Don’t Submit Your Writing Yet—Please!

Whenever aspiring writers send me their “fantastic, soon-to-be-bestseller” to compliment, I cringe. They’ve put a ton of effort into their manuscripts. They’ve neglected their family and social lives—and maybe even their paying jobs—to imbue their narratives with all the talent and skill they can muster.

But when I read these works, I’m reminded of my own early, unschooled efforts. I expected immediate acclaim, but, my work wasn’t nearly ready. I didn’t believe that creative writing is a craft—like carpentry—that one must learn. Now I cringe at my own beginning efforts.

Nicola Morgan has a post titled, Failure to be Published; Harsh Reality. In it, Morgan, now a repeatedly published author of YA and children’s books, says of her decades of rejected writing:

“I thought I was better than I was. I didn’t know what mistakes I was making.” [Emphasis mine.]

And that’s the thought I hope aspiring writers will internalize.

I’ve tried hinting, coaxing, and cajoling the sincere new writers I meet online.

I’ve suggested they learn the ingredients and skills that make good writing, and have their work critiqued by experienced writers. I’ve urged them to hold off posting or mailing their work to agents, until it’s polished and powerful.

I’ve tried to discourage them from sending out query letters before they understand querying. (The same problems that appear in their manuscripts pop up in their query letters.) And to know what publishers and readers want.

So, for your own peace of mind, let your work be seen by professionals and the public only if:

  • Your spelling and grammar are impeccable. (Spell check has its limitations.)
  • You know where the punctuation goes with a quotation mark, and understand the purpose of commas
  • You know what a paragraph is, so your words and sentences don’t run on and on
  • Your writing is free of clichés
  • Your word usage is correct, because you keep a dictionary near, as you write
  • You use words that precisely express your meaning, because you frequently consult a Thesaurus
  • Your characters are complex
  • You’re sure of the purpose and construction of scenes
  • “Show, don’t tell” is clear to you
  • Your story’s got an irresistible hook
  • Your story contains nicely unpredictable elements
  • You’ve had the final draft fully proofed by someone with strong proofreading skills
  • People who are unrelated to you enjoy reading what you’ve written
  • People who read something you’ve written ask to see more of your work

Read articles and posts by successful writers that explain how to write well. Take writing classes; join a critique group of good writers. Hire a writing coach or an editor. Keep practicing. Keep getting better.

If you found this post helpful, you might also like Calm Down! It’s Just a Draft. If you’re ready for even more “tough love” for writers, see Why Did You Resign?, by Mike Cane.

Need help improving your drafts? Get in touch with me; I’ll help you out. I’m experienced and easy to work with. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the Testimonials tab on this website, then get in touch.

Are You Cut Out to be a Writer?

I want to share another excerpt from my book, Polish and Publish. It’s about whether or not you have the temperament—and interests—to be a writer.

How many times have you heard someone say, “I’ve always wanted to write?” Maybe you’ve said it yourself. An estimated 80 million Americans want to write a book. But how many actually write anything, let alone a book?

Creative writers must believe in themselves and their dreams. They must be persistent and able to accept rejection and send their work on to the next publisher on their list.

They have to be observant—notice what’s said and happening around them, and be interested in how and why thing happen as they do.

Creative writers have a need to express their ideas and personal point of view. They love words and appreciate the power of language.

They are able to envision an appropriate audience and write for it.

And they develop their writing skills.

Many people believe that since nearly everyone has written a variety of things in their lives, it’s easy to write. It might be, but it isn’t easy to write well, unless you are armed with the right tools and approach.