Friday, July 23, 2010

Don't Give Up

I got a message from a (then) stranger the other day on Facebook. I wanted to share it with all of you right away but I had to get permission first. I now have it so I am going to share with you a brief story about Adam N. Leonard.

Adam is an aspiring novelist. He is frustrated like I was a few short months ago and like some of you may still be today. Let me share with you the conversation we had via PMs on Facebook. Adam first contacted me on 7/20/10. This is what he said:

Hi Matt,

My name is Adam Leonard; I'm also an aspiring novelist. I'm about ready to throw in the towel, though. I've had several full and partial mss considered, but ultimately all were politely rejected. I really need someone to tell me straight out whether my writing sucks or has any chance of future publication. I wish agents were more brutally honest- that would save a lot of people wasting a LOT of time. Anyway, I was wondering if you could suggest a critique group or service or something to that effect?

Adam Leonard

I replied:

Dude. Wow. I feel you man. I can understand that frustration, I've been there. My opinion is that ANYONE can write a decent book. Shit gets published all the time. I would like to discuss this further with you, but I'm too busy tonight. Tomorrow is my daughter's birthday party. Can I hit you back on Thursday? In the meantime you might want to let me how you found me and why you thought I was the one to ask this question of.

I'm not implying that I'm not. I think I can help, but I do believe things happen for a reason.


Yeah, I meant to say "let me know how you found me ..." but I'm a little tipsy.

I was two glasses of Merlot deep. He wrote back later that night:

I have no idea to tell you the truth - I probably saw you on a writer's blog or twitter list or something like that. I just recall you posting stuff about critiquing your work, changing POV, and you seem to know a lot of people in the same boat, at least on your blog.

I'm just trying to get feed back on my work from someone I'm not related to! Know what I mean?! And that doesn't cost me a thousand bucks.

So I told him what I thought:

Well I have several suggestions I could make. First of all you need to have a blog. I was ready to give up 4 months ago when I kept getting nothing but rejections from agents. Now I correspond with published authors almost every day. If you start blogging I can get a lot of people to follow you and connect with you about writing.

Second I can offer to critique your first 15 pages if you will let me blog about our correspondence ... unfortunately I don't have time to read your whole novel, but there are people who do.

You should check the forums on Nathan Bransford's blog to find critique partners who will exchange their entire novel with you.

It could also be your query, but you said you had some partial requests so maybe not.

Would you be open to me blogging about our conversation? I would really like to help out and if I ask some of my readers I bet they will be willing to give you at least a partial critique.

He responded:

Why the hell not. Give me an email address and I'll send you the first 15 pages. Thanks.

And here we are. Do any of you have any advice for Adam that I haven't thought of yet? Is anyone besides me willing to offer to critique his first 15 pages? He hasn't started a blog yet, but I strongly encourage him to. I know you awesome writers will give this guy a hand as long as he agrees not to give up, right?


Unknown said...

Matt~ You're awesome! Adam reached out to the right guy! I don't know what genre Adam writes, but I'd be happy to help him out in any way I can.

Adam~ I'd be happy to critique your first chapter. I'm knee-deep in my own project and can't commit to more than that right now, but as Matt said, aspiring novelists need to stick together! I hope you launch a blog, too. I'll be sure to follow you!

Vicki Rocho said...

He doesn't need a blog to reap the benefits. Just have him take a tour of our blogs and he'll leave with a ton of information & lots of new friends to turn to. Hope will be restored.

Karen Jones Gowen said...

What an inspiring interchange this is, and it proves what a fantastic arena we have now for writers who used to toil in solitary misery and self-doubt as they were turned away from one door after another to now turn to fellow writers for help and understanding. (Sorry, I've been reading a lot of Jane Austen lately.) Yes, I would be happy to critique his pages as well. Send him to my blog, my email is listed on the sidebar.

Unknown said...

Matt that is so sweet of you!!! Way to help him out during is defeat stage, it's important for him to keep his chin up and let him know if he starts a blog we'll be right there to follow him and his journey. It's important to have people to back you up!

Adam - I would be more than happy to take the time to read your pages, feel free to send them over (Matt I believe you have my email). Trust me a blog is worthwhile, I've only been doing it for 6 months but this community is something you just can't buy!

Old Kitty said...

GOOD LUCK to Adam N Leonard!!!!

If he looks around all the writerly blogs - there are some incredible published writers out there with some fabulous advice - I've bookmarked quite a few now and that's just from blogging. I find that if I print out all the sound practical advice and read them on the commute to and from work they help!

And thank you Matthew for helping him out too!

