Rachel Neumeier

Fantasy and Young Adult Fantasy Author

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Excellent Q & A today —

From Janet Reid’s website, the following question:

At what point do you ever feel – or would you advise a client to consider – a pivot to be inevitable? Is there a certain number of years or number of attempts that would start to give you doubt? I’m coming off of a particularly brutal 9-month round of querying and rejection, my 5th in ten years.

There’s a lot more to it! Click through and read the whole letter, but I will summarize briefly: the person writing the letter strongly suspects that he or she has a dire issue with plotting, even though all the rest of the writerly ducks are lined up in a row.

Wow, can I ever sympathize.

Janet’s response:

I think you’ve identified a shortcoming in your skill set and you don’t know how to fix it yourself. … It seems clear to me that you can either take steps to improve your story telling skills, or you can change what you write. Either of those are honorable options. … The question really is, which one will make you happy?

Again, there’s a lot more to it.

In general I don’t find writing advice helpful; I don’t find books about writing helpful; I don’t find critique groups helpful; and I don’t imagine a class on writing would be helpful. BUT. Any or all of the above *could be* super helpful under the right circumstances.

Janet’s advice seems perfect to me: If you want to tell stories, but just have a hard time with plot, enroll in a class on plot and story. Often it’s just a matter of learning how to outline properly so you can see those plot holes sooner rather than later. Or partner with someone who does know how to plot and work together. Writing teams are all over the place these days.

If it were me, I’d think hard about reading a couple posts/articles/books that talk about rising action, falling action, all that kind of thing; and then I’d think even harder about the latter possibility Janet mentions. Who do you know whose analytical eye goes straight to the plot holes and weaknesses in every book? You want the person whose inclination is to point out, “Nothing interesting is even happening for half this story!” Your friend who always says, every time you see a movie, “But why didn’t they just…” and ruins the movie for you. Work with *that* person.

I sure hope the letter-writer does go on to fix this problem and has a great career as a writer-of-books-where-the-story-does-work.

Update: I should have added, Take a Break and Read Middle Grade Fiction. Short novels with extremely clear, straightforward plotting is exactly what this person might benefit most from reading.

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