Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Are You Ready to Submit? STOP! Think twice before you do!

How many of us have submitted work without asking for a second opinion? We’re so eager to submit our novel, short story, or novella because tomorrow it might be too late.
My mentors have told me time and again to edit my work as many times as possible. Grammatical or punctuation errors are an agent’s major pet peeve. But, are you aware that there are other factors that can obliterate your optimism and your novel as well?

I had no idea that many writers fall into certain submission patterns. According to Irene Goodman who has been a top agent for more than 30 years, with many NY Times bestsellers, says that she’s been noticing a lot of good writers with the best of intentions make the same three crucial errors:

1. They try to throw too much into the story, thinking it will appeal to more people that way. The opposite is true. I ask them to identify where in the bookstore this book will be shelved. If they can't answer promptly, they've made a mistake. You can't write a mystery/romance/thriller/adventure/soap opera with a dash of science fiction. Simple is better.

2. They write a thriller that's not--well, thrilling. It may be interesting and well written, but if it's not scary, it doesn't have suspense, there is nothing big at stake, or there isn't much action, it's not much of a thriller.

3. They pick subjects that are just not commercial. Don't spend three years of your life writing a novel about King Olof Skötkonung of Sweden or a romance novel set in Germany in 1943. Learn what's commercial and what is not.

Have you submitted without double-checking your work? Are you REALLY ready to submit? Remember: “Good things come to those who wait.”


  1. Before submitting a paper to a scientific journal, two factors should be kept in mind. The first is the need to ensure that you have a clear, logical message. The second is to present your paper in the correct format for the journal to which you intend to submit the paper. The first of these is the most important. However careful and beautiful the presentation, a paper will not be published unless it has a clear, sound conclusion. Before submitting a paper, therefore, be sure that you have something important and publishable to say. To know this, you should discuss your results with others working in the field, both in your own institution and elsewhere. The best way to do this is to present your results at scientific meetings — if you can get to them. An additional (or alternative) strategy is to join an email list relevant to your field, and use that to obtain feedback about your research plans, and learn about results from others in the field. Discuss your ideas and proposed paper with people whose work you respect and admire. It may be a good idea to send one or two key scientists a brief summary of your paper, and ask them to send you some informal comments on whether it is worth your while writing a full paper, or if whether you should to do some more work first (and if so, what). Use the Internet and email if you cannot speak to people directly at meetings. If you can discuss your work by telephone, then do so; but send the recipient a synopsis or draft of your proposed publication first, so that you have something concrete to discuss.

  2. Oh my gosh, Claudia!! When I first started taking my writing seriously - I was too stupid for words and just sent off stories willy nilly!! It's only through considered mentoring from more experienced writers/tutors that I stopped myself and gave me a good slap!!! Now I never, ever, ever, ever send out a story I think is complete without someone else reading it first. And then I go through the whole process again. It's so time consuming but you have to get it right!!! :-)

    Take care

  3. Two things...

    I completely agree with number 1. I think the English language is beautiful and spare and texts that reflects that are those who get to me the most. Hemingway, Chandler or Carver are all examples. Gracefulness and subtlety will always get the last word.

    I'm not sold to number three though. Michael Crichton has written an amazing novel about an Arabic diplimat, traveling with Vikings. It's small so I read it several times. Can't be more random than that. I'd reformulate saying that "if your theme isn't attractive, make your your content is. And that you're selling it right"

    How about it? :)

  4. Hmm... thanks for the tips. I hope that I will be able to restrain myself until the story is well and truly finished. ;-)

  5. Dear Isa,
    Thank you for your very thorough and informative comment. I do agree. It doesn't matter what genre or type of work you're submitting, the end result will be the same if it's a well-written work. I also agree that is necessary to talk to people you respect/admire. I usually consult with my current mentor whom I respect. He's extremely helpful.
    Thank you for sharing your ideas.

    Dear Kitty,
    I was the same! :( I was so desperate to get my work in, to have it published that I neglected the editing part. Boy was I embarrassed. Now I have at least two people read my stories before I submit. Live and learn! ;)

    Hi there, Ben!
    Yes, Hemingway and Carver come to mind when I think of simplicity and subtlety. Regarding point number 3, well, I'm just quoting Irene Goodman ;) However, if it's a very interesting and unique story, why not? I think great stories are so worth publishing.

  6. Hi Claudia. Thanks for your sweet comment. You can visit my other blogs.

  7. When I think my submission is finally ready to send, after having edited, revised and then checked it again, I still put it aside overnight. Then I take one last look. If I find another thing that needs to be fixed, I do that, and put it aside again.

    At least, that is what I would like to do every time. Sometimes, a looming deadline causes me to hit "send" before I check the submission that one last time. Then, I wind up wondering what I may have missed.

    Good points, interesting post.

  8. Thanks for the sound advice!

    I've embarrassed myself way too often making silly grammatical and spelling mistakes.

  9. Hi Misha,
    For your WIP, yes, it's better to be patient and make sure it's really ready. You want to impress prospective publishers.

    Hi Chris,
    Guilty! Like you, I've hit the send button thinking the story was 100% edited :( But why cry over spilt milk, right? At least we learned our lesson ;)

    Hi Alan,
    LOL! Don't be too hard on yourself...we've all been there. I've found mistakes on published books. :0)

  10. Yep, this was my problem with my first novel. Not quite a romance (no sex) and not quite a suspense (just a tad too much romance). It had elements of both, but not enough to shelve it as one or the other. The second, I wrote with a specific genre in mind, and research the genre beforehand. Instant success! Thanks for these lovely reminders Claudia!

  11. [sigh] Now I need to shelve that 1940's Teutonic bodice-ripper I've been working on.

  12. Hi Anna,
    Thank you for confirming point #1. I know it's hard because we want to inject a dose of at least two genres. I guess we just have to do it the right way. ;)

    Hi Adam,
    LOL! Ah, you're a riot! ;)

  13. You better believe I'm waiting. Like good cheese - my writing has got to mature before I even think of submitting. ;)

  14. Super post, Claudia! I stress so much about sending my stories to the right person that I end up not sending them to anyone.... I think I need to decide that March is going to be my submission month and actually submit some of my pb and chapter book manuscripts instead of just writing more and editing the ones I have over and over and over again....

  15. Hi Michelle,
    That's cute! Love your analogy. But don't be afraid, even young cheese it's still good to eat ;) so go ahead and submit. Just make sure someone else reads your story before you submit. I submitted even when my style was not mature enough. That's how you learn. Again, just make sure your grammar and punctuation is in top shape.

    Hi Sharon,
    That's great! Having goals inspire you to accomplish little projects. Make March your month: submit a story!