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Thanks, But This Isn't for Us: A (Sort Of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing Is Being Rejected

4.03  ·  Rating Details ·  264 Ratings  ·  70 Reviews
A fun, practical guide that reveals the essentials of good fiction and memoir writing by exposing the most common mistakes literary writers make.All great works of fiction and memoir are unique-but most bad novels, stories, and memoirs have a lot in common. From clunky dialogue to poorly sketchedout characters, sagging pacing to exaggerated prose, these beginners' mistakes ...more
ebook, 368 pages
Published August 20th 2009 by Tarcher (first published 2009)
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Oct 11, 2012 David rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: aspiring writers

Sometimes I get the impression that writers believe their stories should be read simply because they wrote them — not because they wrote the best story they could.

So, I have a confession to make to all my Goodreads peeps: I have written a book.

It's in the final revision stage. I've joined a few online critique groups and have had a few people read the entire manuscript and I've gotten generally positive feedback. (As in, "I think this is good enough to be published" feedback.) Only from casual
Lauren Schumacher
My list of life goals (I detest the term "bucket list" as it implies that death will politely wait while we finish) is short but ambitious. Own a home with at least one secret passage. Foster 100 pets (currently stalled on #3). Sew a quilt. Own a horse. See Alphonse Mucha originals in Prague. Never weigh more than 130lbs. Journal 1,000 books...hey-oh, number sixty-seven! Some are important and some are silly; some passive and some active; some inevitable and others nearly impossible. But by far ...more
Rebecca N. McKinnon
Got to the end of chapter two before I realized I hadn't learned anything yet. Useful for inept beginners of the writing world. I bought this book expecting to learn about the secrets of the publishing industry but instead discovered I should give myself more credit for the level of knowledge I apparently possess.
Shannon Winward
I've been enjoying this more than most writing help books, as the author, an editor, has a snarky sense of humor. Also she gives a LOT of specific examples of stupid stuff that writers do.

I've noticed, though, that I tend to have one of two reactions to her examples.

1. "Haha, writers who do that are such dorks."
2. "I do that and it's completely justified in my case. This editor is a dork."

Maybe I should take this as a hint to re-think the "deal-breakers" in my novel, which maybe aren't as justif
Nov 25, 2015 Erika rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I picked this up at the library, along with a pile of how to write fiction books from the 808.3 non-fiction shelf. Morrell--who works as an agent, editor, and teacher--has a bias for genre fiction and memoir, and she rightly comments that literary fiction is a ridiculously competitive field. I happen to like literary fiction more than Morrell, but that aside, she explains well the principles of good writing and these apply to all fiction. Because Morrell has seen hundreds of manuscripts, stories ...more
Ryan Mishap
I'll let you in on a dirty secret unknown to me when I began this book: Morrell is going to tell you how to shape and sharpen a product, not a story. The aim here isn't truly better storytelling, but stuffing your creation into a narrow vacuum seal tube that will zoom straight into a willing publisher's printing queue.

Okay, now that you know what it is all about, let's talk about what this is all about. I do not normally read writing books, but this got a good review in Library Journal and I've
Apr 30, 2011 Nic rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I don't have big gripes about this, but I stopped about sixty pages in (out of around three hundred fifty pages), mostly because I felt the advice was stuff I'd seen before. This was true of some of the tips in How Not to Write a Novel, but that book cast them in a new and hilarious light. This one would probably be fine for people who haven't already read one point five gazillion books on writing. I would maybe have liked more concrete examples, though.
I don't know that there's anything here that will come as a huge surprise to fiction writers who have imbibed of the lessons of the craft, but this is still worth reading and possibly even owning for two reasons:

1. Morrell collects a lot of information into this one volume, so it covers everything from scenes to prose to plot to characterization. And it includes helpful checklists and more reading suggestions at the end of each chapter.

2. Morrell also includes lots of examples drawn from (but t
Jennifer Worrell
Sep 03, 2015 Jennifer Worrell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: craft
Really great stuff in here. I recommend reading this BEFORE you get to the editing stage of your work, maybe even before that. Why not get ahead? It's pretty cutthroat in an amusing way, probably because I haven't sent out my novel yet. I found some things I can look at in my current WIP and hopefully make stronger.

