Success…but no money yet

Every writer aspires to be the next Gaiman, Patterson or King. We all want to make beau coup bucks and get invited to appear at major book signings. That was my goal thirty years ago and I suppose it’s still one of my favorite dreams. Now that I’m older I’ve decided to settle for the unacknowledged necessity that is the basis of an author’s ambition: getting published.

You can’t be famous if you’re never published and there are precious few writers that hit one out of the park with their first novel. Most of us have gone for years sending in stuff and getting our feelings crushed with each rejection. Think of what you’ve learned in that time. Your skin got tougher, for one. I bet your chops did, too. When I read some of my old work I think, “Good thing I didn’t send that in.”

I tend to write in short, chopped sentences. My editor says they don’t flow well. There’s no descriptions or feeling to enrich them.

Now, how do I improve what I just wrote?

I have a tendency to write short, chopped sentences that my editor says have none of the natural flow of prose. There’s no adverbs or adjectives to enrich the imagination, no color to give them depth.

Better, but….

I should say “choppy” instead of “chopped”, take out “that”. I’ve used the singular “there’s” instead of the plural because I’m talking about more than one thing with “adverbs and adjectives.”

I have a tendency to write short, choppy sentences my editor says have none of the natural flow of prose. There are no adverbs or adjectives to enrich the imagination or color to give them depth.

When I edit what I’m writing I take out a lot of thats and other determiners. I have to watch my use of “just” when it’s not necessary and guard against the Texan in me to come out in what I’ve typed. It’s okay for your characters to talk in your local dialect but it’s not desirable in the text.

Can you use a comma rather than and and and? Do you begin sentences or paragraphs with ‘but’, ‘so’, ‘and’? Do you overuse with? What about run-on sentences? They’re clumsy and confuse the reader by going on and on and saying the same thing over and over and detailing too much that could have been said in shorter sentences that wouldn’t leave the reader thinking they’ve read this all before and are hearing it again and again? (See? That was awful, wasn’t it?)

What does this have to with writer ambition? Editing, baby. When I learned to be a better editor, my work improved and I found more publishers willing to accept what I submitted. You can have a unique plot and engaging characters, all the arcs in all the right places but if you can’t write in a compelling language no one’s going to take your story.

After you’ve edited the hell out of your short story or book send it in to as many publishers as you can. Beware those that don’t take simultaneous submissions unless you’re willing to wait for their acceptance or rejection. Many publishers say it’s all right to submit elsewhere as long as you inform them upon being accepted elsewhere. Don’t get a bad rep.

I don’t know how I’ve gotten accepted for publication this month three out of four times. One reason could well be that I’m not getting paid for it. Don’t let this discourage you or stop you from sending something in. Read the contract they send you. I’ve yet to see one that wants to retain the rights to my story. It always says that they want first rights only and if I get it published later they want credit for the original printing. In other words, ” ‘Wipires’ was originally published in 2019 by Altered Reality Magazine.” I can still send that short story to someone that does pay unless they specifically say in the submission guidelines they don’t take reprints.

Probably the reason I’ve been accepted is improved writing skills. Like any skill, it gets better the more you work it. Editing the words of others opened my eyes to what I’m doing wrong and reading the books of established writers can show you how to craft meaningful sentences. Study how they bring the characters to life and what they do to make you engage with that world you’re holding in front of your face. Create your own and see if someone else wants to come inside.

Here’s your exercise: take this post and edit it. If yours sounds better than mine I don’t want to know, okay?

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