I just read a lovely piece in the L.A. Times by writer and book reviewer Héctor Tobar. If you have doubts about whether you’re a good (or good enough) writer, read his article: In defense of ‘bad’ writers.
How many times should you send out a manuscript—and get rejected—before you put that one on the shelf? And if you deem one manuscript a failure, should you push forward to write another?
There is no pat response because no one can answer these questions but you.
The more accurate questions, perhaps, are these:
- How many times can you withstand rejection without losing the faith to carry on?
- How burning is your passion to write and share it with the world?
- How open are you to getting qualified feedback on your manuscript?
- How many times are you willing to rewrite until you get it right?
I wish I had those wonderful stats and stories to pull from a hat: X sent out Y manuscript Z number of times before it finally was accepted and published. I know those stories, but I just can’t remember the names of the writers they’re about. You know the ones: some fifty rejections before going on to finally be accepted and become a bestselling classic. (If you know any of those stories please share some with us!)
Succeeding as a writer does not necessarily mean succeeding easily and gracefully. Not everyone gets to sail effortlessly across the finish line. Some will limp across that frontier (from unpublished to published and paid) with plenty of bruises and scrapes from a harrowing journey.
But those who persevere have a chance of getting there. And those who are willing to rewrite—as many times as it takes—have an even better chance.
The face of publishing is changing, but what is it changing to? And what does it mean for writers and their readers? My colleague Beth Lieberman takes a closer look in her new article, just up on our L.A. Editors and Writers web site: Publishing Convergence: What It Is and What It Means for Us All.
If you have a question about writing, and you think the answer might benefit others as well, please send me an email at Nomi.theWriteCoach(at)gmail.com, and I’ll set to work on a blog post that answers your question. (It’ll be kind of like you’re giving me a writing prompt and benefiting from what I come up with!) If I don’t know the answer, I’ll do my best to find you some resources where you can find the answer.
Then, keep your eyes open for my response (in the form of a blog entry)!
It gives me great joy to share what I’ve learned about the craft of writing over my 20 + years as a book editor, writer, and writing coach.
I look forward to hearing from you.
I’m all ears.
My mom, Hindi Brooks, who was an amazing, prolific writer, was the first person I knew who had a personal computer. I’m talking early in the days of home computers. This thing was as big as an old TV (how appropriate that she was writing for television). It was such a dinosaur she had to insert the brain before she could start writing. (I’m serious.) She put the computer’s brain—an eight-inch floppy—into the A drive and locked it in, and then she put whatever she was working on—another eight-inch floppy—into the B drive. When everything was securely in place, she could go get a cup of coffee while the beast took forever to boot up.
Consider yourself lucky that you have such fast, efficient machines working for you. And they’re getting faster and more efficient every day. It probably won’t be long before you can simply have a thought and the machines take care of the rest. Oh, I have to email my agent. And poof! the email is sent—thanks to our trillion GHz natural language, wireless brain port.
Technology helps a busy writer take care of business more quickly and efficiently. Maybe it even helps you write more quickly and efficiently. But does it make you a better writer? According to my mom—who got to make the jump from typewriter to electric typewriter to computer to modern-day computer, and saw other writers do the same—the answer was this: Computers make good writers better . . . and bad writers worse. Those who have a tendency to send their writing out before it’s cooked now can send it out completely raw. Those who tend to over-edit can now edit the poor text to death, changing things back and forth so many times the magic is simply edited out.
The moral here? If you want to create good writing, really good writing, you can’t skip over the stages of the process that writers have always had to do:
- put aside
- read fresh and rewrite (but don’t over-rewrite)
- get feedback from a qualified individual (editor/coach/etc.) . . . and rewrite again (as many times as necessary . . . but don’t over-rewrite)
- don’t forget to spellcheck
- know your audience, know your market
- do research as necessary to know your audience and market
In essence: Don’t be so dazzled by the shiny prize of being able to publish your work online in two seconds that you skip over the necessary stages of creating good work. If you take it slow, you may even get a surprise benefit: you’ll enjoy the process.
I’ve finally finished the manuscript I’ve been working on and handed it in to our editor at Random House (ah, that’s why there haven’t been any posts in a while). It’s a book on which I’m the collaborative writer. It has been an amazing project! More on that as it nears publication (spring 2014).
Now that I finally have a breather, I’ve decided to spruce up my site. Made changes here and there, including the addition of a page of writing samples. I’ve started with just one sample, a personal essay I wrote a few years ago and read aloud at the Tasty Words essay show in Santa Monica.
I’ll add more samples soon, when I figure out what I’m allowed to post (copyright issues, etc.); I do a lot of writing for other people.
To see the new page, click here.
I am deeply inspired by the stories brought forth in my Write Your Life class and feel honored to serve as witness.
When you sit down to write (and to share your writing) in the company of others, you are giving yourself a profound gift. Your stories no longer live locked inside you, but are witnessed and held by a group, by a community.
Write Your Life is a wonderfully supportive environment in which to share your stories. It is my hope that you give yourself the gift of joining us.
To read more or to register, click here.
Check out this terrific article by my colleague Lynette Padwa. She helps you get started on coming up with just the right title to pitch and sell your book to an agent and publisher.
Here’s a fun(ny) infographic showing how a manuscript goes from idea to actual hold-in-your-hands book. (Not included in this graphic is a book that’s independently [self-] published.)
Click here to see infographic.
Finishing a first draft is very exciting. Finishing a second (or third or fourth) draft is even more exciting. Let’s face it, finishing is exciting. But does a completed manuscript mean you’re ready to publish? According to Penny Sansevieri, in her Huff Post article, there’s a lot more you’ve got to do before your manuscript is ready to become a book. See what she has to say in 7 Signs That You’re Not Ready to Publish.