I once asked an editor if she regretted passing on the opportunity to become the publisher of the Harry Potter series.
The editor said, “In the publishing world, you live or die by your opinion. In spite of Harry Potter’s success, it still wouldn’t have been the right book for me to publish.”
In Your Opinion, What is Good Writing?
The first place you need to draw a line in the sand is one the question of quality. The quality of the story, the plotting, the characterization, the storytelling and so on is crucial to the success of a writing and publishing project. You need to listen tot he “still, small voice” that tells you this story needs another revision or that story measures up to the highest standard.
A sense of great stories is important to develop and most agree that a wide knowledge of the genre in which you write. If you want to write a picture book, you should read 100 picture books published within the last five years. If you want to write a YA novel, you should be familiar with the popular writers of the day. Of course, you can’t read 4000 novels in a year, so you’ll have to pick and choose. But notice what you like, enjoy, discard after a few chapters and so on. Develop a sense of what you like or don’t like. In short develop an appreciation of great writing. Give yourself something solid on which to base your opinion. Because you’ll live or die by it.
When I see really bad self-published children’s books, it’s most often from a person who doesn’t read children’s books. They just had a “great idea” and with no research or background in children’s literature, push through an awful book. I’ve actually had people tell me, “I’m not a writer. I just wanted to do this book.” That person’s project will die an early death because they didn’t educate their opinion.
In Your Opinion, Is this the BEST Writing You Can Do?
After writing a great story or novel, have you taken the time to let it cool off, to get feedback from trusted readers, and to take time to revise it to the best of your ability? Have you held anything back, or did you spend it all?
Author Annie Dillard, in her great essays, Write Till You Drop, wrote:
One of the few things I know about writing is this: spend it all, shoot it, play it, lose it, all, right away, every time. Do not hoard what seems good for a later place in the book, or for another book; give it, give it all, give it now. The impulse to save something good for a better place later is the signal to spend it now. Something more will arise for later, something better. These things fill from behind, from beneath, like well water. Similarly, the impulse to keep to yourself what you have learned is not only shameful, it is destructive. Anything you do not give freely and abundantly becomes lost to you. You open your safe and find ashes.
After Michelangelo died, someone found in his studio a piece of paper on which he had written a note to his apprentice, in the handwriting of his old age: ”Draw, Antonio, draw, Antonio, draw and do not waste time.”
In your opinion, have to done your best? Then, send it out.
If not, fix it. But write, authors, write.
BUT, you say. . .
My boy/girl friend didn’t like it.
My Significant Other didn’t like it.
My kid didn’t like it.
My agent didn’t like it.
My editor didn’t like it.
This genre isn’t selling right now.
No one buys books by authors from XXX.
I don’t have a HUGE social media following.
Blah, blah, blah.
Wrong, wrong, wrong.
Do YOU like what you wrote?
You live or die by your opinion.
If it’s not the best you can write, then fix it. Revise. Do whatever it takes to make it live up to your opinion.
If YOU like it, then send it out, and keep sending it out, until you find an editor who agrees with you.
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