Sunday, November 29, 2009

Perfect? Or "good enough"?

Part of my job as a editor at Lyrical Press is to review and accept (or reject) manuscripts. I've been doing this for a few months now, and there are a few tips I'd like to share with other writers who are hoping to  get their manuscripts at least considered for acceptance.

The reason for this is that I've been a writer longer than I've been an editor; I've been a member of Passionate Critters Critique Group since its inception, belonged to other crit groups online and face-to-face, judge contests, joined professional writers' groups, attended conferences, retreats and workshops. I've done my research and I've worked really hard.

Yesterday, when one of my crit partners posted a revision of a query because she felt it "just wasn't quite right" and another critter posted a contest entry for a final review before sending it to the contest coordinator, I realized that the perfection I expect from myself (and my crit partners of their own work) is the same perfection  I expect from those submissions I review.

Unfortunately, too many writers submit work that appears as though they dashed it off without caring about the way it's received. I suppose these folks are so confident that their work is brilliant, they don't consider any other option.

Like, spelling. For example, one writer wrote "she had to flea to China" in his query letter. After I was done giggling, and imagining the protagonist morphing into a flea, I wrote a great, big NO on the submission. I didn't even bother with the synopsis or the actual manuscript. That spelling error told me everything I needed to know.

Another error (actually, it's more of a thing) are hyperbolic queries. I'm glad these authors are proud of their work, but...

"Written in the style of Nora Roberts and Ernest Hemingway, this fast-paced love story takes place on a fishing trip. The reader will be on the edge of there seat as they follow the adventures of outdoorsman Nick Adams and a stripper named Candy Cane who often gets mistaken for Cameron Diaz, as they trek the wilderness in search of the legendary trout "Big Willie Johnson". Interspersed with this riviting adventure is actual text from fishing magazines. At the end, diagrams are shown for the  reader to learn how to slide a live worm onto a hook. I'm sure you will love this book and wait eagerly for your offer of acceptance."*

Okay, so the author tried, Please, don't tell me how to receive your book. Let me make my own decisions. And please, please, please don't review your own book. "This book is stunning! Readers will flock to read this book! It will be the next bestseller and you'd be a fool not to accept it."

Takes one to know one, I say.

The best advice I can give the aspiring writer: Go for perfection. Proofread carefully. Have someone else--preferably another writer--proof it for you, too. Consider a critique group. Join writer's groups. Learn. Read. Research. And always remember: There's no such thing as "good enough" if you want to be published.

And speaking of "good enough" please, check out my December contest!  You could win free books! Or a critique of your first chapter (and your query) from a real, live cranky editor! 

*This query is a work of fiction. No copyrights were infringed upon in the creation of this example. So there. Nyah. Now go bait a hook.

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