March 20, 2012


Besides touting their own books or writing reviews about the books of others,  literary bloggers sometimes review people who pass themselves off as experts in the field. Okay, I’m going to say this up front so that my prejudice is not only clear but blatant – much of what experts write on publishing is blather. I’m amazed at the numbers who earn a living or a reputation peddling the obvious. I wish there were a way to turn the volume down but as long as there are aspiring writers there will be experts to fill a void.


Here’s a recent interview I came across. I won’t give any names or where the material appeared but I promise it’s real.

The expert was asked what advice he’d give to writers when they submitted stories to literary magazines: 

          Answer:  “…the only part that we writers can control is the quality of the story?

          Translation?  Write well.

Next, he was asked what were  the common errors or repetitious problems he saw as an editor:

          Answer?   “On the first page of the manuscript…I want to feel I am in the hands of a story teller.”

          Translation?  Write well.

When asked what agents mean when they say they are looking for impact in writing:

          Answer? “I think impact has to do with the degree to which a reader cares about the character and the situation.”

          Translation? Write well.

Having once taught writing, the interviewer asked the expert what was the most important point a writer should learn:

          Answer?  “…to understand stories as a form and develop a working knowledge of the conventions that most successful stories share.”

          Translation? To know what a story is and to write it well.

If anyone struggling to get his or her first story published finds anything beneficial from the above remarks, then I have never read and Shakespeare never wrote.