Wednesday 29 January 2014

KNOW YOUR GENRE. RESEARCH YOUR MARKET. READ, READ, READ. Brilliant words from my late mentor, Michael Crawley

What do you do when your Mentor passes on to the big writing workshop in the sky?  You mourn.  And then you pass on his immortal words. 

By Michael Crawley


Obvious?  It seems not.  At least once a week I am asked to look at some serious piece that has been written ‘for Readers’ Digest.’  The writer usually claims to be an avid reader of that publication.  I am not.  I have, however, read Page One which clearly states that RD will not look at any submission unless it’s suitable for one of their regular humour sections.  All else is trashed.

I see work that is ‘aimed’ at Discover.  Discover features stories about the very latest scientific advances, written by scientists.  The stories I see are usually reworked extracts from encyclopedias, ‘New Age’ speculation, or emotional pleas to save the rainforest.  None of these stands a chance.

I read Romances destined for Harlequin, written by people who have never read a Harlequin.

I read ‘incredibly clever twist’ stories in which A) It is suddenly revealed that the protagonist is in hell, and hasn’t realized it.  B)  The villain’s victim turns out to be a vampire.  C) Three wishes rebound, or are wasted.  D)  The narrator turns out to be a dog/teapot/corkscrew.

I read ‘Science Fiction’ that is based on ideas that were stale thirty years ago, but the writer doesn’t know that, because he’s not a reader of SF.  He is sure that out of all the countless millions of SF stories that have been written, no one could possibly have thought of that idea before, right?  Yeah, right.

Chances are none of the above was produced in the accepted format.  Why bother to look professional?

I weep!  I weep for the waste of time, effort, paper and postage.  I weep for those who court rejection, and then complain that ‘It’s impossible to sell.’  Why do they do it?  Could someone please explain to me how it is that anyone can set out to be a writer, who hasn’t read, and read, and read?

Thank you, Michael Crawley, for the wonderful impact you had on my life.  I am an award-winning author today because, twenty years ago, you were generous with your time and taught me well.  May I do the same for others.


  1. Wisely written.

    I have to admit, I did try to write a Harlequin Romance after only reading one of their books and not reading their guidelines at all. I wasn't halfway through the novel before it turned into a farce. I was young and foolish at the time, but not so young and foolish that I tried to submit it.

    1. I'm not surprised that it turned into a farce, Ali - knowing you! :) After all....look what I did with Rowena. Bet I would have liked that farce...