Thursday, April 1, 2010

From the Publisher's Desk - (How to Avoid the) 5 Steps from Desk to Round File

Wait, does it really take 5 steps to get from the desk to that round/square/rectangular thing on the floor lovingly known in offices around the world as the "round file"?
Well, if you're a writer and you are hoping to get that piece you've spent hours, nay, weeks, years, toiling over, from your humble desk (or laptop) and onto that of a wonderful, intelligent and brilliant Editor who will cherish it, rave over it, love it as much as you do, then the answer is yes, there may be 5 steps from desk to round file.
So, want to avoid the black hole called the delete button? Here are the steps to avoid!
Step 1. The fastest way to get your writing off my desk and into the trash - Don't follow a publisher's posted Submission Guidelines! We didn't mean you when we said "No more than 4 pages", or "A 300 word synopsis of the story – please cover the beginning, middle and the end of the story." TRUTH Yes, those are there for you! We didn't spend hours toiling over them just for fun. They may seem like arbitrary rules to you, but they are born from years of slogging through submissions looking for that gem. Give your writing a fighting chance - follow the rules!
Step 2. Sitting down to start that story at long last? Well, don't plan your story out ahead of time. That's for amateurs. It's so much better to just let the story run it's own course. Outlines are for chumps. TRUTH An outline is just that - an outline. A road map to get you from beginning to end without missing the middle or losing any interesting, important characters or information along the way. An outline is NOT carved in stone. It can and probably should change along the way as the story evolves. But it sure is nice to have a few road signs along the way! A well-crafted story demands no less.
Step 3. OK, so you read the Guidelines, wrote an outline, but you still want to take the fast route to the shredder? Easy, just ramble. Aimlessly. For pages. About nothing of any import to the story at all. TRUTH Cleanliness may be next to Godliness, but to me brevity is king! Make your point. Don't blather. Be concise. I'd much rather ask you to expand a passage then have to use up all my precious blue pencils editing out a lot of useless, meandering.
Step 4. Don't use a dictionary! Avoid them like the plague. If that editor is worth anything at all they should be able to read your mind and figure out what you really meant to say. It's more important to have lots of polysyllabic words peppering your piece than it is to be clear about what you are saying. TRUTH Unless one of your characters is a linguistics professor, stay away from those supercalifragilisticexpialidocious words. Not sure you are using the right word? Look it up! Even words you are "pretty sure" are right - double check them. Please don't try and impress me with your huge vocabulary. If you are using words incorrectly - trust me - I won't be impressed, but maybe our cleaning guy will be.
Step 5. You still want to line the bottom of my recycling bin? OK, then don't proofread your work C A R E F U L L Y before you send it to me. In fact, don't have anyone look it over before you send it off to me. Leave words out of your sentences. Season your work with grammatical errors and misspellings. Don't check your punctuation. In fact, don't use any at all. Please. Really, our recycling center is starving for your work! TRUTH Will I forgive a mistake here and there? Yes, as long as here is not less than 4 pages from there. Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone. Always double-, triple-, quadruple-check your work. Think you've found every error? Now have a professional copyeditor or an English teacher check it.

Will all of this guarantee that I will love your work, offer you a gazillion dollar advance and a 20 book contract? No, but it will assure that your writing doesn't do the quickstep from your desk to my round file!
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