Please don’t take this advice!

The idea for my novel began with a creative writing course at the Writer’s Loft in Chicago, taught by Jerry Cleaver, author of “Immediate Fiction”. It continued to mature with my attendance at the Backspace Writers Conference in 2010, and Thrillerfest in 2014. Walking the streets and back alleys of Chicago at night served as further inspiration and set the stage for many of the scenes in A Wolf Like Me. As the son of a librarian, I cultivated a deep rooted love for books from a young age. One day I picked up The Hobbit, and never looked back. This is my first novel.

As a writer, I feel blessed to have unfettered access to the seemingly unlimited resources that the Web has to offer. And yet, I am often overwhelmed by the sheer magnitude of blogs, articles, tweets, and posts, ad infinitum. Do you want help with character development? We have an app for that. What are the pros and cons of choosing first versus third person perspective? What about showing versus telling? Are adverbs evil? It’s like having to choose from 1000 different hammers before you can hit the nail. There is so much emphasis on “developing your craft” that it’s easy to let it become your main focus rather than…what? Writing a great story! It’s inside you and it needs to get it out! It doesn’t care about whether adverbs are evil, it just wants to be told.

Have you ever started reading a novel that’s beautifully written, with vividly imagined characters, and with scenes described in such fantastic detail that you feel you were there? So why did you put it down after the first or second chapter? Because it didn’t grab you. The book was masterfully crafted but it still failed in its most important task – drawing you into a great story. The writer’s mastery of his or her “craft” was clearly evident, but they lost sight of the story itself.

So my advice (please see above!) to you my dear fellow writer is to politely ignore most of the “advice” you receive, and to instead devote every ounce of your unique creative spirit and talent towards accomplishing what you set out to do all those months, or even years ago – writing your story. The story you were meant to tell. The story only you can tell. As someone somewhere once said, “Write the book that you want to read.”

Does this mean that your writing will spill from the wellspring of your creative consciousness and onto the page like one of Mozart’s concertos, error-free and breathtaking in its perfection? Absolutely not! Does this mean that you can dismiss the often laborious process of editing and rewriting? Again, I say nay. The tools and conventions of a writer’s craft must be respected and embraced for your work to be taken seriously. But that comes later.

I have attended writer’s conferences in New York City with big name authors and big name agents. Perhaps you have too. At one seminar, an audience member asked the panel of about 10 agents, what they felt was the most important factor in signing a book deal with a new author. Frankly, I’ve forgotten what they all said, but what stuck with me was that every single agent had a different answer. Every one. This was to be a common theme in all of the seminars I attended, whether it was comprised of authors or agents, they all had wildly different and often conflicting viewpoints and advice on writing and getting signed – with one exception. They all agreed that above all else, the most important thing that trumped all other factors relating to genre, pacing, word count, etc. was this: the writing. The quality of the writing is what was most important. One agent even admitted that she had recently signed a deal for a book that “had no plot.” The story was just that compelling, the voice of the author was just that strong.

So please, don’t take my advice or anyone else’s for that matter. Just write with everything you have. Write your heart out. Write your story. I can’t wait to read it.

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