Whenever aspiring writers send me their “fantastic, soon-to-be-bestseller” to compliment, I cringe. They’ve put a ton of effort into their manuscripts. They’ve neglected their family and social lives—and maybe even their paying jobs—to imbue their narratives with all the talent and skill they can muster.
But when I read these works, I’m reminded of my own early, unschooled efforts. I expected immediate acclaim, but, my work wasn’t nearly ready. I didn’t believe that creative writing is a craft—like carpentry—that one must learn. Now I cringe at my own beginning efforts.
“I thought I was better than I was. I didn’t know what mistakes I was making.” [Emphasis mine.]
And that’s the thought I hope aspiring writers will internalize.
I’ve tried hinting, coaxing, and cajoling the sincere new writers I meet online.
I’ve suggested they learn the ingredients and skills that make good writing, and have their work critiqued by experienced writers. I’ve urged them to hold off posting or mailing their work to agents, until it’s polished and powerful.
I’ve tried to discourage them from sending out query letters before they understand querying. (The same problems that appear in their manuscripts pop up in their query letters.) And to know what publishers and readers want.
So, for your own peace of mind, let your work be seen by professionals and the public only if:
- Your spelling and grammar are impeccable. (Spell check has its limitations.)
- You know where the punctuation goes with a quotation mark, and understand the purpose of commas
- You know what a paragraph is, so your words and sentences don’t run on and on
- Your writing is free of clichés
- Your word usage is correct, because you keep a dictionary near, as you write
- You use words that precisely express your meaning, because you frequently consult a Thesaurus
- Your characters are complex
- You’re sure of the purpose and construction of scenes
- “Show, don’t tell” is clear to you
- Your story’s got an irresistible hook
- Your story contains nicely unpredictable elements
- You’ve had the final draft fully proofed by someone with strong proofreading skills
- People who are unrelated to you enjoy reading what you’ve written
- People who read something you’ve written ask to see more of your work
Read articles and posts by successful writers that explain how to write well. Take writing classes; join a critique group of good writers. Hire a writing coach or an editor. Keep practicing. Keep getting better.
Need help improving your drafts? Get in touch with me; I’ll help you out. I’m experienced and easy to work with. Don’t believe me? Take a look at the Testimonials tab on this website, then get in touch.