Ten Commandments for Getting Published

August 27, 2014

Authors enjoy more publishing options today than ever. Still, the thinking that being royalty published is the ultimate goal remains for many authors. It is with that in mind that I write this post.

I. Thou Shalt Write. It’s amazing how many authors dream of being published but don’t find time to write. Begin with a writing goal in mind (could be time, pages, character sketches, or whatever), then commit to working on reaching the goal.

II. Thou Shalt Write Well. Like it or not, the English language has standards. Learn them, then apply them to your writing.

III. Thou Shalt Revise. Most things created by humans are not perfect. So it goes with writing. Revision means taking a critical look at the writing flow, the consistency of detail, the word choice, etc., and doing it sentence by sentence.

IV. Thou Shalt Understand the Publishing Business. Publishing is business, not dream fulfillment. As in any business venture, the axiom that one must spend money to make money holds. You may have to invest in yourself as a business by attending workshops, researching, etc. If you expect publishers to invest in your writing, why wouldn’t you do the same?

V. Thou Shalt Understand Submission Rules. If the agent or publisher’s submission guidelines say to submit only query letters, do not send sample chapters. If they say to also submit sample chapters, do not submit only a single-page query letter.

VI. Thou Shalt Take Rejection in Stride. One of my writing professors in college told me that rejections mean one thing–I’m working. How right she was. She taught me to create a list of possible markets, then send off my query to the first one on the list. If my offer (NOTE: I said offer, not me personally) was rejected, check off that name, say, “Next,” then send to the next name on the list. Repeat as necessary.

VII. Thou Shalt Learn Patience. Publishing can be a slow process. If you’ve submitted your offer, instead of waiting by the mailbox every day, get busy. I hope you get busy writing, but get busy doing something.

VIII. Thou Shalt Work Positively with Editors. Join a writers group if you want feedback while writing. Then, after you’ve finished your article or book, find an editor. Editors are there to help you improve your writing, so strive to work positively with that person. Granted, not all editors are good fits for all writers, but when you find one you can work with, you’ve struck writing gold.

IX. Thou Shalt Not Frustrate Publishers. When you’re selling something to someone, that person becomes your customer. Irritating customers is not good business. If your primary contact at your publisher is your editor, that person becomes your customer.

X. Thou Shalt Manage Expectations. Few things in life go exactly as expected. So it is with publishing. Learn to manage your expectations and reduce your frustrations.

Above all, remember that you cannot be published if you don’t write. Happy writing!

Improve Your Fiction by Rewriting

August 18, 2014

Most authors think the creating, not the rewriting, is rewarding. The question then becomes, “Rewarding to whom?” Creating may be more rewarding to the author, but it’s the rewriting that rewards the reader.

Decide which of these three rewriting options works best for you, then use it. You may try all three, but most authors typically settle on one as the most effective.

  1. Write the original draft as quickly as possible and don’t stop until you’re done. You may end up with a mess, but  you know who the characters are and what happens in your story.
  2. Write one scene or chapter at a time. Revise that part of your work until you’re happy with it, then move on.
  3. Rewrite constantly. When you choose this option, you write and rewrite at the same time. The piece is finished when you’re done.

When you rewrite, there are three things you want to watch out for.

  1. Plot. In a separate document, write down your plot summary, then ask these questions:
    • Do events occur logically?
    • Is what happens coherent?
    • Why is each event included?
    • Is anything missing from what happens?
    • Does anything happen that doesn’t add to the story?
    • Does everything that happens make sense to the reader?
  2. Character. In a separate document, write a description of each of your major characters, then ask these questions:
    • How does dialogue fit what’s going on with the characters?
    • Are your characters making appropriate gestures for their personalities?
    • How do memories impact the actions of each character?
    • Have you repeated descriptions of the characters (you only need a physical description once)?
    • Have you given your reader enough insight into your characters?
    • Do the events fit the characters participating in them?
  3. Details/language. Make sure you’re giving your reader enough details to help the reader create images to see what’s going on, then ask ask these questions:
    • Are your details vague or flabby, or do they offer enough detail to create mental images?
    • Is there a better word choice to show your reader what you see when you write the scene? Examples are: tossed versus threw, watched versus observed, smiled versus grinned, frowned versus scowled.
    • Do you include enough details? For example, you can describe something as fancy or frilly, or you can offer more detail and describe something as decorated with lace.

Rewriting is a lot of work, but you have options. See which one works for you. Happy writing!