One of my good writing friends, Kathy Palm, wrote a wonderful blog post recently. She signed up to judge pitches and the first 300 words of manuscripts. She’s a slushie. And she makes the point that writing is subjective. I’ve judged writing competitions before, and I can tell you, you learn a LOT from doing that. What, for you, makes a story good? What doesn’t work? Because sometimes, most times, if the writing’s clean and good, it comes down to personal taste. That’s why marketing is so important. Pick the right places to send your stuff. Kathy put it eloquently. I highly recommend her post. Hell, I highly recommend her blog:) https://findingfaeries.wordpress.com/2015/04/06/nestpitching-oh-the-words/
A long time ago, I heard Mary Higgins Clark at a mystery conference, and she said the same thing. Back then, I was writing mystery short stories to send to magazines and anthologies. That was a learning curve, too. What one editor criticized in a rejection letter, another editor might praise, and what one editor rejected, another might buy. Mary Higgins Clark told us that before she became famous, she’d send her stories to 20 editors at a time, and often what 19 editors rejected, the 20th might buy. That’s the thing about writing. Perfecting your craft is just the beginning. It’s easy to reject a writer who tells more than he shows, who uses passive voice more than active verbs, or doesn’t know grammar and sprinkles commas here and there like confetti. But those writers aren’t your competition. YOUR competition is other writers who write well. So why would someone–even a reader–choose your manuscript over other manuscripts that are done well? Now, you’re getting into personal taste. Most editors–and I think readers, too–are looking for something that’s similar to what they already read, but different. Different in a way that surprises and excites them, that keeps them turning the pages. It can be voice. An author’s voice is a compelling tool. It can be a twist on the same-old, same-old–adding dry humor to something that’s usually treated seriously. Anything that makes your writing individual. But the bottom line is–what one person loves might leave another person cold.
All you can control is trying to write a really good story. If you get everything right–a great opening hook, an awesome set-up, compelling characters, great plot, perfect pacing, voice, tone…the works, you could still be rejected. But what I’m trying to tell you is not to take it personally. There’s some fan out there who doesn’t like Stephen King. (Pretend you didn’t see that, Kathy). And as much as I love Ilona Andrews, Faith Hunter, and Patricia Briggs, some of my friends tell me that I don’t need to lend them the new books I’ve bought of theirs. Okay, let’s be honest, most of my friends don’t even want to read MY books. They’re not into urban fantasy. Some of them aren’t into romance either. Does that hurt my feelings? Um, no. Because do I like what they read? Hardly.
So, grow a thick skin. Pretend you’re an elephant or rhinoceros. When a dart of criticism hits you, let it bounce off. But do your best. Because only your best will make you competitive with the others who know their stuff. And then cross your fingers, light incense, and hope the planets are aligned for your sign of the zodiac. Because the rest is a crap shoot.
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