Saturday, February 14, 2009

10 Reasons You're Not Published - Yet

Writing your guts out? Submitting your work so often the post office is threatening to boycott your house? Still not published?
Maybe you're caught up on a "Wait-a-minute tree".
A Wait-a-minute tree grows in the middle of the path you are walking, and when you try to pass by, its long branches and thorns reach out, grab you and say, "Wait a minute!"
You're tangled, and the more you struggle the more tangled you become.

Time for a chain saw.

Here are 10 things you can do to chop down the wait-a-minute tree standing in the middle of your path.

10) You are writing too much. I've read the work of would-be writers that, while technically well written was bogged down in useless wordiness. I once read a page and a half of a ms and all that happened was a guy came inside a house. Seriously. A page and a half lovingly dedicated to a man coming inside a house. When I asked the writer why all the words, the author replied, "I want to show who the characters are, give them depth." Uh, okay - why don't you do that when something exciting is going on?

9) You are writing fluff. Try this sentence on for size: "The sun illuminated the ancient dust as it curled and danced through the early spring air." What's wrong with this sentence? It paints a word picture, right? Aren't we supposed to paint word pictures? Yep, but this is an example of a writer padding his work. Showing off for the crowds, as it were. This sentence could (and should) be about four words long. You tell me what four word they should be.

8) You don't pace yourself. Novels are about pacing. Too many writers think they have 100,000 words to play with, so why not take it nice and slow. (see the above two points). Balderdash! You need to start thinking, "I ONLY have 100,000 words (or less) to make this manuscript hum. Get things moving in the story and keep them moving. I've seen good stories way-laid by lousy pacing. Also, be real - if you can't fill a book, perhaps your ms would work better as an article or short story.

7) You are following all the rules. Want to write the best book you can? Then for heaven sakes, break a rule or two! We have created a generation of overly-informed writers who slavishly work to follow every rule of writing imaginable. It's far better to loosen up, and be yourself. Have some fun with your text - stomp around, get messy, make "mistakes". Following rules will get you an "okay" ms. Following your heart will get you published.

6) You are making excuses for why you "can't" write today. Don't write everyday? Then you're not ready to be published. 'Nuff said.

5) You are writing for "everyone". There is no such audience as "everyone". While we all would love to believe our fiction has universal appeal, it doesn't. And if you sit down with an editor or agent and tell them your work really, really will appeal to everyone - you won't get published. Figure out - as specifically as possible, who you are writing for. Then write for that person.

4) You think your idea is one-of-a-kind. Read books that are similar to yours. Whatever your topic, it's been written about before. It makes sense to read how others have treated the topic and then look for ways your perspective is UNIQUE. This is an important step for every writer - and if you think you're the exception - you aren't.

3) You don't know how to do research. Anyone can spend a day or a week in the library - but how do you know for certain you've researched the right resources, interpreted the data correctly, and used the resources to their full potential? Simple. By knowing how to conduct research. My best advice for learning is to audit a local university or college course in library research. You'll spend a semester learning how to conduct research (and how not to waste hours of time reading books and information that won't help you one bit.)

2) You are writing with a voice that's not your own. Okay, I'm teaching a workshop on Voice at Write!Canada this June - so it may seem self-serving, but the truth is editors and agents giggle happily over fresh, strong literary voices. You need to know what Voice is (and what it isn't) and how to develop your unique voice (hint: it doesn't happen o
vernight, and it only happens on purpose. Also - see point # 7)

And the NUMBER ONE reason you aren't published YET: You are following the crowd. Celebrate your "you-ness". Embrace what is strange, unique, quirky, interesting and funky about yourself. Take time to learn how you work, what you care about, and then get down with your bad self! Have some fun. Love yourself. Be confident. Be strong. Take the path UN-taken. Take risks. Grab your chainsaw and cut down the Wait-a-minute tree. Be brave.

I bid you good writing.

1 comment:

L. Diane Wolfe said...

You're right! There's no new ideas under the sun and no one book appeals to everyone.

The Bible is the best selling book of all time, but even it doesn't appeal to everyone!

L. Diane Wolfe