On this blog every Tuesday and Friday I write about story techniques, structure, and/or publishing. Comments and questions are welcome. I also have a personal blog, Amy Deardon, on which I write about a variety of topics purely as they catch my fancy.

I've written one novel, A Lever Long Enough, that I'm honored to say has won two awards. In my life BC (before children) I was a scientist who did bench research.

My book, The Story Template: Conquer Writer's Block Using the Universal Structure of Story, is now available in both hard-copy and e-book formats. I also coach would-be novelists and screenwriters to develop their story. YOU CAN CONTACT ME at amydeardon at yahoo dot com.

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

My Hero, the Newbie

I was a guest speaker at a writing conference this weekend, talking about how to e-publish a book. One of the best parts of a conference is that I also get to meet Newbies one-on-one for 15 minutes or so to talk about their writing. I love to hear the writers' life stories, and to encourage them, give them some direction, and help them avoid common pitfalls.

Newbies are brave. Newbies are stubborn (in a good sense), and demonstrate FAITH: trusting that they will finish and publish their book, despite no encouragement, no time, and feeling as if they have no talent. Newbies are unselfish people who work hard taking care of spouses, children and elderly parents, working a job or multiple jobs to financially support their loved ones, spending time cleaning and cooking and running errands and doing yard work and the millions of other things it takes to be a responsible person. Often the Newbie has a physical limitation or emotional loss that can seem unbearable, yet the Newbie works through these things to complete his duties.

And yet, despite all these things, and perhaps without even telling anyone else, the Newbie finds the courage to aspire to one more thing: being a WRITER. Newbies are driven by a dream, the dream to communicate their thoughts to others. They know that no one else sees the world exactly as they do, and that what they know, and do, and are, is valuable and precious. Often the Newbie says that it isn't THEIR dream, but simply a sense that God is leading them to write. This is the epitome of faith: "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see." (Hebrews 11:1, NIV)

Newbies are my heroes.

It's humbling to sit across from these hopeful, quiet people as they hesitantly offer up pages of carefully formatted text that they've labored over.

I ask how I can help, listen to loglines, glance through pages, discuss a question they ask, and pray that I can give them good guidance. Most of what I see is a long way from being publishable. I must be gentle as I point out problems. I usually see the same problems over and over: too long manuscript (which is almost a guarantee of wordiness), lack of tension, or unclear/stereotyped writing when the story is crying for specifics. These are big problems, and they can't be solved in a 15 minute conference. Furthermore, since I'm the e-pubbing person, many who talk to me feel they're ready to put the book up for the Kindle.


These manuscripts are babies: dreamed-about, nurtured, cherished, worthy of endless time and attention. I tell the Newbie that it would be so sad for them to push their baby out of the nest before it's ready to fly. The manuscript needs another draft. Then, try for a traditional publisher first: these publishing houses are going to be much better at marketing. Most of the Newbies I meet don't do Facebook, and don't relish the social marketing necessary for selling a self-published book.

Occasionally, if the Newbie is desperate to publish because they need money I recommend they write a few nonfiction e-books of about 50 pages each on some of their favorite topics. They can e-publish THESE on Kindle. Even if each book only makes, say, $20 or $50 or whatever a month, it's something. But don't put their precious book manuscript out there until it's ready.

My sister once told me it takes about 10,000 hours of practice before someone becomes good at something. Newbies are blind in a way: they haven't put in even close to 10,000, and don't see how far they're going to have to go before they can move to the next stage of having shapely prose. They are under the illusion that what they write is already shapely, because the story in their head is so vibrant. Despite the absent or even negative feedback they still keep working, they still stay up an extra hour when they're dog-tired, or stay inside even though it's a beautiful day, so they can nurture their dream. This is courage.

Yes, Newbies are my heroes.


  1. Amy, a heart-warming post. I'm glad to see you involved in such a needful ministry. What a blessing to those young in the craft. Pray they listen and believe!

    I find that often what're needed, loud and clear, are patience, faith, and respect for the time-tested principles of story writing.

    Patience that provides the times necessary to put in the years of work, faith to be willing to be patient, and respect because it's all-to-easy to think oneself smarter than the successful writers, both ancient and modern, who insist on storytelling fundamentals, as well as the many other necessary aspects of novel writing.

    Frequently, too, there are those who insist on casting their story in an experimental structure that, unless they are geniuses,, just won't work with publishers nor with readers.

  2. I've been writing since the 2nd grade. The biggest thing newbies (and I guess in a way I could be considered one) do for me is the dedication to the dream.

  3. Bill and Christie, writing is a hard road. People know that they can't start piano lessons and in two weeks be playing a Mozart sonata, so why do they think they'll immediately be able to write perfect stories? I so admire the perseverance it takes to get to that point of being a good writer.

    The dream. I like that. This is so true.

    In becoming a writer, the long way is the short way.