I didn’t make up any of the following. I’ve observed it.
1. When Margaret Atwood writes dystopian sci-fi, it’s not dystopian sci-fi. If you wrote The Year of the Flood, you can be darn sure professional reviewers would call it dystopian sci-fi. Some special subgroup would think less of you for writing SFF, even if your work is as brilliant as Atwood’s work.
2. If you write an about-to-be-divorced, mid-life crisis novel from a man’s perspective, I know of at least one agent who would reject it without reading a word. Apparently, those authors are “wrong” to write that story. Roth had the last word and no more need be attempted. Ev-er! (Thank Thor for choices.)
3. If you’re young and writing an autobiographical, coming-of-age novel, many skeptics will sneer at your offered manuscript and declare that it is undoubtedly, “Too autobiographical.” Rewrite it to make that less transparent and, in round two, they’ll say it “lacks verisimilitude.”
4. If you’re a teen quoting your peers, a much older agent or editor may declare that “teens don’t talk that way.” (Yes. That happened.)
“B-but — “
“No. No one speaks that way. Anywhere, ever, in any world real or imagined.”
5. If a well-known author writes an homage to hardboiled fiction, it’s an homage to hardboiled fiction. If you do it, you’re plagiarizing Mickey Spillane.
6. If you attempt something different and innovative, it’s experimental and stupid. If it’s attempted in mainstream publishing (rarely), it’s different, innovative and brave. (Forget that. Always be brave. That’s often where the fun is.)
7. You may have lived in Dublin all your life, but some reviewer will tell you your characters, “don’t sound Irish enough.” That’s because they think the cartoon presentation of Irish dialect in a cereal commercial is a documentary. Not all Irish people sound like leprechauns.
Don’t worry about it. If you wrote it their way, you’d turn off too many readers with awkward depictions and hard to read dialect. And earn the wrath of all of Ireland. I like Amy Adams, but the movie Leap Year was an affront. Not a single Irish person had even a passing interest in particle physics, but the old men were all afraid of black cats. Nice.
8. You have a clever plot twist in your manuscript. That black sheep beta reader will rush to tell you he’s read that same twist in two books, so it’s a cliché. Back to square one for another rewrite. Never mind that the execution is different, all stories are similar in some regard and those two books he’s talking about were published before 1975.
9. Win a writing contest and somebody will spend a blog post on how undeserved the win was. They will claim they did not submit a losing entry into the same contest. However, the heat of their condemnation (a sun-surface temperature usually reserved for Nazis and pedophiles and Nazi-pedophiles) will reveal their jealous motives and their cowardly lies.
10. Someone will assume that, since you wrote a zombie novel, you’re a hack chasing money and trends. (And by “you”, I mean, “me.”) Never mind that I started writing This Plague of Days before there was a Walking Dead. I don’t chase trends and, while zombie readers tend to be rabid readers, it’s really a small sub-genre. I know few rich zombie writers, though I know several who deserve riches.
Sadly necessary addendum:
Someone called my serial “clichéd.” I won’t say whom and no hard feelings, really. It actually struck me as funny. Say what you will (and I know some will.) But really? “clichéd?” I guess it’s virtually indistinguishable from all the other zombie books where the zombies aren’t really zombies, the vampires aren’t really vampires, the humans might be the supernatural players, bio-terrorists attack in very weird ways, three worldwide plagues evolve as the virus spreads across continents and, oh, yeah, the hero of my zombie apocalypse is an autistic boy with an obsession for Latin proverbs who sees auras and is a selective mute.
Just like all the others.
I guess what I’m saying is, no matter how many manuscripts you read professionally or personally, for consideration or for review or for whatever, don’t fall into cynicism. Come to each manuscript or book innocent and free of preconceptions. Give us a day in court before you condemn. You might fall in love. That happens, too.
~ Robert Chazz Chute writes a lot of books. Check them out and click those affiliate links at AllThatChazz.com. Season 3 of This Plague of Days and This Plague of Days, The Complete Series, launches June 15, 2014. Find out more about This Plague of Days at ThisPlagueofDays.com.