Last post we talked about some common yet avoidable mistakes new writers/authors make. But wait! There are plenty of other pitfalls many succumb to in this writing life.
Writing Tip for Today: Writers make mistakes at every level of writing–failing is a good way to learn. But once that manuscript is completed, here are 3 ways in which failure won’t help you:
Rushing to Market.
I have been guilty of the urge to trot out my manuscript too soon. If you’ve completed your second or third draft, be careful. Even if you feel there’s no way to improve your story, let it sit a bit longer before you rush into agent shopping and other submission strategies. By hurrying to find that agent, impress that editor or otherwise trying to put your book out there too soon, remember that you never get a second chance for first impressions. As you revise, your first novel is especially prone to needing more than a simple copy edit. Chances are, your story is flawed in some way, even after you’ve made sure there are no typos. Get some first readers–ideally a combination of writers and regular readers–to read your manuscript straight through. Ask them for feedback on places where the story stalls, where there is confusion or boredom. Ask also where the story is gripping, emotional or really “working.” This type of feedback is worth its weight even if the readers are not pros. Do steer clear of using spouses or your mom as readers–these are hopelessly biased and can’t give objective feedback.
The NeverDone Syndrome.
As mistake-prone as rushing to get your novel shopped can be, it’s equally dangerous to fall onto the “NeverDone” trap. Working on revisions endlessly without ever submitting to agents, editors or contests is usually a sign that the writer has a fear of failure he or she needs to face. We all get rejected. This does not necessarily mean the rejection is about you personally. Bringing the same chapters to critique group for years on end but never getting beyond revision is a mistake in my opinion. How will you ever make progress if you refuse to try submitting? Even if you can’t seem to force yourself to submit, at least start writing something new. Creativity is funny that way. You will be more likely to gain needed objectivity if you become distracted by a new project. I also recommend entering contests (legit ones!) as a first step. In many you get actual feedback from judges, which will help you find areas which need improving.
Sleeping with Warthogs.
Related to the first two mistakes, Sleeping with Warthogs means you jump (and sign) with any agent, any publisher, anyone who takes so much as a passing interest in your work. In this time of shifting publishing practices, the caveats are even more abundant than ever. If you are offered a contract by a company doing mostly e-publishing, read over the terms very carefully. You may be able to self-publish and get a better royalty rate. If the company touts their marketing or distribution as the benefit, seek out testimonials of others who’ve experienced the company’s real policies. If you find an agent listing for a newer agent, you should be able to ask and learn what books the agent has sold in the past 12 months. Is this person a member in good standing of an organization such as AAR (Association of Author Representatives)? How many clients does agent represent? Do you recognize any names?
These are mistakes newer writers often make but you don’t have to be one of them! Proceed with caution, and ask published authors what they think before you sign.