Monday, October 14, 2013

Don't make my mistakes.

I made many errors my first year as a serious writer. From thinking my first few drafts of works were brilliant, to researching (or not) agents and publishing houses, to the purpose, correct format and content of a query letter, I messed up lots. But the good news is, I've learned much from those early goofball days.

I'd been a teacher, school counselor, business owner and stay home dad before I seriously tried to write for publication. And although I'd read children's books for years and had a pretty good understanding of what I liked in books, I didn't really know anything about the publishing industry. I had stories to tell, so I thought I would just go to a conference, learn a few things, write stuff, and get published. Hahaha - WRONG!


Why would I admit this, on a public blog, for everyone to see?  Well, so it could be on a public blog for everyone to see. There may be new writers who'll stumble on this post and I'd like to give them a few tips. I'll own up to my mistakes, as embarrassing as some of them may be, in order to help some young - or not so young - newer writer trying to break in. So, are you ready to fly?

Tip #1: Don't think your first draft of your manuscript is awesome. It's crap. Get readers for your manuscript and don't look at it again until you have read Anne Lamont's Bird By Bird and at least two other books which you think would be comparable to yours. After you've read those books and have feedback about your manuscript from credible and objective people, you can look at it again.

If you throw up a few times while reading back through it, or want to cry and gouge out your eyeballs, well, that's normal. (I hope it is.) It means you recognize some very terrible (and fixable) things in your work. But don't worry, you will make it better because you want your very best manuscript to get out in front of agents.

Try to re-read it as if you did not write it. I know, that's hard. But it might give you a fresh perspective on the manuscript's strengths and weaknesses. Hopefully, you'll see flaws each time you read it. Rewrite and re-submit to beta readers as often as necessary, and when you are somewhere close to done, consider getting a copyedit. But above all, take your time (as in be patient) and get it right!

Tip #2: Don't rush out your first draft of your query letter. It's crap. Take the time to learn the purpose of a query letter and how to write a good one. Don't waste your chances or busy agents' time by sending unclear or just plain weird query letters. Been there, done that and I hope the agents I queried in this manner forgot my name as quickly as they deleted my ridiculous query letters. And it's worth repeating, take your time and get it right!

Tip #3: Join twitter and become involved. Watch for contests, ask questions, and expect to learn something every day.

Tip #4: Above all, keep reading and writing.



Anonymous said...

I agree with all of the above and I applaud you for sharing your mistakes to help others.


Robert Polk said...

There's plenty more to learn! Thanks for commenting. -Rob

Unknown said...

I should have listened to my parents earlier when they said you learn from your mistakes. I had the tendency to make the same writing mistakes over and over again until I slapped myself in the face with a harsh realization. Thank god for people helping point out your mistakes and helping you move past them!

Robert Polk said...

Recognizing my mistakes as such is half the battle. Surrounding myself with knowledgeable writers keeps me moving forward. (btw...Let me know if you ever need a slap again.)