I hope he finds a good criquing group/partner/writer's forum/blog he could get help from!

Take care

Sarah Ahiers said...

i could crit 15 pages (Yay! Procrastination!)

My email is attached to my username and blog.

This is assuming it's not a novel in a genre i never read (romance...umm, i guess that's it. though i haven't read mystery in years).
I mean, i could still crit that too, i just probably wouldn't be as much help.

Sarah Ahiers said...

don't mind me...jedi business...

Charmaine Clancy said...

I hear writers worry about getting critiqued all the time, worry that the people critiquing will be unfairly mean - but, I have to say, the only writers I've come across online and in person are extremely encouraging and supportive. This is another great example :-)

It would be great if Adam could get a range of experiences to critique his work - if he posts which genre/style he writes, he could find a likeminded writer to swap MSs with him. There is also I've found that helpful. I agree with you about blogging, because it will show agents/publishers that he knows how to build a following.

I'd also be happy to have a read of a section of the MS, if I can help (not that I'd be an expert).

Candyland said...

You're great to offer help to someone in need. We all know the feeling when we're lost and new. I'll throw my two cents in if he wants it.

Creepy Query Girl said...

I think that's great. He couldn't have come to a better place and we'll all be there to welcome him to the blogging community!

Hilary Wagner said...

This is why I love the writing community so much! We all know what a hard road this is and it's so great that we all help one another. We are all in this together. Good going, Matt!

xoxo -- Hilary

Unknown said...

Sounds you are doing a great thing and I can't think of anything else. Maybe when you post about the fifteen pages, if you do, some of us can chime in with our thoughts.

Christina Lee said...

AAAW how kind of you Matt. we have all been there and when you finally reach out to someone is when you finally feel less alone. If he doesn't want to start a blog I suggest he join Twitter and hook up with other writers that way too!

Jaydee Morgan said...

You should be commended in reaching out to another writer in need. You gave good advice - and like others have said, you don't need a blog to go around and soak up all the great advice and support that's out there. Way to go, Matt!

About Me said...

That's why I love the blogging commununity, this post rocks. To Adam, don't give up, don't darn think about throwing in the towel. A lot of us are in your situation, and it takes time (a whole lot of time) to break into publishing.

I'm currently looking for a beta exchange. You can drop by my blog at, see what I'm writing and e-mail me if you think we could be a good fit.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Thanks to you, another writer will continue the fight!

storyqueen said...

I completely agree about having a blog. I am a published author, but let me tell you, this blog thing has really helped my writing and my career.

Interacting with other writers who are fighting the same fight is the best. (Because, really, nobody gets it as well as other writers.)

It's strange this thing we do....attempting to craft words into stories that might have meaning to others.

Keep fighting, Adam.


Kathryn Rose said...

Wow, that's amazing! Definitely, we need to be brutally honest as critique partners. I'm part of the Weekly Chapter Challenge at the Writers Digest community and we're getting paired up with other writers to critique our work as we go along. He might want to look into that. It's been incredibly helpful for me! He can shoot me an email if he wants more information...

Cheers, Matt! Hope you enjoyed your Merlot!

Talli Roland said...

Matt - you are so fab. Seriously. We all need a Matt in our lives! :) Adam is lucky to have found you.

It's possible I may have consumed too much wine right now but seriously.

The other thing that really helped me is that we need to practise. Nobody can expect to sit down at a piano and crank out a perfect sonata their first time round. Same thing for novel writing. Keep practising, keep trying, and you'll get there!

Ted Cross said...

I would recommend that Adam look through all the blogs of Matt's followers and look for those whose genre matches his own. You can learn a lot this way and maybe even get into a crit group of similarly minded writers.

If you have the right attitude, Authonomy can be helpful, too. Don't worry about the whole 'making the desk' thing, and ignore almost all of the raving, awesome comments about your book, because most of those people are simply trying to get reciprocal backings. Every book there gets rave reviews, regardless of their worth. What you are looking for are those few reviewers who are honest and tell you what you need to know, even if it hurts. It helps if you are willing to give some honest crits back.

Aubrie said...

Hey, thanks for following my blog! I say to just keep writing and sending it submissions. I've gotten better with each book I wrote and I'm now querying my fourth.

Nice to meet ya!

MBW aka Olleymae said...

I think my best medicine for the "am I crazies" and the "I should just give ups" is to read like three books in a row- a couple good, one crappy.

That way, I've not only fueled my "Ohmigosh I can do this too" tank up, but I've also read a whole lot and probably picked up some new craft.

Don't give up, Adam!

