Loree Lough

With nearly three million books sold, best-selling author Loree Lough’s titles have earned 4- and 5-star reviews and dozens of awards. Reviewers and readers alike call her “a gifted writer whose stories touch hearts and change lives.” Her 9/11 novel From Ashes to Honor (#1 in First Responders series, Abingdon) hits bookshelves to coordinate with the 10th anniversary of the tragedy. Loree lives near Baltimore and loves spending time at her teeny tiny cabin in the Allegheny Mountains, where she loves to show off her talent for correctly identifying critter tracks. Visit Loree at http://wwwloreelough.com.

Loree's Lough Down

Writing Advice: Take It or Leave It

AdviceI developed and taught my first writing-related course, "Writing and Selling Freelance Articles," in 1995. Finding competent people to quote, researching assigned topic(s), writing a compelling lead, and drafting query and cover letters were but a few of the lessons I taught, using tactics I'd learned the hard way, by writing more than 2,500 articles. As the years passed and I entered the fiction arena, I added "Build a Better Novel," "How to Write a Romance," and a couple dozen other topics to the teaching repertoire that took me to writers' conferences, workshops, and seminars in the U.S. and abroad.

Anyone who has ever shared the writing lough-down (sorry; couldn't resist ) with others can tell you that teaching the craft, regardless of venue, is not an easy feat. In addition to detailed handouts and step-by-step blackboard examples, lectures, and interactive classroom activities that underscore character development, dialog, point of view, plot outlines, motivation, conflict/conflict resolution and more, we're required to stay abreast of the latest industry trends and current "what editors and agents want" info. Because while the "those who can, do; those who can't, teach" adage may be true in other industries, the exact opposite is true when it comes to writing. (How can we teach what we don't know...and what's working for us, right now?)

Inside the classroom, attendees are like sponges, soaking up every bit of data that will help them sell, or, if they've already put a book or two on the shelves, help them sell again. And I can't think of a writing instructor who isn't thrilled to see the proverbial light bulb shining above a student's head...proof that s/he gets it.

Outside the classroom is...well, it's like stepping into an alternate universe.

Now, what I'm about to say doesn't apply to writers and would-be authors who've asked my advice on things like "How do I find a reputable agent?" to "Where do you get your ideas?" Rather, this month's column is directed at those who ask me to look at their work (cover or query letter, synopsis, 3-6 chapters, even entire manuscripts), always with a "Don't go easy on me, just 'cause we're pals!" preamble.

If I wasn't at the keyboard 60-80 hours a week, hammering out 4-6 novels of my own every year, I'd say yes a whole lot more often. (Lack of time is the only reason I gave up teaching on a regular basis, after all.) But when I do say yes these days, I give it all I've got. I'm gentle but thorough, ever-respectful of the fact that I'm scribbling on someone's 'baby,' and mindful of the fact that all writers—new ones, in particular—are fragile. I have no desire to bruise egos or hint that a writer doesn't have what it takes to make it. Quite the contrary! When I sit down to edit someone else's work, I have but one goal in mind: To provide carefully thought-out advice that will help them come closer to making their publication dreams come true.

So imagine my surprise when, after spending countless hours—days, in a lot of cases!—asking pertinent questions and making carefully thought-out suggestions, I get the cold shoulder. Snubbed and/or whispered about at conferences. Or I never ever hear from them again. And I know from talking with other published authors who teach and/or mentor new and upcoming writers, I'm not alone.

Of the thousands (literally) of writers I've taught/helped, only a dozen or two have gotten their noses outta joint. Pretty good odds, actually, but it makes me wonder...did they mean it when they said "Please, Loree, tell me what's wrong with my story, so I can fix it and get published!"?

Are you thinking about asking a published pro to look at your manuscript? Before you do, ask yourself two important questions:

Are you looking for the pat on the head that goes hand in hand with "Good stuff, kiddo"...even if your manuscript isn't? If the answer is yes, show the manuscript to your mother instead of wasting a busy author's time and skills.

But if what you really, really want is honest advice, even if it stings a little, by all means, go for it! Because there are plenty of us out here, willing to spend some of our hard-to-find free time, helping you polish your manuscript!

Just keep in mind, as you read our comments, that opinions are a lot like armpits:

Everybody has a couple, and sometimes, they stink.


Honor Redeemed