Never Complain, Never Explain—Craft Tuesday at Write on the River

This post by Bob Mayer originally appeared on his Write on the River site on 5/5/15.

I think Henry Ford uttered the famous line: Never complain, never explain. This applies in the writing world in several ways.

One thing I do when critiquing material is ask a lot of questions. I tell writers, ‘You don’t have to answer those questions to me’ (in fact I would prefer they don’t), but rather they are to get the writers to think. At my Write on the River workshop, it’s an exchange of ideas and a lot of questions; and a lot of contributing to answers from all participating.

Remember, you don’t get any opportunities to explain your book once it’s on the shelf in a store or downloaded. You also don’t get any opportunities to explain your submission when it’s sitting on an agent’s or editor’s desk. So if they don’t “get it” the first time around, they won’t get it. Get it? All your explanations and defenses mean nothing because you not only won’t get the chance to say them, you shouldn’t get the chance to say them.

I’ve gotten long emails back from writers answering my questions or challenging points I made in critiques and my reaction is that such letters are a waste of paper. If I couldn’t figure it out from the material, it needs to be rewritten. This ties in with my theory about the original idea. If you can’t tell me what your story is about in one, maybe two sentences, and I understand it from that, then you are going to have a hell of a hard time selling it. You don’t get to put those emails in the front of your published book. You must incorporate those answers in the novel itself through rewriting.

 

Read the full post on Write on the River.

 

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