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Putting Your Best Foot Forward

6

June 9, 2010 by Renee

The other day I mentioned the new project we’re working on in OFW. You never heard? Well, Thimble Tales will be the second free ebook anthology from the talented authors within Goodreads’ On Fiction Writing group. Thimble tales will be a collection of flash fiction; no limits, any genre, and only one caveat. They must be amoral and controversial. They need to make a statement, much like literature, although any genre will do. (Oh yes, I did call literature a genre.)
We’ve spent a week bogged down in the shit heap that is explaining these two terms as they related to these stories. Get a dictionary people! Better yet, go to the ‘Literature’ section of your friendly neighbourhood library and read. Then it should become very clear.

Sorry, sometimes the rant escapes whether I want it to or not. Back on topic; the submissions are coming in fast and furious. Some are brilliant, others…meh. We have some great talent in our little group, but there is one issue that I’ve noticed and to be honest, I’m surprised and a little disappointed by it.

I have to say that I totally get the agent/publisher reluctance to look at new/unsolicited work. If what I’ve seen over the past ten days is anything to go by, editing and polishing are apparently a national secret, only done by the select few who have been given the secret code that enables them to unlock, decode, and read guidelines. What? I’m not being mean. This is fact. Now, the humble moderators (or Their Eminences as we prefer to be called) at OFW are not publishers, nor do we ever want to be or will we ever claim to be. We allow stories to be submitted and resubmitted several times and occasionally a couple that are less than polished get through to the semi final round of this project.

Now, go read the guidelines of any publisher, magazine or literary agency and tell me how many times they are willing to look at a manuscript. Go, I’ll wait…what’s that? Once? Really? Interesting.

Okay, here’s my point. You know I can’t resist the preamble, it’s how I roll.

Why would a writer ever submit anything but the best possible version of their work? If you have typos, grammatical issues, shitty dialogue or errors of any kind, then the work is not polished. You want to be seen as a professional and you want people to believe you’re serious about your writing. Well, this type of submission screams ‘amateur’ and ‘lazy’. Polish it, send it to someone to critique, polish again and again. Make sure that every line and every word is as good as it can be. Then, dear writer, it is ready for a publisher’s eyes.

Why would a writer presume that an hour or two is enough time spent on anything worth publishing? Whether you are writing 100 words or 1000, an hour is not going to be enough time to write the story properly. I write fast, and I do mean fast. I’ve written 10,000 words in a six hour period before. BUT I also edited those words and cut about half. Why? It was crap. Simple. Many of us can write a story in an hour and I do that often. But the editing and rewriting takes time. A writer measures every sentence, every word, and agonizes over them to make sure that the piece says what they want it to say. A writer does not whip out their 700-odd words, read it once and say “Good enough.” I can guarantee it is not good enough.

Why would a writer be offended if a ‘publisher’ said no thanks and nothing more? We are not publishers, but we are professionals. I am receiving at least five submissions a day, (and I know that publishers/agents receive 500 or more, so my five is pretty pathetic and gives you an idea of how much they really do in a day) and in between those submissions I’m receiving countless emails from ‘miffed’ writers who don’t understand why I said no thanks to their story. On top of that, I have my own writing, my day job and my home stuff to take care of. The other day I spent four hours wading through submissions, whiny emails, and answering the best that I could. On top of that, I sent definitions and clarifications for people confused about the project’s guidelines, edited my own work and tried to keep the boat afloat. And I’m not alone. I have five other moderators helping me. Oh publishers/agents, I am so sorry I ever thought you to be snobby and bitchy tyrants. I take it all back and grovel at your collective feet for forgiveness. (And I really hate feet. This is how sorry I am.)

Why would a writer demand to know why they were rejected? There’s a little thing called dignity. Every writer should check it out. Maybe take some home with them. Dignity. Perhaps move to the next aisle and take a look at maturity too. That helps. In the ‘real’ world, you don’t get the opportunity for feedback on submissions. In the real world a writer is lucky if a publisher/agent sends them a little note saying, ‘This isn’t right for us because…’ and they certainly will never get line edits or critiques.

Yes publishers/agents, I’m still grovelling. Sooo sorry.

Writers, it is to your benefit that you put your best foot forward, as in the best work you can possibly churn out. Don’t send subpar material out to anyone for publication, no matter what the circumstances are. That person/group might just publish your work, and later, when you learn more and become a better, more professional writer, that work will come back to haunt you. I speak from experience. There will come a time when ‘good enough’ will not be enough, and you will demand perfection from yourself and having work out there that is not and was never the best of your ability will be embarrassing.

So you want to be a writer? You want to be published? Work for it.

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6 thoughts on “Putting Your Best Foot Forward

  1. Katrina says:

    Well said, Renee. When I started writing, I couldn't understand I was being rejected ALL the time. Then, I joined OFW. Man oh man did you guys put me in my place FAST. The first paragraph I ever had you guys help me look at was torn apart and put back together again. The great part was, I learned from it. I've only been a part of the group since December, but I feel like I've learned years worth from everyone.But back to your point, the biggest, most important thing I learned, was polish, polish, rewrite, cut, polish more, get help, reedit… gatos… Its the best advice anyone who is serious about their craft can get. Work your ass off, otherwise, its not worth it.*cough* which is the reason why you've only received one submission from me so far. I'm working on it, though. I'll bug you soon enough.

  2. Renee Miller says:

    As I said, I'd rather see one piece that blows me away than four that make my eyes cross.I had the same experience joining OFW, and I'm so glad that I did. I've learned so much thanks to the wisdom other members have passed along. I look forward to your next submission. I'm sure it will be awesome.

  3. I hope you have many, many, better days ahead. Personally, you have helped me tremendously. I know that's not much help. But thank you anyway.It takes a lot of patience and a ton of generosity to do what you do. I have noticed, and I'm sure others too, that you are opening the majority of the threads. To me, that says a lot. People trust you.If some of those people are emailing you with nasties, well, I say poopoo to them.Good post. You've definitely given me an added edge of respect for the agents out there and to you.

  4. tsue says:

    Following from Twitter Hop Thursday. Already following on twitter so am now following on GFC as well.http://tsue-thatswhatshesaid.blogspot.com@tsue1136

  5. Sounds like an edgy anthology.Having edited two different newsletters, I know full well what you're probably seeing.Drink heavily. It's the only thing that helps you forget.

  6. Renee Miller says:

    It's edgy, but we're hoping to approach it tastefully. Who knew that was such an obscure word? Drink heavily. Very sound advice. I'll try that. 😉

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Renee

Renee

I like to write stuff. Sometimes it's funny. I've published some novels and short fiction. I also battle an addiction to cake and potato chips, and I sometimes have inappropriate fantasies involving Kevin Spacey.

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