Tag Archives: Writing Submissions

Chameleon Submissions

The number one thing an emerging writer needs to do is finish the book before they could even think about putting it out for sale. And when I mean finish, I mean the book needs to be the best it can be. Definitely NOT first draft, but all the plot holes worked out, characters real, breathing and transformed at the end, conflict apparent and resolved, and a satisfying conclusion. After that, the book needs to be edited and proofread (edited means all those items I just mentioned worked out, whereas proofread means no grammatical, spelling, or formatting errors). Then and only than can you think about submitting it to an agent or an editor for publication. Sounds logical, right? But there are some authors out there that take that concept and think in the inverse. And that, my dears, is never going to get you what you want.

There are some new writers that troll such sites as Manuscript Wish List or MSWL to see what agents or editors are looking for. Or toss an idea out there to Twitter pitch parties like #PitMad without even having started the manuscript. Often when writers do this they’re testing the waters, looking to see what agents and/or editors are looking for, then writing a book to those specifications. Bad idea! Because then you’re not writing in a genre or sub-genre you’re adept at and interested in –you’re writing to the market. And when you’re good at writing gritty adult detective fiction and write  dystopian middle-grade instead well…you just may come out with the literary equivalent of finger painting–a hopelessly amateur attempt.

Now, I’m not saying a writer can’t change genres. Some authors write in several. But writing a different genre to branch out and expand your skills and scope is quite different than simply writing to what you hope will sell.  You’re not looking at writing as a craft to be honed and polished. You’re looking at the book you produce as product.  Reminds me of an author talk I was at once where they referred to their novels as units. Writing like that is only going to make you one thing — mediocre.

Look, we all want to sell, be a New York Times bestseller reaping accolades and royalties we need a Brinks truck to drive home from the bank. But writing to market is not the way to do it. You do it by writing the best book you can. If you do, the accolades–and the royalty checks–will have to run to catch up with you.

Advertisements

I write, therefore I wait

giphyWriters write, is what I always say. And as a practitioner of the art, I not only completed one novel recently, but just last week I finished revising another one that had been cooling in my hard drive for a couple of years now.  I did this just after closing out what is commonly known in English academia as The Living Hell That Is the Final Essay End-of-Semester Clusterfuck. (Don’t get me wrong–I love my students. But there’s just something mind-scrambling about spending every living, breathing, waking moment with a red pen in my hand.) After that I thought I’d I’ll give my brain a few weeks to chill, maybe get ambitious for that mile-high to-be-read stack of books  on my end table, or scrape off that pile of unidentifiable goo bridging the gap between the leg of my desk and the wall. Or I can continue on with that new series I’ve been tossing around for awhile now. And I would, if I wasn’t fretting out those two literary babies I just sent out into the world while I molder here in Submission Limbo.

If you’ve submitted, whether query, proposal or full ms. to an editor or agent, then you know what I’m talking about. Because the result is you get to wait and wonder how it’ll ultimately turn out, while going half off your nut obsessing about it. From a query: will they ask for a proposal? From a proposal: will they ask for a full? And after they do, oh Christ, that’s when the real quivering commences, as your hopes get so high you start cruising the Tesla site and actually saying things like, “Hell yeah the Makers Mark’s on me!” And it doesn’t matter if you’ve sold before, and it doesn’t matter if you have an agent. Selling before only makes you feel worse, as an agent may get your foot in the door quicker, but it also makes it slam even faster. So what’s a writer to do?

Two things, actually: cultivate a nice, cushy mental block, and keep writing. Send something out, and then turn around and get to work on the next project. My agent and I have an agreement: she only contacts me if she has news. By news I mean, if it’s good. This approach doesn’t work for everyone, as I know several writers who prefer to track every submission. But the way I figure, if I wanted to do that, why would I need an agent? For me it’s better to focus on the big picture (read: the Tesla). Yet…

Look, there’s really no easy way around it. Waiting blows. But I’d never get any writing done if all I did was focus on what I’ve written and not on what I’ll write. So I’ll linger in Submission Limbo and bide my time  a little longer, as running with the big dogs will beat sitting on the porch any day.