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Friday, February 24, 2012

The Goldilocks Factor

You remember the story. A little girl comes upon a house in the forest. She knocks, no one answers, and the door is unlocked. Inside, everything is too something—too hot or too cold, too big or too small, too long or too short. She keeps trying and eventually what she finds is just right.

There are hundreds of ways The Goldilocks Factor plays out in real life—you drop those extra 10 pounds and your face looks too thin, your resume is too long or too short and on job interviews you have too much or too little experience, your hair is too frizzy or too straight—the color too subtle or too loud, your politics are too conservative or too liberal, your new beau finds you too needy or too independent.

As a writer I can really relate.

I pour my soul onto the page and share my writing with critique partners and readers for feedback. One says my main character is too resilient, another calls her too passive—a wimp. One says there is too little action, while a friend on the other side of the pond in Scotland feels there is too much brickbats drama—it almost drove her to drink.

And then there is the feedback from agents. One writes that she is drawn to the strength of the main character, but found too little plot. In the very same week after reading the very same
manuscript, another says there is great dramatic arc, but the protagonist is too flat.

It helps to be reminded that The Help was rejected 60 times before it found a home. Translation—publishing experts said it had too much or too little something 60 times before millions of readers and movie goers declared the story JUST RIGHT.

So what is a writer (or fill in the blank here) to do?

Remember the moral of Goldilocks’s story. Do not give up—keep doing the footwork. Eventually like Goldilocks, you will find the (weight/job/color/agent/publisher/platform/beau) that is JUST RIGHT for you.

So what is this writer to do? Just Write.


  1. I'm glad you actually get feedback from agents (all I ever get is "not right for me just now") but seriously finding the right agent sometimes seems like a waste of energy. I think I have become a self publishing anarchist. In the case of self publication (while the marketing challenge IS daunting) the only thing you have to worry about is the Goldilocks factor applied by the reader and I believe this is the place where it should be applied. I sometimes wonder if the added layers of agent and publisher are really worth it.

  2. Hi Christina, I get my share of "not just right" replies too. While I have not totally given up on the traditional agent/pub route, I am also prepping my MS for self-pub . for me, the most daunting side of Marketing is knowing it will drastically cut into my writing time. I will not have time for both. I keep asking myself, do I want to be a publisher or a writer?

  3. Hi Christina and Others,

    I'm taking a novel writing class. An incredibly enlighting assignment was to crtique the first ten pages of newly released novels (traditionally published). I chose unknown authors who must have found an agent/publisher without past successes. What I found warrents a blog of its own. Try it.
    I will self/e-publish my first novel soon. Although I had some requests from agents for full manuscripts, no takers. I agree with Carol. The marketing involved to have some success is beyond time consuming. My realistic goal is to make enough money to cover publishing costs, have people read my story and to see the delight in my
    81-year-old father's eyes when I hand him a book with my name on the cover. Of course, I have my "Oprah" dreams, but don't we all. I've stopped writing creatively for a couple of months, unless I get a strong inspirational jolt, to get publicity going. Then back to what I love - fiction writing.
    I do feel having readers is part of the writing process. After all, a chef wants eaters and an actor wants an audience. Readers are what we writers are trying to obtain with all of this arduous marketing. The best to all...Peggy

    1. Peggy, I hope you write that blog of it's own on debut novels and share it with us.

  4. No "just right" until we have a few tests and failures. Enjoyed your post & the comments. Keep writing.

  5. This was a great post. I totally relate to what you experienced. I had over 80 nos from traditional agents, none of which read the manuscript. My "readers" all stated that they loved my book. It even won an award from Blotter Literary Magazine. Hmmm... so I'm self-publishing and I will let the reader decide if it's just right;)
    Part of me likes the fact that I am in charge of my writing career, but like you, I dread the time it is going to take away from my writing.
    I'm hoping to launch my first novel, Cosette's Tribe at the end of March and I'm pretty excited about it.
    Wishing you the best!

  6. for me, rejection after an award is among the hardest rejection-like a punch in the stomach.
    good luck and keep us posted on your publishing journey