Simply because I can’t think of a better topic, I’m going to vent about the top ten [current] things that make me crazy. Editorially and authorially (is that a word?) speaking, that is. The top ten things that drive me crazy personally are better left to a good therapist.

1. I hate it when good books—I mean really good books don’t sell. I won’t name names, but some of the best authors I know have lesser sales (in some cases far lesser) than mediocre writers. At times like this, I want to throttle the entire book-buying public.

2. I hate it when writers with potential won’t listen to good advice. When I say “with potential,” that means they’re not yet good writers, but might be if they would work on their craft. But no, these writers I’m talking about think their writing is just fine and that it’s my poor editorial judgment that’s a stumbling block to their career. Don’t let this person be you. No matter what your present status as a writer, GET BETTER with every book and every proposal.

3. I hate it when I start to read a fiction manuscript and in the opening lines I’m subjected to a weather report (“The gray skies hung over the city like a dull blanket”) or a geography lesson (“The land was rocky and barren, punctuated here and there with small hills of red earth”). Okay, I realize sometimes it can work—but not often. Start with a person. Hopefully the main character.

4. I hate it when someone mentions “branding.” Even though I understand why it’s important for a writer to develop a “brand” and cultivate a “tribe” of followers, I think it can be very limiting to creativity.

5. I hate that it takes so long to get an answer from a publisher or agent. Yes, I know. I’m an offender here. Manuscripts and proposals sit begging for attention while I’m busy editing manuscripts on their way to production. As an editor, I understand, but as a writer, I wish my writing would always flow to the top of the pile.

6. I hate it when life crowds in so much that I can’t find time to write. I really do love to write (when I have something to say), but 24 hours in a day isn’t enough!

7. I hate it when I have a full blown idea for a book in my head and it doesn’t come out right on paper. The manuscript in my head is worthy of a Christy, but the finished product is worthy only of the recycle bin.

8. I hate it when a fiction manuscript is peopled with stereotypes. I meet the same characters over and over. In one manuscript her name is Megan and she’s a flight attendant and in the next manuscript (by a different author) her name is Heather and she’s a PI. Both women, alas, need personality transplants. They’re way too generic. So are the men. Garrett may be a lawyer or he may be a fireman named Lance, but it’s basically the same guy. Give me someone with a distinct personality please.

9. I hate it that memoir and autobiographies don’t sell well in our market. A few decades ago we had the likes of The Hiding Place, God’s Smuggler, The Cross and the Switchblade, Joni, and Run Baby Run. This genre does well in the ABA market. I wish it would transfer to our CBA market. Occasionally one sneaks through. I’ve been astonished and delighted at the huge success of Eric Metaxas’s Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.

10. Finally, I hate it that more of the good books by CBA publishers don’t “crossover” into the ABA market. Sure, some do. But not many. Right now on Amazon’s top 100 there are only two books by CBA publishers. Two! I check almost weekly and usually there are about five, so two is a new low. Such a shame. We have fiction that certainly rivals ABA fiction. And goodness knows we have life-changing non-fiction that belongs high on the list. I’m glad to report that not too many weeks ago the Bonhoeffer book was well within the top 100.

Well, okay. Rant over…for now.

I’m sure I’ll find something more to grouse about in the future. Or I might even blog “I LOVE it when that happens.”

10 replies
  1. Thomas Allbaugh
    Thomas Allbaugh says:

    This blog is actually really informative, Nick, though you claim to be only venting. Several of your top ten (#2, 4, 8, 9 and 10) will help me as a writer, and #8 made me laugh out loud. I have seen a lot of Megan/Heather and Garrett/Lance before, and I’m not even an editor. Thanks for this post.

    Reply
  2. brad/futuristguy
    brad/futuristguy says:

    Luv (x 10) your list, Nick! What strikes me most at the moment is item #4. Some thoughts …

    4. I hate it when someone mentions “branding.” Even though I understand why it’s important for a writer to develop a “brand” and cultivate a “tribe” of followers, I think it can be very limiting to creativity.

    It occurs to me that if we were true to who God made us as individuals, our innate creativity could allow us to be banding instead of branding, meaning that we catalyze a tribe of followers just by being who we are, not attempting to become something we are not. It’s a whole lot easier that way. For instance, with my author friend Kathy Koch, she has a way of seeing and saying things that end up being called “Kathyisms.” She has a distinct perspective, and she just says and does stuff that when people hear or see it, they go, “Oh yeah … that makes sense!” She creates a tribe just by being herself.

    Similarly, in church planting strategy, I talk about the difference between being a “vision carrier” who pulls people into creating a new ministry work based on who he/she already concretely is — versus the conventional “vision caster” who pushes people toward creating what seems abstractly to fit in the future but doesn’t necessarily represent much more than the leader’s imagination.

    What if we as authors used more of our creativity to forge something that people would want to band together around, instead of spent more on creating an image?

    Reply
  3. Jeff Adams
    Jeff Adams says:

    Thanks, Nick. I agree with each one of your Top Ten and suspect there are more.

    One thing I’ve discovered is that writers (yes, myself) often spend years learning the craft and market and more, but still fail to be published. The problem is not with the industry or editors or publishers. The problem is with us.

    I hate it when I don’t believe in myself enough to accomplish what I know I should do.

    Reply
  4. Kathy Sheldon Davis
    Kathy Sheldon Davis says:

    Some of your thoughts are hilarious, “… in the opening lines I’m subjected to a weather report.” I hope if you have more venting to do, you’ll do it. Your rants just might prevent further editor abuse.

    Reply
  5. Rick Barry
    Rick Barry says:

    Nick, it was a dark and stormy night when I read this post in a flat corner of Indiana, punctuated here and there by fields of waving cornstalks… (Sorry, I couldn’t resist. 🙂

    My quick observations are that I see some top-notch novelists sitting in workshops at conferences, and they obviously want to improve their craft by gleaning the wisdom of others. If they strive to improve, that’s an example we all should follow. Also, I especially applaud your bravery in voicing #4. The term has become a fixture, but yes, it can stifle creativity.

    I have no instant cure for these ills of the trade, but perhaps point out the problems will inspire each of us to do what we can to lift the quality of our craft.

    Reply
  6. Terri Picone
    Terri Picone says:

    I’m hoping you rant again soon, Nick.

    #1, 9, and 10 surprised me. #5, 6, and 7 caused me to nod my head. But #2, 3, and 8 should be held closely by all writers with everything they create.

    Thanks!

    Reply
  7. Shannon
    Shannon says:

    Thanks to this post and especially point #3, tonight’s writing time is devoted to revamping the intro of my manuscript! Advice taken. 🙂

    Reply

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