There are ideas about creating a bible for your characters, a glossary of literary and publishing terms, and tips on writing in general.
Jan 14, 2010 Shennandoah rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is an absolute must for any aspiring writer. Most books on writing are dry, dull, and focus more on commas than substance. Morrell has an enjoyable style and stuffs every page with useful tips and examples. The "Quick and Dirty" tips at the end of every chapter make it easy to start incorporating new techniques and see immediate improvement in your writing.
Feb 14, 2015 Monica&spikey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Not actually finished with this, but I haven't had it out from the library for several months now. I would LIKE to finish this at some point, or at least buy a copy to flip through whenever I'm revising.

What I did read was very useful, clear, and interestingly conveyed information. Highly recommend to any aspiring writers out there.
Alicia Gregoire
Probably one of the best books in craft I've read. Morrell explains specific problems that arise in manuscripts in a no-bullshit way and ends each chapter with a list of important tips and references. This is a definite must read for every writer.
Dec 12, 2015 Hannah rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: dnf
Gave up around page 50 or so.

I wrote a "novel" for NaNoWriMo that I would like to edit and I thought this would help, but I really wasn't getting much out of it like I did with Stephen King's "On Writing" or Anne Lamott's "Bird by Bird." Meh.
Mar 29, 2013 T.C. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This isn't highbrow. Even and especially a literary writer can learn from it for its no-nonsense approach to what makes a readable plot that keeps people turning pages.
Heather Burnell
Jun 15, 2010 Heather Burnell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
Awesome book! I recommend it to all my writer friends.
Elizabeth Kenitz
Oct 10, 2016 Elizabeth Kenitz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
This book was filled with fantastic information on what not to do when writing your draft. Morrell also included plenty of good things to do in place of those common mistakes. The tone was often harsh, so if you're a gentle soul this book may not be for you. There were a few things that I thought were specific to the author of the book and were opinion despite their presentation as fact, but there was still a lot of great content included in this book. I'd recommend it for anyone willing to have ...more
Sep 21, 2016 Katy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: books-i-own
This is, to put it simply, a book about how to be a better writer.

Morrell, a long-suffering editor, (which is clear, if not from the Preface, then from the way she can honestly and frankly put her finger on what precisely sucks about writing that sucks) breaks down the book by general theme (characters, structure, grammar, etc.) Normally I'd list my favorite chapters here, but I didn't have a favorite chapter--instead, I had a favorite section which was repeated in each chapter: the Deal Breake
Sep 19, 2012 Ali rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Jessica Page Morrell's book, Thanks, But This Isn't For Us: A (Sort of) Compassionate Guide to Why Your Writing Is Rejected, had me interested as soon as I saw the title. Tough love writing advice? Sign me up.

The overall tone is part compassionate, bigger part rant. Morell is primarily an editor by trade and I can envision her sitting at her computer, typing emphatically and with a frown, occassionally pausing to mutter, "Ugh, I hate it when they do that."

Scattered throughout are comments you ju
Sep 12, 2016 Ris rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
There were points where I didn't agree with the author (primarily discussing stylistic mechanics--I think those are more her personal preference, because I have definitely read many amazing modern books that used the mechanics she claimed were boring and outdated), but I found some of her suggestions about plot, conflict, and story structure incredibly helpful. While she can be aggressively snarky sometimes in her effort to sound like an exasperated authority (which I suppose she is), she really ...more
Mar 22, 2011 Anita rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: writing
I wouldn't call myself a writer, but as a reader I love these kinds of books because they help me fine tune my sense about whether or not a story is working for me and why. This book made me feel like I was enjoying a lively dinner conversation with a skilled professional. It's funny how often I hear people say that they wish they could get paid for reading, but after learning about all the piles of crappy writing this editor has absorbed through her eyeballs, you'll be grateful that this isn't ...more
Joanna Woods
Nov 15, 2013 Joanna Woods rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: All writers
Recommended to Joanna by: Darcy Pattison
A must read for all writers.

