Gabe Berman’s advice: Write so people will read your work

by Gabe Berman

by Gabe Berman

I promised a review of Gabe Berman’s new book, The Complete Bullshit-Free and Totally Tested Writing guide: How to Make Publishers, Agents, Editors and Readers Fall In Love With Your work. Here it is, just in time for another fun writing-filled workweek!

For me, the most valuable piece of information was to remember the reader, to help the reader to find ways to care about your characters and the story you’re trying to tell. He wrote:

Life is short. If you’re expecting us to trade our precious time for an opportunity to read your words, it better be an even swap. But if you really care what people think, and you should if you want to be published, you’ll want us to feel like we made out like bandits in the deal. You’ll want to make us feel that we couldn’t imagine spending our time in any other way.

And later:

EVERY WORD WE WRITE AND EVERY SPACE BETWEEN THOSE WORDS MUST MEAN SOMETHING TO THE READER!

One of the first points Berman made was writers should get used to the idea that people don’t give a four-lettered word about them.

That motif is repeated several times throughout the book–and while it seemed abrasive for a moment, the more I thought about it, the more I understood what he meant. This is what I got out of that particular idea:

  • Don’t depend on anyone to love your work. You might love it, and you might want to share it, but people are busy. Most of them will always be too busy to read your work, even if they love you.
  • Also, they may not be able to believe that someone they know is such a genuinely fantastic writer destined for fame and glory. It just might not fit with their world view.
  • Even when people you care about do take the time to give your work a cursory read, don’t take their praise (or their criticism) too seriously. They’re just as wrapped up in their own work and worries as you are in yours, and your work will not be as important to them as it is to you.
  • Once you understand that, you become free from the self-consciousness that holds you back. At that point, you’re able to start writing what other people can’t help reading. Either that, or you become more comfortable writing for yourself alone. Either way, you’ll be writing more authentically, and you’ll probably be much happier with where you’re writing is headed.

Of course, my understanding is all wrapped up in my own frame of reference (partially proving Berman’s point here). It reminded me of a time when I had a sit-down talk with an agent.

“Never show your manuscript to your mother or your husband,” she said. “Never show it to anyone in your family.”

I’ve broken that rule every time…and I suspect I’ll keep breaking that rule…but I think I get the idea.

Thanks to Berman for saying (writing) it so clearly.

In chapter four, Berman addresses the idea of writing authentically:

Write from the place in your gut where love dwells.

The idea here is that when you right authentically, readers will pick up on this and connect with you, with your characters and story and they won’t be able to put it down.

There are lots of other great tips in this book–how long paragraphs should be, what kinds of styles sound preachy or pretentious, etc. If you’re a writer, it’s definitely a book worth reading.

As of this posting, it’s listed on Amazon (Kindle version) for $0.99.

Folks who are in love with life (or who want to be) should check out Berman’s other book, Live Like a Fruit Flywhich was endorsed by Deepak Chopra.

He’s already working on a sequel, Revenge of the Fruit Fly.  Can’t wait to read it. The name itself just pulls me right in.

Thanks again, Gabe Berman! (Check out his blog here.)

26 Comments to “Gabe Berman’s advice: Write so people will read your work”

  1. thanks for this Gwen. I’m intrigued enough to go out a buy it.

    Like

  2. I break the ‘don’t show to family’ rule a lot, but that’s mostly because nobody else is willing to be my beta readers. I tried with a few friends last year. Not sure one read it, one texted me last night he reached chapter 4 or 5 (whichever one Fizzle shows up in), and one admitted to never starting and hinted that I should hold up publishing until they were done. The nerve. This brings me to my favorite quote from your post:

    “Also, they may not be able to believe that someone they know is such a genuinely fantastic writer destined for fame and glory. It just might not fit with their world view.”

    I think this says it all.

    Like

  3. Charles, I sooo hear ya! I’ve been writing since high school and still people look at me funny and say…. “What, you wrote a book?”

    Like

    • Sometimes I really believe people get jealous because we actually write the books we say we’ll write. 🙂

      Like

    • And then they ask you about your publisher. Like they have a clue either way.

      Like

    • I can handle that better than ‘I’m going to write a book too’ and they spew the plot of a pre-existing book or movie. I’m too nice and lack much of an ego to pull the ‘you are not in my league’ with people like that. I even helped one try to write a ‘Kung Fu Action’ book. He gave me the list of ‘characters’ and they were all actors/actresses that he wanted in the movie. All I remember is that Bruce Willis was the hero because, you know, Bruce is all about kung-fu fighting. It was one of the most painful moments of my college career.

      Like

  4. Write from the place in your gut where love dwells…. LOVE, LOVE, LOVE this! That’s right where I am right now.

    Like

  5. An excellent review–thank you. This is actually the kind of advice I’ve been looking for so I’m headed to Kindle to buy a copy. Checking out Live Like a Fruit Fly as well. Living joyously is the theme of my current work in progress.
    I don’t have nearly as much control over my stories as other authors seem to. The characters drive the narrative, sometimes in directions I can’t anticipate or even want to go.

    Like

  6. I don’t know. I’m having all kinds of trouble identifying my genre because the characters obstinently refuse to be catagorized as a type. Every time I try so I’ll be more marketable, the story stalls out.

    Like

  7. After 35 rejections of my first novel I gave up and self-published. It went live on Kindle last month.

    Like

  8. Thanks so much! Please let me know–very candidly–what you think. More than anything else my goal is to hone the craft.
    And, yes, I am having a lot of trouble identifying my target audience. I belong to the Romance Writers of America and Georgia Romance Writers because they have a lot of really interesting programs, and they are very encouraging of new writers. However my writing doesn’t really belong there though I do have romance in most of my stories. I have adult situations, but I don’t have graphic sex, violence or language, so I can’t say if it is appropriate for the YA crowd or not. All of my stories have fantasy, but they are set in the real world, so they are not going to please people looking for high fantasy. I write slowly with lots of research and rewrites, but you can’t really call what I do highly literary.
    I welcome any insights you have to offer.

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: