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5 Lies Unpublished Writers Tell Themselves (and the Truths That Can Get Them Published)

Writers tend to be creative in many areas of life, so it's no surprise that we can get creative with the truth. Or, as my mother said, "You lie a lot." This is especially tempting when we are debating why we aren't published. Before I was a published author, I embraced a few cherished lies because they blunted the pain of rejection. But the road to publication required discarding these lies and facing reality. Guest column by Matt Mikalatos, freelancer, and author of the novel Imaginary Jesus (BarnaBooks, April 2010).

Writers tend to be creative in many areas of life, so it's no surprise that we can get creative with the truth. Or, as my mother said, "You lie a lot." This is especially tempting when we are debating why we aren't published. Before I was a published author, I embraced a few cherished lies because they blunted the pain of rejection. But the road to publication required discarding these lies and facing reality. Here are five lies I believed before I was published:

(How NOT to start your story. Read advice from agents.)

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Guest column by Matt Mikalatos, freelancer,
and author of the novel IMAGINARY JESUS
(BarnaBooks, April 2010) as well as the fantasy
THE SWORD OF SIX WORLDS (Dec, 2012).
See his website here.



1. THE RULES DON'T APPLY TO ME.

I write amazing first drafts. If there were a contest for first drafts, mine would win every time. So I told myself, "Writing is not rewriting." Other people might have to do multiple drafts, but my first drafts are so solid I could publish them as-is. For years I believed this.

One day I did three drafts of an article, and it became my first published article. A solid first draft is not good enough to be published. All those "rules of writing" that you read in Writer's Digest, on blogs, and in creative writings classes are rules because they are true most of the time. So if there are some rules that you think don't apply to you, think again. It might be the rule preventing you from getting published.

2. AGENTS AND EDITORS HAVE IT IN FOR ME.

Ah, those blood-sucking agents and editors. I'm pretty sure they have meetings in a secret underground lair where they talk about how jealous they are of my writing skills and how they should team up to keep me from being published.

This is a lie that is so prevalent among unpublished writers that editors and agents have to go to psychologists so they can feel good about themselves again. I know one editor who calls herself "Dream Crusher" to assuage her pain. Here's the truth: Editors and agents desperately want you to be good enough. They make a living by writers being publishable. If you're getting rejected it's because you still have work to do -- either as a writer or as a marketer.

3. I'M NOT A MARKETER, I'M A WRITER!

Which is exactly why you aren't published yet. You have to do the hard work of writing a spectacular query and proposal. Notice that you have to "write" the query and proposal. You're not being asked to do an interpretive dance or draft blueprints to a rocket ship. It might not be your style, and it might be hard work, but being a published author is hard work, complete with e-mails you don't want to answer, deadlines, accounting and marketing!

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4. I SHOULD SPEND A LOT OF TIME FANTASIZING OVER WHERE I WILL BE PUBLISHED NOW THAT I'VE WRITTEN TWO CHAPTERS OF MY NOVEL.

It is way more fun to read Writer's Market over and over—memorizing the publishers and agents—than it is to write your book. And while this is good practice for when your book is ready to shop, if the fantasy-to-writing ratio tips toward fantasy, it's time to get back to writing. Unless you are writing a fantasy, in which case you are probably fine and keep up the good work.

(Learn how to start your novel.)

5. I'M A BETTER WRITER THAN MOST PUBLISHED AUTHORS.

If you're like me, you love picking up a book from the "Top 10" rack, flipping it open and cringing at the terrible prose. But this author (who is, keep in mind, a worse writer than you) somehow got a contract, got published and is selling well. I said this most often before I had finished writing the first draft of my first novel. Perhaps it's just that the "hack writers" out there actually finish their books.

Here's an exercise: Find a writer online who is published but far inferior to you as a writer. Look at what magazines they are published in. Then write stories or articles to submit to those magazines. This is a guaranteed way to build your writing resume. Unless—they are actually better writers than you, in which case, it's a good reality check.

These are a few of the lies that I wish someone had confronted me with when I was an unpublished writer. Now, here's one last truth for you: You can do this. Work hard, keep writing, improve your craft and be persistent. We're all waiting to read your masterpiece!

Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

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