I apologize for hijacking Jan’s informative post with a few announcements. I feel it is important to let you know that I have decided to let ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS Q & A rest for the summer. However, there are still some ALL ABOUT SUBMISSIONS guest posts coming up. The two main reasons for the summer break with the Q & A are:
1) It’s a busy time for everyone, so I thought it might be nice to give the team a break.
2) I am busy with writing projects and my new picture book critique service.
Many of our Q & A members have had good news since we started the team. I am hoping to share some of it with you in the future.
I would like to thank today’s guest blogger, Jan Godown Annino, for sharing some of the things she has learned in her writing journey. Here’s Jan. . . .
Admissions about Submissions:
Things Learned from my Crackerjack Critique Partners
by Jan Godown Annino
It could be that at the end of this day, you won’t submit that poem, story, article or book. I’m talking about that manuscript glowing over there in your To-Go queue.
1. There is a time to submit.
2. And there is a time to delay a submission.
Having spent plenty of time around the table with my prize-winning poetry critique partner and two groups of published writers / editors, I’ve been privileged with an inside view of their submission experiences, results, and hopes.
Jan’s crackerjack critique group
L to R : Debra, Ann, Jan & M.R.
Photo by Anna Annino
As the leader of a writing workshop in a retirement community for several years, I discovered a surprising reason to hold back on submissions. Also, in attending crackerjack workshops at the Hollins University summer children’s literature program, I learned a lot about submission attitudes from fellow writers.
Today, I share what I learned about manuscript submissions and writing from the above mentioned experiences.
This blog post is about moving a voluntary, not required writing for everyday employment, submission along. Moving it the long, long, miles from the keyboard toward publication. NOTE: Writing required for everyday employment such as, works-for-hire, paid/staff writing assignments, writing in other employment settings, or other similar pieces are not in the hopper for this discussion.
Two Little Reasons to Hold Back on Submitting
Little reason one: The poem, article, story or book manuscript ain’t poifect. It’s not the best.
Some things that might get overlooked or might need a little extra attention are: the idea, research, writing, revisions, fact-checking, copy editing, formatting & agreements / commitments previously made with an agent or editor.
Although flush with the thrill of creation earlier, the writer now realizes that all the words don’t work well. The next revisions might start with arrangements for hiring an expert copy-editor where they will work together to provide polish before submitting. They might look for things such as, lax formatting, missing significant facts and so on.
The best work moves forward. The less than best, no.
Now for a word about partial manuscripts. Sometimes, upon request from editors or agents, a writer sends out work that is partially written. But those requests for partials do not mean that those professionals on the receiving end hope to read work without sparkle. Those partials must be the best they can be, not hurry up, rough-and-tumble drafts.
As for the writer who has an arrangement with an agent or editor to peek at works-in-progress that are covered in construction dust, well, that writer owns a unique send button. Brava! Not every keyboard has ’em.
For most of us, it works in our favor to leave the typos, wonky formatting, and blobby ideas at home.
Little reason two for holding back on submitting, with three aspects to it: An unready, unprepared writer.
1. Not the writer’s true topic.
A writer may realize they dislike the topic that they are messing around with in Microsoft Word, longhand, or however it is they bring something to the page.
As a community college adult education writing instructor, I had big ears for the round-the-world adventures of active retirees. They are the ones who taught me about this “wrong topic” problem.
Out of about 20 fascinating writers with lively stories to tell, each semester, usually one-fourth shared that they were slogging away at a piece that they didn’t want to write. But they were dully plodding because a spouse, child, sibling, college group, former employer, etc. tasked them with it. Someone had complimented them on their writing, rhyme, annual family newsletter, vacation report, or anecdote about Uncle Mortimer and the wasp in his armpit by telling them, “You have to publish this!”
If you don’t want to write the piece you are working on, give yourself permission to write something you want to write. (Note – again, under discussion is voluntary writing, not required writing for everyday employment.)
A smaller part of little reason two is that an author is unready, at this particular moment, to be out there for scrutiny. Consider the following scenario: An author’s pal runs interference and sets up a pitch session with their editor or agent. The unprepared author doesn’t have the pitch polished, is sick with the ick, is distracted by several serious family kerfuffles, etc. The editor is faced with either wasting time with an unprepared author or a string of cancelled appointments due to the author’s personal issues.
The remedy is to always try to be ready, but to understand if the time is truly not right. Ask the editor/agent if you can be in touch soon, like in two weeks?
3) Unwilling to budge
A third aspect of little reason two is that the writer is emotionally tied to the story exactly the way it is submitted. The connection, often from a heartfelt childhood experience or other event, is so vivid to the author that any manuscript changes suggested by an editor or publisher feel wrong . . . or it seems as though it would be a betrayal of this emotional material to make changes for improvement.
So why send a piece to a traditional publisher, whose job is to find ways to make the piece better, and whose experience guides them to do this, when the writer’s thinking from the get-go is, I’m not open to substantial changes. You must be open to changes to work with a top-drawer editor and publisher.
There may be other reasons a writer is unready; please share a comment.
The prize(s): A surprise item (or items) from Jan’s writer’s vault (U.S. & Canada postal mail, only.)
To be considered for a prize, leave a comment, by June 30 midnighty and include your real name if that is not the automatic comment name.
I appreciate those who helped. In acknowledging assistance (Ann, Debra, M.R, especially, thank you) any foolishness of thought, fact or interpretation, is my own. I’d like to also express gratitude for Sub Six/Alayne and your supporting cast, and more thanks to Kristen Fulton for the enthusiasm she shares in the writing community.
Photo by M.R. Street
Jan Godown Annino’s picture book biography of Betty Mae Tiger Jumper, SHE SANG PROMISE, is an ALA Amelia Bloomer Top Ten book. The New Jersey native moved to south Florida as a teen and now lives with her family safe from pythons, crocodiles and most tourists, in North Florida. Her poems for children are published in a 2014 Peace Corps anthology for Ethiopian schools, and her poetry for young readers also appears in Milkweed’s STORIES FROM WHERE WE LIVE, Literary Field Guide Series (Piedmont & South Atlantic edition). Her Florida nonfiction books are also well-regarded. Jan is an active reader in schools.
Visit Jan’s blog
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You can also find Jan on GROG a group blog offering guidance and support to writers.
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