Friday, July 6, 2007

It's Not the Thought That Counts

Here’s a tip: don’t write a message, write a story.

I can’t even begin to tell you how many queries I read that say something like “this book will teach children about the importance and value of sharing” or “the importance of multiculturalism will come clear in this picture book” or “each book in my series teaches another valuable lesson like if at first you don’t succeed try try again.”

Seriously, when I read that, I mentally recoil and have absolutely no interest in your story whatsoever.

I don’t want a message. I don’t want a picture book which will relay a nice idea. I don't want a preachy moralistic tale.

I want a great story. I want a funny text. I want something sweet that will bring tears to my eyes.

I want a story that moves me.

If there’s a message buried somewhere in there, well that’s great. There’s a message buried somewhere in every story we write and publish, because that’s why we write. We write to tell stories, to get ideas across.

If you are a passionate, dedicated writer, I suspect that there is a message of some sort in your work.

But don’t tell me about it. Don’t set out to write a story about multiculturalism or sharing or being nice to others that is really a thinly veiled vehicle for a cause. Don’t send it to me, and don’t write it, and most importantly of all, don’t tell me about it.

I’m not looking to publish causes and messages. I’m looking to publish great stories.

Tell me about the story.


Camille said...

I always chuckle (and cry) when I see celebrity authors talking about the children's book they just "penned." They ALWAYS start with something like, "this story teaches kids that..."

Oh yes, just what little Johnnie wanted...a lesson book. You said it perfectly!

Laurel said...

Hey! Thanks for dropping by my blog...

and this post made me laugh out loud. I'm in total agreement. I've actually got a (bad) picture book I wrote, one that nobody will EVER see... but its about the subject... Though my agent promises me no librarian would ever buy "Oliver and the Terrible Books". For a number of reasons.


Kidlitjunkie said...

Hey! Thanks for dropping by my blog...

Hah, are you kidding? I'm not just an editorial assistant, I'm an ex-children's-bookstore-employee. I can't walk away when someone asks for book recs. It's like a compulsion!

Critical Misses E. said...

You know, I never really wrote anything just to get a particular message across, but I used to think putting a statement about the message that slipped in under the radar anyway was a good idea. Then I grew up and realized the beauty of the written word is different people take different things away from any given piece.

And I completely agree with Camille's comment.