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Perhaps you should ignore advice about cheering up in bad times

By: Keith Kappes
Columnist
Carter County Times

It was just last month ago in this space that I cheerfully (and hopefully) wrote about my quest to sell the manuscript of my novel to a major publishing house, thereby adding to my limited fame as a professional author of books.

As a result of that misplaced optimism, I advise you to consider ignoring your well-intentioned friends and relatives who try to lift your spirits in bad times by saying:

“Cheer up. Things could be worse.”

Well, I cheered up and, sure enough, things got worse…much worse. 

Not only did one of the five largest publishers of fiction in the world reject my manuscript within a few days, they had the audacity to criticize my dramatic love story as not meeting their expectation of a “happy ever after” ending.

Further, adding insult to injury, they suggested I buy and read more of their books to become familiar with their style of writing. In short, they wanted me to write their book, not my own. 

The whole experience reminded me of the time that the mother of an old girlfriend told me to leave and never contact her daughter again – and then asked me if I would fix a flat tire on her car as I was leaving. I gracefully exited, never to return. 

Back to my manuscript, I found that some of the comments in the one-page critique were confusing, even to an old wordsmith like me. They wanted my secondary characters to add “richness and depth” to the central romance but I should always keep the focus firmly on my hero and heroine. 

They asked for lots of internal emotional conflict, turning points, serious barriers to happiness but I should always show readers that the main characters are constantly in control of their destinies. Who can ride a horse in two directions at the same time?

My wife said the comments made her think of a paint-by-numbers exercise, sort of like this section is marked 6 so it must be painted blue, etc. 

Stay tuned, readers. I haven’t given up. “In the Shadow of War” is a good story, waiting to be read. And sold!

Keith Kappes can be reached at keithkappes@gmail.com

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