Thursday, January 12, 2006

Why You May Never Be Published...

Or even read.
The list has hit # 38.
So far.
Naturally the majority of items deal with the usual, the obvious.
Like you enclosed sparkles in your correspondence, or used purple unicorn paper for your query, or dancing icons on your e-mail.
Or you said, in an attempt to indicate surburban marketing techniques "my son's Grade Five class all loved the book!" or "it's the next best-seller!!!"
!!! !!! !!! !!! !!! !!!
Or the basics, such extraneous conditions as perhaps you can't write worth a damn, have a 400 page children's story, use passive tense exclusively, can't spell, and submit an ms. run off on a Gestetner.
Even if you can swat words around like house flies and your paper is pearly white, it gets tricky.
You didn't send SASE.
You DID send an SASE.
You're ugly.
The sucking sounds you make to agents/editors are very loud and obvious.
You profoundly insulted, innocently or otherwise, a premier agent/editor on their blog. (Hey, other agents/editors read blogs)
You whine. You clique with other whiners.
You declaim that publishing is corrupt and populated by demons from the 6th circle of Hell. Loudly and often. You express the hope that they will all "get theirs" in the aftermath of some new and nebulous technology. Loudly and often.
You think your plot is original. Boy and girl suffer from conflicting loyalties but find true love. That one. And you say so.
Et cetera.


However, why you may never be published boils down to two simple, absolute and certain reasons:
1. You haven't written a book.
2. You haven't sent it out.


R.J. Baker said...

Very well written...and very true.

Dennie McDonald said...

Amen sister B!

my theory is you will get no 100% if you don't send it but you at least have a 50/50 chance if you do


Ric said...

.... Don't send at Christmas time...Don't send during July & August - nobody's working.

Even then, waiting is terrible!

Bernita said...

Thank you both.
And there's a point, past all the crit imput, the avid search for professional advice and helpful fellows, that you have to lay it on the line and submit.
It's a learning, reaction test stage that you need.
You can only polish so far without it.
Dennie, even a 2- 5% chance beats 0% every time.

Rick said...

Well, I'm past #1 and #2. Now I get to find out how I do on the rest of the list.

Bernita said...

So some say, Ric.
But I wonder, in our feverish attempt to shave the odds by that minute and unstable fraction whether we're in danger of flying up our own behinds, or, like the Vodun serpent, consume ourselves into invisibility.

Bernita said...

Oh,I think you'll do all right, Rick.

kathie said...

Well, I did one and two and I'm praying some editor actually reads the thing and falls in love. Hard. You are funny and I loved your post!

Sela Carsen said...

I've done #1 and #2. Now here's hoping the agent doesn't think it's #2.

Anonymous said...

The most important element, I think, is to truly believe you have something unique to say. Many times I've made the mistake of writing what I wanted to read. I'm trying hard to focus instead on writing what only I can say.

The rest, like pacing, extra language, adverbs, exposition, queries, synopses, etc., etc., etc. are just the technical work. Vitally important, sure, but just work in the end.

What am I trying to say? I'm wondering myself. Oh, here it is: the work never ends; the criticism never ends. But we must constantly remind ourselves that all this work is not "writing." Capturing that uniqueness is writing. If we hold to that core goal, all of the lumps, thumps, and frustrations we take along the way seem more like gifts to help us get there.

Bernita said...

Kathie and didn't!
If so, some writer advice people deserve to be burned at the stake.
I thought that sort of stuff was a myth! Humorous exaggeration to underline a point.
No one would believe it, looking at you now, for sure.

Very nicely said, Jason.I would combine the two: write what you like to read but always in your own voice and style and unique perception.

James Goodman said...

"You're ugly."

I'm pretty sure that's why I recieved so many rejections early on. It couldn't have anything to do with the fact that I was writing drivel at the time. :D

Great post, BTW.

M. G. Tarquini said...


Back to work.

Tsavo Leone said...

Jason makes an interesting (anti?) point. I've always set out to create the things that I want to hear/read first and foremost. Perhaps therein lies the answer to finding that ellusive 'voice' we hear/read so much about.

Author as sponge.
Author as blender.
Author as cocktail waiter.
But still author (unpublished) unless we send the damned thing out!

Bernita said...


ali said...

Very good! And also quite encouraging, as at least I'm sending things out.

