My Dos

I follow a lot of people on Twitter. Most of them, I follow for fun: they’re insightful, amusing, friendly folk. But some are on my “understanding the business of writing” list: agents, editors, writers, publishers. Some of these people offer the same insightful, amusing, friendly 140-character glimpses into their daily lives that the others do. But, lately, I’ve seen a trend of negativity in this latter crowd that makes me wonder if I’m right for this want-to-be-published storytelling game.

One person offered up a tweet that was basically, “Don’t send me your manuscript if…” Another said, “Don’t expect me to read your book if…” A third mentioned, “Don’t even think of querying me if…”

Many of these “don’ts” are valid, valuable points to know and understand…but I’ve gotten a bit fed up with seeing so many “don’ts” all over the place. As someone who’s chosen an art (storytelling) for a personal outlet, I’ve had to deal with a lot of naysaying and doubts already, and it does very little for one’s sense of self-worth to be told “Don’t” all the time.

So, I’ve decided to share in this space my list of “dos.” Hopefully, at least one of these will help you get through your slower days.

  • Do be engaged with your own story. Love it, to help it grow beyond those scratchings of loose plot outlines and vague character sketches.
  • Do respect your readers’ intelligence. The good ones want and deserve a story worth the time of picking up and reading.
  • Do finish your story, even if that first ending isn’t all you’d hoped and dreamed. Qualification and strength of your story will come from revision, but you can only get to the point of revision if you manage to finish the story first.
  • Do try your best. You will be more proud and pleased with your story if you know you’ve given it your all. Other people will see it, too!
  • Do listen to critique. You won’t be able to please everyone, of course, but any well-thought critique is worth considering.
  • Do remember that this is your story. Write it for you, first. If your goal is publishing and making millions, you may have to revise parts (or all) of it…but it should always remain your story at its core.

And, most importantly:

  • Do have fun!
By Thomas Tolkien (Flickr: Surfer girl (2 of 2)) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

I had to link to this in honor of my surf mentor, Fiona. :)
Photo by Tom Tolkien.

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11 thoughts on “My Dos

  1. Interesting. I wonder if they use “Don’t” so they can deter people from sending them stuff to read. They must get a lot of stuff from people!

    Good for you for being the positive among all the negative! I’ll try to keep these “Dos” in mind!

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  2. I don’t follow many agents or publishers on Twitter, so I have missed all this excitement. ;) That’s too bad that they’re constantly harping on what not to do. I guess I interpret this to mean that they must be seeing a lot of poor manuscripts?

    I love your positive DO list. I think you’re right on the money with all of your suggestions, especially the one where you advise writers to finish the manuscript. I think that’s so important–the sense of accomplishing the first draft of a novel is unmatched, I think. Well, apart from giving birth. ;)

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    • Thanks, Kate! I’m glad the list resonates with others. :)

      The Twitter stream happened to come on a day when I was feeling pretty miserable about my own work, so I suppose part of this post was me quietly lashing back, even though none of it was directed at me. :D

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  3. re-read this post and now feel good again! how to deal with all the negativity not just publishers but even normal comments that make you feel deflated? its a hard hobby to have and brave to put the work out there only for it to be not good enough for people lol

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    • I know what you mean, Jenny. There will always be someone who finds fault with what you do. It’s hard getting that feedback, but my best advice is to try and take it the way it’s meant: to help you see any shortcomings more clearly, and to make your work better.

      The first day you get critique is always the hardest, too. Step back from it a few days, to give you time to cool down, when you can usually reflect on criticism more calmly. The first real feedback I got for my novel said it was “meandering” and “sleazy.” I was so depressed by that! But, after having some time to consider the reader’s perspective without my initial emotional backlash, I could understand why those comments were made. And, I made some changes that, hopefully, have made it a stronger story. I did keep lots of what I liked – because it’s my story, first – but I also paid attention to those suggestions.

      Glad you’re feeling better about your work!

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