Lenny Lee said...

wow mr matthew youre really super nice. mostly what i cand say to mr adam is dont ever ever give up.
...smiles from lenny

Nithin RS said...

Yeah every aspiring writer face this.Who to approach and how to approach! Well, rejections are part of this business.At the end of the day, publishers have to look at their bottomline and we can't complain about that. But, the desire to get published is immense, sometimes lifetime wish. Well, i am an aspiring poet, still taking nascent steps in approaching publishers.Already some told that they wont publish.Some warned about toughness of the niche. Well, people like you gives the belief to keep fighting.At the end of the day, published or not, writing on the paper is something which gives pleasure.Cheers.

LMB said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog- I just added a follow widget just for you...And I can't wait to read what you have going on here. In fact, I'm almost afraid to read through your past posts since they would probably derail the rest of my day (I have a tendency to devour any new blogs that I find). I’ll be back soon though.

sarahjayne smythe said...

What a great thing you've done here for Adam. That's what I love about our little corner of the blogosphere, we reach out to each other and offer support and comfort as well as knowledge.

Anyway, I just wanted to thank you for stopping by my blog and following and tell you I'm here following you now, too. :)

Stina said...

I can relate. If the right people don't read your stuff and give you feedback, you may never know where your strengths and weaknesses lie.

Your suggestions are great Matt. He can also try The girls are amazing. :D

Lindsay said...

Matt, you are so great for doing this to help Adam.
This is why I love the blogging/writing community, people are always willing to help.

vic caswell said...

hey matt, if adam still needs some readers, i can look over his first fifteen, it just might take a week or two (i'm going through someone else's right now- and... well.. i'm slow. :) )

Jemi Fraser said...

Matt - you're a sweetie!

Adam - if you haven't discovered Agent Query Connect yet, you might want to give it a shot. It's a site where writers in all stages of the process chat. There are pile of threads/forums you can join. The site's main purpose is to help each other with queries - but it is so much more than that. There are threads for first pages, first chapters, various genres, ...

Good luck.

Heather Kelly said...

I do have a few suggestions--ask Casey McCormick to put up a personal ad for a crit partner on her blog. She does this from time to time, and has a huge following.

Join writeoncon. It's free. Post stuff for crits or just start a thread asking if other people need a crit partner.

If you read for others, they'll read for you.

Do a Practice Room session.
Real writers and authors chatting in real time.

But, I also agree with your suggestion about the blog. 90 percent of my crit people came about from friendships started between blogs.

And--tell him not to give his work to just anyone. Try to find someone who is interested in getting his work to the next level.

I wish him good luck! This journey should never be taken alone!

Arlee Bird said...

Sure I'd look over 15 pages and if it captures me I'll read it all. Adam can check out my blog and see if he thinks I'm someone who can provide appropriate input.

My advice: If you're serious, don't throw in the towel. Keep writing. Try some different things--shorter pieces and submit, submit, submit. Starting a blog is good advice. Let me know the blog address and I'll become a follower. Can't guarentee I'll always comment, but if I'm hooked you'll hear from me.

Good luck, Adam, and Matt, good for you for being responsive to your readers and people who just happen to come your way.

Tossing It Out

Unknown said...


From my experience, a book needs two things--story and writing. In other words, you need a good, engaging story that makes the reader WANT to know what happens next, and it needs to be written well enough to be publishable.

Going into this blind, I'd say that one or the other of these is lacking. Considering you're getting hits for requests, you've got something. But you need to evaluate what's missing. I wrote ten manuscripts before I found one that worked--at first, I think I lacked writing skills, but once I learned how to write, I was churning out stories that weren't really marketable.

What helped me get through this was critique partners. I have a horrible horrible time figuring out what's wrong with my writing. I always think I'm a genius, or I know something's not working, but I don't know what. I suggest finding other people who write in your genre, who are at your level or better, and working with them.

Shelley Sly said...

That's great that he chose you to reach out to, and that you're so willing to help. You've seemed to learn a lot about the publishing industry, and I think you'll help him tremendously. :)

Jessica Bell said...

Wow, Adam sure came knocking on the right door! :o) Way to go, Matt, you're a true supporter. I'd love to help out but I'm on vacation! Adam - START A BLOG! YOU WON'T REGRET IT!

Unknown said...

Hi there! is organizing a short story writing contest.

We do think that you too might have a marvelous story to tell, one that is your own! So if you can compose it in not more than few words, we would want to hear from you. Also, you stand a chance to get your story published on our site and win cash prize of USD 100.

“Then what are you waiting for? …put on your thinking cap and get writing. For registration and other information check -

Happy writing!