjustment

Published by at 9:21 am under Professionalism

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!
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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 In fiction, I generally think 0-1 sentences is the ideal amount of self-description for an unpublished author.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  I think that unpublished authors that are completely convinced their work is ace tend to strike me as delusional and doomed.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).

9 responses so far

9 Responses to “Signs You Might Need a Confidence Adjustment”

  1. Wingson 21 Jun 2011 at 8:19 pm

    “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.”

    Eh, I personally feel I’m still in the middling range with writing – my description is generally bad, I have trouble with sentence structure variety, and up until recently writing comedy was somewhat hit-or-miss. However, I can say that I’ve vastly improved over the past few years (My character creation process originally amounted to “Ninjas! With names and appearances ripped off from other serieses/seresi!”).

    …So at this rate I will become a good writer in a decade or so. It is only a matter of time.

    – Wings

  2. B. Macon 24 Jun 2011 at 10:29 am

    “…So at this rate I will become a good writer in a decade or so. It is only a matter of time.” Keep practicing and it always gets better. 🙂

  3. Crystalon 08 Jul 2011 at 3:38 pm

    Also, if you say “My writing sucks,” people will think that they’re okay to agree now…

    “Yeah, it kinda does.”

    This happened to me once, when a ‘friend’* asked to read a story I was working on. What I actually said is, “It’s not that great,” hoping to get her to leave me alone, but she kept badgering me until I let her read it.

    *I’m using this term loosely. At the time, she was more of a random person in my class, but still…

  4. Nayanon 31 Oct 2012 at 9:36 pm

    “John Kimball is a poisoned detective that has 48 hours to solve his own murder.”

    Is there any novel/comic book/movie on this plot? I really want to read/watch. The plot looks excellent.

  5. YellowJujuon 31 Oct 2012 at 9:48 pm

    I have the exact opposite of this problem. I’m not confident enough!

  6. B. Macon 31 Oct 2012 at 11:09 pm

    Nayan, the movie is DOA, a 1949 classic rated 95% on Rotten Tomatoes. An accountant is poisoned and has ~a day to solve his own murder. So apparently I wasn’t the first to the “Taxman Must Die” concept. 🙂

  7. Nayanon 31 Oct 2012 at 11:16 pm

    I did not know about this movie. Strange since I am a super movie geek. Whenever my friend circle play a game based on movie trivia, I win most of the times. I have to watch this movie.

  8. edgukatoron 01 Nov 2012 at 6:03 am

    There’s an entire trope devoted to this:

    http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/WhodunnitToMe

  9. B. Macon 01 Nov 2012 at 11:40 am

    There is not a WhodunnitToTheAccountant category… not yet!

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