Ways to Trash Your Writing Career: An Intermittent Series

It is unfortunately true that it is impossible to publish a partial work.  A publisher cannot put half a novel up on the shelves at your local indie bookstore.  The first duty of a writer is to finish writing the thing.

A fellow BVC denizen tells me of a writer she knows who was unable to meet deadlines.  Even after signing the contract to deliver the novel on a given date!  Publishing houses have schedules to meet.  They have booked space/time at printers, and when the time comes, there has to be a manuscript ready to go, or a lot of money is lost.  When this author blithely told the editor that the contracted ms would be six months to a year late, what did he/she expect would happen?  The slot went to an author whose ms was finished and ready to go.

Another sad example might be the Golden Heart award handed out by the Romance Writers of America.  The prize-winning ms is almost always published — if it is a complete work.   In the past the prize was won by people who had their three chapters and an outline, which they had been grooming for ten years.  When the author won, there was no novel — she had never learned to complete one.  And it was too late to learn!  It got so bad that the RWA changed the rules so that only complete mss can be submitted for the prize.

Does everyone remember Robert Heinlein’s rules of writing?  To become a writer, write, he said.  And finish what you write!

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About Brenda Clough

Brenda W. Clough spent much of her childhood overseas, courtesy of the U.S. government. Her first fantasy novel, The Crystal Crown, was published by DAW in 1984. She has also written The Dragon of Mishbil (1985), The Realm Beneath (1986), and The Name of the Sun (1988). Her children’s novel, An Impossumble Summer (1992), is set in her own house in Virginia, where she lives in a cottage at the edge of a forest. Her novel How Like a God, available from BVC, was published by Tor Books in 1997, and a sequel, Doors of Death and Life, was published in May 2000. Her latest novels from Book View Cafe include Revise the World (2009) and Speak to Our Desires. Her novel A Most Dangerous Woman is being serialized by Serial Box. Her novel The River Twice is newly available from BVC.

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Ways to Trash Your Writing Career: An Intermittent Series — 5 Comments

      • Remember though that hardly any writer can write it perfectly, the first draft. And if they do, it’s certainly not their first novel. Rewrite by and large improves a work. The trick is to recognize when the point of diminishing returns has arrived. You can rewrite for ever and ever, of course. But as long as the work is getting better, probably you should keep on buffing it until it gets into a final form.

        • You might, however, get more bang for your buck by trunking the manuscript after five drafts and writing a new story with what you have learned.

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