The Under Ground Writing Project

Making writers right since 2008.

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Thanks, But This Isn't For Us

Posted by Ali on September 19, 2012 at 8:00 PM

Jessica Page Morrell's book, Thanks, But This Isn't For Us: A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing Is Rejected, had me interested as soon as I saw the title.  Tough love writing advice?  Sign me up.

The overall tone is part compassionate, bigger part rant.  Morell is primarily an editor by trade and I can envision her sitting at her computer, typing emphatically and with a frown, occassionally pausing to mutter, "Ugh, I hate it when they do that."

Scattered throughout are comments you just know come from repeated experience dealing with other people's egos, like, "You need to see yoursef as a skilled laborer, not an artiste who awakes each morning wondering how best to flirt with your muse.  This means you write with a fully loaded toolbox of craft and habits and understanding" (34-35).

And, in keeping with the tough tone, it seems that toolbox should include a pair of pliers:  "Thus your first job as a fiction writer is to imagine yourself as a sadist, a torturer par excellence who dreams up ways to taunt, torment, test, and ruin your protagonist" (63). Here she's talking about writers who are reluctant to make their character face hardship and why that's bad.  Hello!  Conflict drives stories!

I found myself nodding in a number of places.  I also found myself skimming a few, too.  There are definitely good bits in the book, like the sections titled "Deal Breakers" where she makes it clear that if an editor sees this in your submission, it's highly likely to get tossed.  Do not pass GO, do not collect $200.

However, there are times where she doesn't fully explain her thoughts, expecting that the reader will intuit what she means.  If you're a practiced writer (and reader of rough drafts), you'll get it.  If you're not, you may be left scratching your head.

On the whole, it's an alright book.  I found myself making notes as I went, jotting things I should tighten/tweak in my novel draft.  It didn't change my life, but I'm finding it a useful tool and it appeals to my snarky side.

Have any of you read a writing book lately?  How'd that go?  Do any of you refer to writing books as a revision tool?

Categories: Advice, Publishing, Revision/Rewriting

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