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Self Destruction Quiz – Answer yes or no to the following questions.
- Have you set a goal for when you want to be published?
- Are you only showing your work to family or friends – or maybe just keeping it to yourself?
- Are you unsure about some aspects of punctuation, grammar, paragraphing?
- Do you assume when you don’t hear back from an industry professional that they just weren’t that into you?
- Have you been working on the same book for more than five years?
- Do you start a lot of projects and not finish them?
- Have you given up on a project because you got ten rejections?
- Do you rely on Spellcheck?
- Do you revise your manuscripts less than three times?
- Has it been more than five years since you took a class, read a book on craft or attended a conference?
- Are you tempted to self-publish?
- Do you revise every time you get feedback from industry professionals?
- Have you ever been asked to submit something else and not followed up?
- Do you work in many different genres?
- Do you submit to agents and editors en masse, without looking them up?
If you answered yes to even one of these, you are putting your success at risk.
- Like finding true love, getting your book published is an art, not a science. If you have a deadline and don’t make it, you feel bad about yourself. And very few of us realize how long it really takes to succeed, so put the calendar away and just concentrate on the next obstacle you need to overcome, not the ultimate goal.
- You need feedback from qualified readers – either a critique group where there are successful writers or from a paid critiquer or writing teacher. It gives you two things: good feedback to revise and you get used to criticism, which is what your whole career will be about.
- Do you think a surgeon has to learn the names of all those ‘pointy objects’ she uses? Do you think a lawyer should know the law? Your job is knowing all about writing. The little details are not beneath you, they are what industry professionals often use to separate amateurs from professionals.
- When you don’t hear back it could mean you landed in the spam filter. Or it could mean the agent or editor is really busy. Or they deleted you by mistake and are wishing you’d get in touch. If you’re going to make up stories about what happened, make up good stories. Most people I know who have succeeded always follow up and nudge those who are supposed to get back to them.
- There’s nothing wrong with that, but most writers learn from writing multiple books. Start something new and nine times out of ten, your writing will jump to another level. Keep revising the old book, but start new ones all the time.
- This is a no-brainer. No one will ever see your work if you don’t finish it. If you have to resort to Nanowrimo just to teach yourself that it’s doable, then do that. Write a bad novel, but learn to finish what you start.
- Ten is nothing. Forget the idea that ‘if I’m good enough, they’ll all want me’. It’s just not true. Agents and editors have individual tastes, asthetics and needs of the moment. The only way to find your prince is to kiss a lot of frogs. If however you get five or more rejections with the same criticism, stop and revise.
- Spellcheck doesn’t know there’s anything wrong with ‘Grin and bare it.” Or “I was at the peek of my career.’ Look up everything and have other pairs of eyes on your work. And here’s a freebie. Lightning doesn’t have an ‘e’ in it. Unless your character is lightening their hair.
- Like those monkeys with the typewriters who produce Shakespeare, it’s theoretically possible that you could ace it in three revisions, but I’ve never done it and neither has anyone else I know. Some of the deeper issues of structure can only be seen after you’ve cleaned up some of the other issues. Don’t count drafts, just revise until you’re stunning.
- Good writers keep learning their craft forever. I certainly had to. No one is ever really ‘there’ in terms of all the aspects of craft. My weakness was plotting and I continued to study plotting my whole career. Read books, take classes and don’t just go to conferences to meet agents and editors. It’s not who you know, it’s what you know.
- Well, of course you are! Then your suffering would be over. But the same would be true if you just quit. Self publishing is fine for some, but if you’d like to have the true achievement of making the grade in a truly competitive industry, you can’t get there from you being your own gatekeeper.
- Beware of the lure of ‘an agent told me’. Give your manuscript to three agents and you might get three completely different opinions. If you revise because anyone else tells you to and you don’t understand what you’re revising or why, you lose your way. Collect qualified opinions, look for consensus and find your own solutions.
- So you threw away an opportunity. Well, not really. You can go back to an agent or editor any time you want and say, ‘you really liked my novel but passed and asked to see another one’ They respect you if you waited till you had something else good enough. And even if you really just goofed off for a while, if you have a way to follow up, follow up. It just makes sense.
- Some writers are equally good at more than one kind of writing. But it’s usually the hallmark of an amateur to think your picture books are just as good as your adult thrillers. At some point in your career, you should experiment with everything, but at another point, down the road, you should start looking for what you do best and give the industry a sense of where you fit.
- Two reasons not to sub to everyone at once. One, you might want to tweak what you’re presenting after you get feedback. Two, agents and editors like to know you have a clue who they are. If you send your novel to an imprint that only publishes how-to books, you waste your time and look foolish. And a third reason is, if you don’t look people up, you could be jumping into the arms of a scammer. They look us up, we should look them up, too.
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