I read a blog on Darcy Pattison's Fiction Notes which disgusted Jessica's book on why editors reject manuscripts. In Patterson's post she gave some common examples. Curious for more, I ordered the book from Amazon, and I was digging into the reasons why my novel might not be up to par within two days.

Whenever I read a book on craft, I insert my characters into the situations and examples given. Over the six years I've been working on my novel, I can't help but smile
Jennifer Best
Aug 15, 2013 Jennifer Best rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Perhaps my expectations are too high, but when I'm reading a book about the craft of writing, I expect the work itself to be well crafted. This work, however well intentioned, is so poorly written the true wonder is how it found its way to publication at all.

Maybe I'm just too old school, but when I was learning to write (and in the decades of writing since), I was taught that verb tenses within a single sentence should agree with their subjects, and that sentences generally carry on in a singl
A.E. Stueve
Jun 03, 2011 A.E. Stueve rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I love this book. I am a craft book junkie of sorts, so you know, take my review for what it's worth (I also give nothing lower than a 3 star rating to any books that make their way to my Goodreads list--I don't finish the ones I don't think warrant at least 3 stars). But Morrell writes like a great teacher, critical and hard-edged but with a soft and gooey center that show us she really cares about her clients and all of us reading her book with writing aspirations. Anyway, this is a craft book ...more
Feb 04, 2011 Marc rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This book was recommended to me by my editor. After reading it, I understand what my editor looked for when she went through my book.

I would say this is almost a must-read for writers. It not only tells you about things that you should look for in your own manuscript but it gives you plenty of examples of what Jessica read. It's exactly what other editors and agents see. There's not really too much to say because this is a good book for writers.

The only downside is that it's very snarky. I'm get
Jo Case
Mar 15, 2013 Jo Case rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: how-to, writing, editing
I don't usually love 'how to' books on writing (or, indeed, anything). But this was an absolute treasure. I loved the author's voice - smart, dryly funny, and no bullshit. And her tips really seemed to make sense. Both practical and enjoyable to read.

I picked up this book when researching an editing course, but it ended up being teaching material of another sort - it really helped me in the process of revising (and plotting) my first book.

I am a member of a cracking writers' group, with two ver
Jul 28, 2015 Elena rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
If I were on a desert island and could take one writing book with me, I would take Artist's Way. If I could take two, this is the next one I would grab.

I know I read an obsessive amount of books about writing books so my view of this may be skewed, but this one is actually a page turner. I couldn't put it down. I laughed out loud, and filled my copy with post its of all the things I wanted to do to make my novel better on first read through.

Unlike some others on this list, this book didn't shape
Nov 21, 2009 Kori rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Really good craft books are hard to come by - the authors either sound self gratifying or technical in a way that makes good information not fully accessible to readers. Jessica Page Morrell is one of the best - I've learned as much from her books as favorites of the craft canon like John Dufresne and John Gardner, especially from this new one. She is knowledge, unpretentious, and knows how to making the teaching of craft both fascinating and fun for writers. Perfect for people who are trying to ...more
Doug Farren
May 25, 2015 Doug Farren rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
It doesn't matter if you are an aspiring writer or one with several published stories--this is a great book. Written by a writer/editor from an editor's perspective, the book is packed with no-nonsense helpful hints regarding all aspects of writing. Don't just read this book - study it. If you're short on funds and can't decide what book to buy to help you write better, this is the one you should purchase.
Apr 05, 2010 Steven rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: writers, teachers
I would rank this as one of the best books for writers on how to prep your writing and work for publication. It's got a great sense of humor in its very succinct directions. I'd recommend this book highly to any writer, professional (for reminders and refreshers) and amateur (for great advice given openly and clearly) alike.

This one's going on my top 5 books to point writers at along with Stephen King's On Writing.
Sep 03, 2014 Tracy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As far as the different craft and writing books I've read to date, this is definitely one of the best. For a beginning writer it's chock full of good advice. For those who've been around for a while, some of the info is stuff we've already heard, but there's a fresh perspective from an editor angle that's helped me pick up on some mistakes I've been making with my own writing.

Definitely worth the read!
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