When you’re at a writers’ conference, one of the best ways to learn what editors or literary agents want is to attend open forum-type sessions where they answer questions. We had a few opportunities at the Philadelphia Conference to sit in on panel discussions with literary agents, magazine editors, and book editors.
During one of the sessions, book editors were asked to share their greatest struggle in working with writers. Here’s a sampling of responses from the 10 editors present:
- Working with unteachable writers. Every writer should always be willing to take constructive comments and learn how to become better.
- Not being clear on communication. Don’t read too much into emails – approach the other person directly if you think there might be misunderstandings.
- Finding the 40-45,000 word book desperately struggling to get out of an 80,000 word manuscript.
- Ministering to a writer with a fragile ego. Criticism is meant to make you better at what you’re doing, but editors have to share comments delicately.
- Receiving material from an author who isn’t as prepared as he or she should be. Really check your research and other information for factual errors before submitting to an editor.
- Receiving a book proposal that says the project is aimed for “everybody.” Take the time to shift from writer to reader to know who the manuscript is really for.
- Intellectual and spiritual arrogance – a writer who doesn’t allow for teachability or improvement. Recognize that you aren’t perfect … yet. 🙂
- Being a dream slayer. An editor so wants you to be good – be the best you can before submitting.
- Not following submission guidelines. The material might be good, but the editor will pass on it because it doesn’t fit their guidelines.
- Seeing authors who want to be published so desperately that they follow the bandwagon instead of their passion.
- Dealing with the “new mommy” mentality. Becoming published and spreading the word about a book is a lot more work than some authors expect. Some authors just want to see their name on the cover and aren’t committed for the long haul, so their “baby” never makes it past the crib.
So, what do you writers/authors think about these? Do any of the comments surprise you? Learning new things every day …
It’s been way too long since I blogged, but it’s not because I haven’t had anything going on to write about. It’s because I’ve had so much going on that I haven’t had time to stop and write about it! Here’s the quick rundown, and I’ll aim to get back on track wtih regular posts.
Contests: I entered my work-in-progress in three contests this spring — which was a big step up from only entering one, like I’ve done the past few years. The two new ones were sponsored by RWA chapters, which means they had some different criteria and were more focused on the romance beginning right up front. You meet my hero and heroine in the first chapter, but they don’t meet each other until a bit later on. That cost me some points, so is a good thing to remember the next time I’m looking at romance contests. I did get some great feedback and some of the judges were especially complimentary, so I can’t complain.
Conferences: I went to the Blue Ridge Mountains Christian Writers Conference in May and had a fabulous time. Took great classes, made new writer friends, and enjoyed the beautiful Smokey Mountains. What more could I ask? The classes I took were all good, but my favorite had to be a 4-part continuing class with Angela Hunt called “The Sophisticated Novelist.” Not sure how sophisticated I am, but I sure learned a lot!
Catch-ups: When I went to Blue Ridge, my manuscript was just over 31,000 words. The exercises we did through various classes helped me rethink some things and have some new ideas for where things could go for different characters. I really want to keep moving with the story and watch that word count grow, but I decided to start from the beginning and rehash some things instead. Changing bits and pieces affects everything else! And it can be hard to whack some of those words I worked so hard to string together, but I think the story will be much better for it.
Stay tuned …
- Editing is an art, whether you’re writing a document for work, a letter to a friend, or the Great American Novel. Editing is also hard work — and is something everyone needs to learn as a writer. It’s easy to write an article or scene and think it’s finished because of all the blood and sweat drenching your shirt and keyboard. But guess what? You’re not done yet! The real perfection, the true beauty, comes later when you’ve let those initial words settle in a bit, when you’ve mulled things over in your mind a while longer, when you’ve finally thought of a word that’s even more descriptive and perfect than the one you fought for in the first place. Editing will also usually help us whittle things down to the most effective, important words — and that’s no easy task. But it’s so worth it in the end! With that in mind, here’s a writing quote for the week … about editing:
I have made this [letter] longer, because I have not had the time to make it shorter. (Blaise Pascal, French mathematician and physicist; 1623-1662)
See? Even mathematicians and physicists know the importance of cutting words (and how much time it takes to get it right). May you have a great week of writing and successful editing to make your words even better!