The Secret to Writing & Publishing That Should Be Taped to Your Wall

Many adages of writing and publishing seem like common sense, and perfectly doable:

  • Have a great hook in your query letter
  • Catch the reader’s attention
  • Take out everything that’s boring
  • Learn how to pitch your work

Underlying all of these adages, however, is a skill or perspective that’s difficult to learn and apply.

You must achieve objectivity.

It’s why the Rule of 24 is supposed to improve your writing overnight. (Sleep on everything for a day.) It imposes distance.

But 24 hours isn’t enough time when it comes to long and complex works such as book manuscripts.

We need another kind of rule.

Have you ever heard that for each year of a relationship (or marriage), you can expect 1-3 months of recovery time when it ends?

Part of that recovery process is about achieving distance and perspective.

When you finish a significant manuscript or proposal that took a long time to complete, you need time away and distance to assess it without feeling attached.

And especially if you’re trying to identify, from a market or commercial standpoint, why your work is appealing to agents or editors, a great amount of distance is required.

This is my theory on why so many queries and proposals fail. The work itself may be outstanding, but the writer hasn’t achieved the necessary distance to either evaluate or communicate the commercial merit of her own work.

And this is why, in particular, trying to revise, market, and sell your own memoir is next to impossible. How many of us can envision the stories of our lives from a market standpoint? Would we even want to? (But check this issue of Writer’s Digest for methods!)

Aside from achieving distance, you should find and trust a few carefully selected critique partners, or professional editors, to tell you how to improve your work, or position it for the market. Even if you haven’t had the time or willingness to take enough steps back, others can offer a really hard push.

If you’re looking for an objective critique partner or a professional editor, Writer’s Digest offers these options:

  • Second Draft: submit 50 or more pages of your manuscript for critique

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5 thoughts on “The Secret to Writing & Publishing That Should Be Taped to Your Wall

  1. Debbie Pierce

    Outstanding points, Jane! You’re so right — it does take time and distance to be able to judge one’s work. I’ve found the edits go more smoothly after I’ve put "my baby" away for a while and turned my attention to a new project!

  2. Bob Mayer

    The first thing a writer should do when finishing a manuscript to the point where they feel it’s ready to be marketed is start writing their next manuscript. Shift all your emotions into the new one. Sever your emotional ties to the finished work. It’s not your baby, it’s a product.
    Then start marketing.
    When I get asked which of my books is my favorite, I always say "The one I’m writing now."

  3. Sandy James

    I think one of the biggest mistakes newbie writers make is hurrying to query agents/editors the moment they complete their first manuscript. Impatience costs dearly in the long run, not only because the story probably isn’t truly ready to go, but also because one manuscript does not a career make. Being as I have no patience in my DNA (lol), I understand. I am learning, however, that this business is a marathon and not a sprint. Nice post, Jane!


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