blogger: Cynthia Ruchti
Writers often live a good news/bad news existence, toggling from one to the other. A keynote speaker at a recent writers’ conference used the “Oh, that’s good. No that’s bad” children’s book format to talk about the Old Testament Joseph’s life story. His father gave him a beautifully colored coat? Oh, that’s good. No, that’s bad. His brothers were jealous. His jealous brothers threw him into a pit! Oh, that’s bad. No, that’s good. They didn’t kill him. Oh, that’s good. Well, no. That’s bad. Rather than kill him, they sold him into slavery in Egypt…
And so the story goes. What looked like a good thing was often a bad thing, on second glance. And vice versa. It was the entirety of the story–the mix of good and bad, the flip side of bad and good–that created the full picture.
Good news/bad news for writers?
How could getting a contract ever have a bad side? How could that good news (thumbs up on your manuscript) turn thumbs down? Consider these flip sides.
A writer discovered three rejections in her inbox on the same day! Oh, that’s bad. On the surface, yes. But she’d received three clear answers about where the book did not fit. Guidance. Where the book won’t fit can be just as valuable as finding out where it will. (Hard news, but true.)
You missed an opportunity to connect with the agent or editor of your dreams at a writing conference? Oh, that’s bad. Always? Not necessarily. The story about how you eventually connect may be the real story. Or the memorable one.
You heard from the agent you’ve been waiting on for twelve months. Oh, that’s good! No, that’s bad. The answer was a rejection. Oh, that’s bad. No, that may be good. Rejection is either direction or redirection. And you’ve grown in the past year. The next agent you approach will see a better, more mature, more polished proposal than the one you sent out originally…if you’ve done the smart thing and kept working and growing during the waiting.
Your idea–the one you’ve been working on for the past eight years–was just published by someone much more well-known than you. That stinks! Same title, even. Oh, that’s bad. It would seem so, wouldn’t it? But it may mean that your thought is touching on a reader felt need, although there’s now another book on the market that tapped into that need. Good news/bad news. But you’ve also been handed clear guidelines for how your book needs to be unique to that already-published approach. So when you do submit it, it will grab an editor’s attention, and it will be carefully crafted to fill any gaps left by that other writer’s book, which will no doubt be a best seller which is bad. Well, no. That’s good…for that “other” writer.
You have to get a day job to supplement the $1.50 you cleared on writing last year after expenses. Oh, that’s bad. No, that could actually be good. A faculty member at a writers’ conference said, “I was advised years ago not to quit my day job until I no longer needed health insurance.” More hard words. But day jobs also offer insight into the human condition, which often shows up on the pages of our books. Real life is all research. Mourn if you must. But then stay alert for ways that the day job informs your writing.
Thumbs up for writers?
As they say, “It’s all fodder.” Everything that happens to us and around us–for perceived good or perceived bad–is material that will do one of two things–shift our direction or shape our character. Or both.
So keep watching for the immeasurably good that’s hiding behind what starts out sounding like, “Oh, that’s bad!”