Wednesday, July 20, 2011

If You Want To Be A Better Writer, Take The Time To Learn

There is simply no rush to be published. This is not a race of the fastest, but a race of the most educated and the most successful. In other words, don't rush it.

Since opening the agency in 2003, I have seen each year an increased number of writers making, what I would call, stupid mistakes when it comes to their manuscripts and their submissions. In each of these cases, these are authors and projects that might have had some success in the future IF the author had taken the time to learn the craft and the business. It is always interesting that with many of these authors, if I do pass on the project, I frequently get an email back that says this was their first project and they were really still learning. Although I am sometimes tempted to respond to this, I don't. But the only thought that runs through my head is, "Then why did you send it out when you were still learning."

Writers are not born over-night. Being successful takes time to learn the craft, to learn what works and doesn't work for you, to fine-tune your skills, and most importantly, to understand the inner-workings of the business. Rushing into publishing by sending out projects that aren't ready, or pitching when you don't know what you are doing will only lead to rejections and frustration. The joy you felt as a writer is simply ripped from you and all for some things that could have been over-come if you took the time to "understand."

I have told writers at conferences that I would much prefer to have someone decide not to pitch to an editor or agent because they "weren't ready." Again, this is not because their story wasn't finished, but simply because, as a writer, they weren't ready to take the next step.

As you look at those proposals you are getting ready to send out to those editors and agents, I want you to ask yourself if you really have learned enough. Sure, there will be things you can learn along the way after you get going, but have you learned enough to make the next leap in this business? If you say no, then put those proposals away, pull out a new project, and keep learning.



  1. I love this! Thank you for this today, nicely said.

  2. We can't be too harsh on writers submitting their first projects, because they don't know how bad they are. I was in this position five years ago and I can only say that I didn't know what I didn't know. You are blind to your own weaknesses.

    It's only recently that I can see how much I needed to learn back then - even though I was seriously trying at the time. If I didn't go through the pain of submitting a sub-standard project, I might not have pushed myself to study the craft and business. I'll always be learning, but I've come a long way since then.

  3. Your words hit close to home. I've just finished my first manuscript and was tempted to start the query process after two edits. I've resisted that urge. I know it's not even close to being ready and I'll be going over it several more times before I pitch it to anyone.

    I really enjoy your blog. Thanks!

  4. One of the best lessons writers can learn is to write it, edit it until you think it's great, then put it away. Leave it alone for a couple of months, then look again. You'll be amazed how much you can improve your work after a significant break. It's hard not to want to rush to publication, but this period of lying fallow really works. Even if you're on deadline, setting your story aside for a few hours or overnight will help.

  5. How true this is! I was so sure I was ready and even met an agent that requested I query her. I entered the Brenda Novak Auction (hope the name is right) and won several critiques. I learned I have some work to do honing my craft further. I've definitely made strides, but there are elements that need further work.

    The authors actually confirmed some things I suspected. I'm so glad I learned this before querying, getting rejected and being totally clueless about why! This is a great post. Thanks!