Bernita said...

Thank you, James.
You shouldn't have sent THAT picture, you know. The one you have now should be just fine.

Ali, you're doing much more than "at least", and happy, happy birthday.

Anonymous said...

I don't mean to say that we shouldn't like reading what we write. But let's say you absolutely worship Harry Potter. Your greatest dream in life is writing a book like Harry Potter. You've spent days upon days of your life dreaming you ARE Harry Potter.

Well, unless fortune is smiling on you with every tooth, you probably can't write Harry Potter.

Maybe you'll be fine in the fantasy genre, but you must write a core story and have a voice which no one else on Earth could write. J.K. Rowling did.

Bernita said...

Thank goodness you elucidated, Jason.
I was tempted to click over to Word and re-insert all the exposition I had deleted from my WIP.
Yes, I'm a bit uncertain right now. One of those "yer fooling yerself" modes that makes one subject to all sorts of influences.
Beware the jabberwock, my son.

Ivan Prokopchuk said...

Wow. Good writing. Even neatly slip old Dante in.
I have had the manuscript (not ms)
of my last novel, The Fire in Bradford with House of Anansi Press for seven months now.
Editors advise me that there has been now a change of ownership, and please be patient. The notes are friendly and almost inside. But still no payoff. The new company, whose name escapes me right now, are apparently heavily into chidren's books and textbooks.
I don'lt expect much luck with my hero a mad professor who meets a blue angel, in a creative writing class, from the sex workers'
unhappy crew.
I emailed my pal, Gerard Jones, the 50,OOO rejections man who finally made it, and he says "just let it float around out there."
It is floating around.

Rick said...

Jason - even with your clarification, this is such an interesting point.

I sometimes wonder, if someone else had written my book and I just stumbled across it on the shelf, what would I think of it? Would a plausible blurb and cover (even the cover I imagine for it) make me pick it up and give it a thumb?

No doubt I'd like it if I read it; the characters, tone, and setting are in the range of what I liked even before I immersed myself in it. But would I particularly like it, if it weren't mine?

Does anyone else here ever wonder about that?

Bernita said...

Thank you, Ivan.
Seven months is bloody depressing, even with a good excuse.
Trust you've lined up some alternative flotation devices.

Bernita said...


Anonymous said...

Rick, your question makes me think of the impact of poetry. Each reader is entitled to have his or her own idea of what a poem is actually saying. For the author to pipe in and identify the "truth" is a mistake. It diminishes the experience for the reader. For each reader, the "truth" is exactly what he or she believes it is.

Just like poets, fiction writers are also producing experiences for everyone but themselves. We can never experience our stories the way a fresh reader can. But if we have a unique voice with a unique view, those dedicated readers will be out there. THEY will treasure the book, even if we don't.

I guess what I'm saying is that each of us are the one reader on Earth we absolutely don't need. My pleasure comes from having another person say, dang, that meant something to me....

Bonnie Calhoun said...

After reading all the good advice from so many perspectives, my head swims everytime I try to figure out what to do. I've decided all I can do is write the best story that I can, follow the submission rules and pray!

If anybody wants to read it, here's the story about our church robbery:

Bernita said...

Wise Bonnie.
Thank you for the link.
Hope your padre gets his instruments back.

Rick said...

Jason commits more interesting truth. An author's non-privilege applies just as much to prose fiction as to poetry. God willing and the river don't rise, my book will go forth, and the world - at least, a few thousand readers - will meet Catherine de Guienne and the rest of my gang. What they think of her is beyond my control, other than what is in the text, and the readers are the ones interpreting the text.

To take one example, I am quite political, and the book is political, but I'm doubtful that readers could infer my politics from the book's. (It is historical fantasy, so a quite different set of issues!)

Funny thing about how we are the one reader we don't need. (Except for self-editing!) I suppose some people write stories just for themselves, but most of us want other people to visit our worlds, and feel they got something from the trip.

Bernita said...

I'm afraid I'm more crude than you, Rick. My character time travels and makes political comparisons.

Rick said...

Bernita - Well, if your character time travels, they're perfectly justified to make political observations!

Mine makes plenty of political observations, but only about her own world. And since she is a Renaissance princess, her views are reasonable in her circumstances - e.g., she never heard "All men are created equal," and would think it absurd if she had.