Your Book Is A Cliche Of A Cliche Of A Cliche

In the future, the US or the world is ruled by fascist conservatives, leading to awful things (usually including loss of freedom of speech).

This from a list of scifi plot cliches describes my last book, although the situation in that book is a little more like China. You can talk about whatever you want in person, you just can’t go on TV or publish opinions that contradict the state. A real place is a cliche, and it’s also the basic plot for 1984. Here’s another one:

In the future, all learning is soulless and electronic, until kid is exposed to ancient wisdom in the form of a book.

That’s Brave New World, more or less, isn’t it? Just throw in some Bokanovskyfication and you’re golden.

Like a bunch of people on this reddit thread have said, most of these plots are lame, but some are interesting ideas that could be done well with the right execution. The D&D one, for instance—

A group of real-world humans who like roleplaying find themselves transported to D&D world.

—could be the plot for a decent movie or TV show, and would have been better than the plot for the so-bad-it’s-good D&D movie. Some plots, like the one about revenge, have been used to great effect by Shakespeare, another about the ignorant guy getting punished on another planet was a lame Wesley Crusher TNG episode (“You Broke A Window, Now You Must Die”). Then again, the space-travel-will-solve-everything cliche is the basic idea for Star Trek: First Contact, generally regarded as a decent scifi movie.

I guess I can see how these editors must be so sick and tired of this stuff, but at the same time, I’m like, the bad writers (not me and definitely not you /s) aren’t going to bother reading this list, while the good writers are going to potentially use some of these plots to make awesome stories. Number one on the fantasy list of plot cliches is the basic plot of Star Wars. On top of this list you have guys like Borges (or maybe Hemingway…?) who say there’s basically only two plots in fiction writing: a new person comes to town or a guy gets sacrificed for some reason. Then Nabokov disdains plots entirely, will start a book by telling you how it ends, and then spend the rest of the book describing images.

Struggling now for the last two or three years to get a book traditionally published (I’ve been writing for about fifteen years) has made me suspect that creating a good book or a good story is among the hardest things a person can accomplish, and that if you can even make a mediocre book or movie that few people notice or care about you’ve still done something fairly remarkable.

I’ve submitted my last book to about thirty agents in the last month and so far received four form-letter rejections. This is the third book I’ve tried to publish traditionally. The first got some interest and partial- and full-manuscript requests from several agents—one made me print out fifty pages and send it to him from Korea (cost: $50), only to reject me—the second I submitted to a hundred agents with one or two expressing interest, and the third I’m submitting now while I continue to write the fourth.

With the first book I was hopeful, with the second I was so full of despair I couldn’t look at an agent’s picture without imagining that person reading the first letter of my query letter and trashing it—even though my emails probably weren’t getting past the unpaid interns. With my third, I’m thinking, almost certainly correctly, that 95% of the agents are unable to see the incredible brilliance of my talent, which is so obvious to me, but strangely invisible to most other people (/s).

Now and then I run into an agent who sounds totally awesome, and I’m just like, please don’t ignore me, please don’t send me a form rejection letter when I can’t possibly see how my work fails to conform to your desires. I really worked hard to spell your name and your agency’s name correctly, in addition to crafting an awesome story where everything is spelt correctly, are you really going to sling me without comment into the same slush pile as authors who can’t spell your name right? Four of them were like, yep.

One agent, after stringing me along for months—mostly my fault, I begged / guilt-tripped her to keep reading my work, and she accepted—said she liked one of my books but wasn’t in love with it, and so rejected it. I submitted my third book to her again and expect a form rejection this time.

My current plan, for escaping Korea, goes like this: write book, get it traditionally published, find a writer-teacher job (preferably teaching under-privileged kids somewhere on the West Coast), escape. The trouble is that getting a book published traditionally is far, far, far more difficult than most people—including myself—could ever imagine.