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
- Peer Critique Studio: get feedback from your peers in a moderated and gated community
- Advanced Novel Workshop: get in-depth, professional
revision advice on 200 pages of your manuscript
- Or, check out one of our best guides on achieving distance & perspective, The Writing and Critique Group Survival Guide. Click here for an excerpt, Choosing a Writing Critique Group.