What is the worst writing advice I’ve ever received? This is SO easy for me to answer. It’s the one glaring statement that I happily go back to whenever I’m getting down about my writing. It’s the trump card I hold up and, yes, even thumb my nose at because I proved them wrong. And not just a little bit wrong. But a whole big bunches of wrong.
That statement was: “This manuscript isn’t ready for submission.”
By itself, it doesn’t sound so bad. It can be very true and is hard to hear. It was two fellow authors who said that to me and it totally bummed me out. But I believed in the story. I believed in what I’d written and how I’d written it. So I kindly thanked them both, finished my last edits and sent the sucker off anyway.
When I got “The Call” four days after I’d sent that manuscript in as a slush pile submission, I was soooo happy I didn’t listen to that advice! I got a three book offer from one book that two people said wasn’t ready. In this case, they were wrong.
It turns out, that manuscript wasn’t perfect. I had typos everywhere and yes, I needed to add things and hack in other places. There were repetitive words, bad sentences and just about every other “writing” mistake there is. But as my editor said to me, “Those are all things I can fix. What I can’t fix is a bad story.”
So my takeaway was your writing doesn’t have to be perfect, but your story has to be solid. Your “voice” has to engage and hold the reader. As new authors, so much focus is put on the proper way to craft a manuscript. There can’t be typos. Show, don’t tell. Don’t use passive words. Don’t hide the dialogue. Keep your pacing fast. Don’t over narrate. Yada, yada, yada…
All that mumbo jumbo can often correlate down to “Your manuscript has to be perfect before you submit it.” That’s a heck of a lot of pressure. It should be the best that you can make it, but perfection is rarely achievable.
As much as advice and feedback can help develop your writing skills, in the end you have to trust your own instincts. There will always be people who disagree with the story or your style or whatever. But if you don’t believe in your own abilities, no one will.
What manuscript was that you ask? It was Bonds of Trust, the first book in the seven book Wicked Play series.