Thursday, January 24, 2013

You Have The Tools, But You Need To Use Them

There are a lot of times that I sit at my desk reading submissions, contest entries and critiques and simply shake my head. More often than I wish, I see projects that suffer from huge mistakes, errors and signs of authors simply not knowing what is going on. I do understand that it takes time to learn things in publishing, but these "errors" are issues that can easily be fixed. Authors have the tools at their fingertips to tackle these issues.

Before I go any further though, let me say that I am using the word error because it is the first word that popped into my head at the time of writing this. I do not want to give the impression that there is only one way to do things. I do believe, once you see some of the things I talk about below, you will see where I am going to.

Let's start with the basics - BASIC WRITING CONVENTIONS. Look, I am not saying that everyone out there needs to be a grammar guru and know what to do with their dangling participles, but when we see submissions with some of the most basic errors screaming at us, it shows us two things. First, that the writer does need to take some time to learn those basics; but more importantly, the author is not taking the time and energy to fix the problems. The solutions?
  • Use that Spell checker and Grammar checker on your word processing program. You do need to adjust the settings on the Grammar checker but it will find some of those basic errors.
  • Pick up a great grammar reference book. As you know, I promote Diana Hacker's A Writer's Reference.
  • Hire a freelance editor.

The second issue we see is a POOR UNDERSTANDING OF THE SUBMISSION PROCESS to editors and agents. In this case, that information is right out there in front of you on the internet. No, editors and agents are not hiding this information from you. It is available. The errors stem from writers simply not doing their research ahead of time.

I do believe a lot of writers are relying on "word of mouth" information found on many of these discussion board sites for their information. While sites like Agent Query and so forth have some great information, authors do need to take it a step further and go right to the source. What is posted on the website of the agent or editor. What do they want for submission material? What are they even looking for in a story? Are they even open to submissions.

You would be surprised how many submissions I get for non-fiction, and YA. If that writer would take a few minutes and go to the website, they would have known these are projects I do not acquire. What I find amazing is that I have tried to help out by posting on those discussion board sites a reminder that authors should go to visit the site.

The last issue is simply a MISUNDERSTANDING OF TECHNIQUE in queries, synopsis writing and manuscripts. This is one area that does require time to get to know the craft, but again, the information is out there. In this case, the writers is missing the use of one additional tool to work with those techniques - THEIR BRAINS.

When you attend workshops, read books, visit blogs, and listen to professionals, these people are not providing a single template to do anything. They are providing "samples" and "ideas" of things that work and don't work with publishing. This does not mean that you have to follow it exactly the way they described.

Still, the information is out there. Authors simply need to look for the information, learn from the information and then determine how it is being used and then apply it.

The point of this post is simple. So many authors will find much more satisfaction with their writing and publishing career if they start tapping into the abundance of resources available to them. Surf the net, attend conferences, read books, take workshops and learn. You may be surprised what you can find out there.

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