1) They reject the notion of “writer’s block” the way others shun gluten. Some people are truly unable to tolerate that vilified protein, but many more leap after a culprit to explain their dyspepsia or inability to refrain from carby deliciosity. Maybe cutting out a big food group makes it easier to stick to a diet than being careful about portion sizes of crusty bread and pasta puttanesca. Certainly there’s a comfort in diagnosis, relief in the idea that suffering can be linked to a thing that others also get. Likewise, it’s a lot easier to say that the muse has gone AWOL than to admit that writing is hard and requires discipline and sacrifice. [Read more…]
Authors need to understand the process by which their manuscript will be evaluated and take that into account when they submit. If a smart recent college graduate can’t decode what your book is about, you’re in trouble.
When I graduated from college I hoped to land a job working on a dude ranch in Wyoming. Instead, I fell into a career in scholarly publishing, acquiring books for Oxford University Presses. I realize now that as an editor I didn’t pay nearly enough attention to the prose. I cared more about the ideas than about how well they were expressed, at least that’s what I told myself. It wasn’t true.
I would stand over the credenza to choose which of the many long-ago-submitted manuscripts I was going to tackle next. I liked manuscripts with subheads that helped to signpost the argument. Some looked inviting—they got me interested at the first sentence, and I kept reading while I walked back to my office. However, the ones with paragraphs that went on forever, their page-long sentences cobbled together with semicolons, told me the authors didn’t give a hoot about my experience as a reader. Giant blocks of quoted material suggested the author was unwilling or unable to think independently. If the first few sentences contained heaps of words that no one ever spoke out loud, I knew I’d need a cup of coffee. Those were the manuscripts I left for later. Sometimes it would be months before I would get to them. Many months. [Read more…]