How Do You Know When Something Is ‘Ready’ for Publishing?

Very rarely will you write a first draft and decide it doesn’t need any polishing up before you send it off.

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Will that thing you’re writing ever be ‘ready’ for publishing? Probably, if you ask yourself these questions before taking any next steps.

Is it finished?

This might seem obvious, but look closely. If it’s a story (novel, novella, short story), are all the loose ends tied up? Have all your round characters developed significantly from start to finish? Is everything consistent, edited and cleaned up? If it’s an essay or article, are all important points addressed and explained? Are they actionable, including helpful tips? Do the intro and conclusion open and close the piece properly?

Very rarely will you write a first draft and decide it doesn’t need any polishing up before you send it off. Even if you think you don’t need to look over it one more time, do it anyway. That’s not to say the more time you spend on something, the more likely you are to get good results. Give it the time and effort you think it deserves, but make sure all the key elements are there.

Do you feel good about it?

We are all harsh self-critics, so you are never going to feel like what you’ve just written is the best thing ever created (er, let’s hope not, because honestly, it’s probably not). However, when something is ‘ready’ to be submitted for publishing, there’s a certain sense of peace that comes along with it. You aren’t necessarily fully confident – it’s a big deal, and it makes sense to be nervous – but you’re sure the piece is as good as it’s ever going to be before sending it out.

I submitted an article to the Huffington Post this week. It was something I wrote that I was really proud of. Did I expect someone to contact me right away about publishing it? Of course not. They get hundreds if not thousands of submissions a day, because everyone wants a HuffPo byline. But that article was my baby. I worked hard on it. I felt like it was ready for the world, so I just went for it. It’s probably lost in the shuffle, and that’s fine, but when you just KNOW something is ready, there’s no reason why you can’t, and shouldn’t, just take a chance and see what happens.

Do you have an audience and publication/editor/agent in mind?

If you have already written something, you should already generally know who your audience is. But there are a lot of different publications that cater to the same audiences. Always know where you want your piece to go before you send it anywhere. Sending it out to every website, editor, agent, etc. to increase your chances of getting it published … just don’t do that.

What’s most important is that whether or not you feel fully confident, even when you’re nervous and/or new to this experience, you take this step because YOU want to. You really, really want this. You have something to share that others might find value in, and you want to get it out there.

There are people out there who do this just because everyone else is doing it. They do it because they want more people to visit their website or follow them on social media. Those are perks you might get, but don’t be one of those people who paraphrases someone else’s article, down to subheadings, just to put your name on something even though you didn’t come up with the ideas (I saw this the other day, and though it’s subtle and not direct copying, it’s still copying someone else’s ideas, and it infuriates me. DO NOT DO THIS).

You have valuable things to say. Are you ready to show them to the world?

Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

Reasons Writing an ‘Elevator Pitch’ Matters

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You’ve probably heard a lot of published authors, editors, agents – anyone in the professional writing scene talk about elevator pitches for your latest stories. It’s the less-than-30-second explanation you would, theoretically, give someone about your book in the time it takes to ride with them on an elevator.

My elevator pitch for my current book is this: “A high school junior finds a book dedicated to her late father, who has only been gone for a year. The author isn’t answering her emails.”

It’s quick. It’s simple. Yet, it has a way of stumping and surprising you.

There’s a reason we’re not including this post in our Let’s Get Published! series. Because writing isn’t just about getting published. There are plenty of other reasons to put a lot of time and effort into formulating your elevator pitch besides spinning the pitch that’s going to get you noticed by an editor.

Here’s why coming up with an elevator pitch, even when you’re nowhere near ready to actually give the pitch, is important during the writing process.

Defining your specific audience

It’s important to know who you’re writing for as soon as you can. Are you writing for an older or younger audience (or somewhere in-between)?

The main character, who will ideally be central to your elevator pitch, says a lot about who your audience is. A young adult MC will usually indicate your story belongs in the young adult umbrella genre, for example.

Narrowing down your theme and defining your motifs

Once you know who you’re writing for, you can focus on the message you want to communicate to that audience. This can be a bit more complicated than your basic freshman-level English practice worksheets. Remember, there’s a big difference between themes and motifs. Your overall message, and the smaller ideas that fall underneath, are vital in your elevator pitch, too.

My elevator pitch wraps around the story’s main theme – character – and also ties in a few motifs, like companionship, literature, grief, avoidance. The pitch itself might need a little work diction-wise, but its center has really helped me focus on the most important elements as I’m writing.

Staying in touch with your original inspiration

Every writer has a specific reason for writing a story, as well as a specific inspiration for that story’s original idea. As you write, as you’ve probably noticed, that inspiration tends to fade in and out the longer you spend on a project. It’s often really hard to find the motivation to keep going when your inspiration fizzles out.

Referring back to your elevator pitch when you’re stuck is often the match you’re looking for to spark your inspiration again. I was inspired to write this book because of a personal experience, which is nestled right in the middle of my pitch.  Every time I’m stuck, I go back to that pitch, and I’m reminded why I started writing in the first place.

Sure, your ultimate goal might be to get published. Keeping that in mind is still important. But never forget your initial reasoning for starting your book in the first place. You have someone you’re trying to reach, and a specific message you’re trying to hand out. That is, always, the most important thing. You may never get this story to print. But that doesn’t mean it matters any less.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

How To Really Stand Out In the Publishing World | LET’S GET PUBLISHED

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Writing isn’t easy, but there’s comfort in knowing you’re not the only one struggling. There are hundreds of thousands of other writers out there typing their way toward the exact same goals you are.

Which is great. Unless you want to stand out, which, predictably, everyone does.

What can you do that makes you, and your writing, unique? Standing out is almost tougher than the writing process itself, but we’ve come up with a few tactics you can try to make the road a little easier to navigate. 

Build a versatile portfolio 

The biggest mistake younger writers (of lesser experience, not necessarily age) make is believing that belonging to a specific writing niche means you can only ever write about one thing. Regardless of your niche and what kind of work you hope to publish someday, writing the same thing over and over again doesn’t do much to show off your skills, even if you have a lot of them.

Potential employers, agents and editors want to see your work, but they need to see a variety of writing samples. They need to know you’re flexible, experienced and able to write for a diverse market. Your portfolio should contain snippets from different newspapers, magazines and blogs, if applicable. Don’t have any yet? Here’s how you can get started.

Don’t expect to make it big, at least not right away 

Very few writers stumble upon instant success, especially their first time trying. Even if you’ve been writing for awhile, it takes time to really immerse yourself in a consistent style and find your voice. The first few things you publish, even the first dozen, probably won’t be great. That doesn’t mean you’re a bad writer.

Some of the most successful, well-known writers have been writing, rewriting and publishing for years. They didn’t find success overnight, and honestly, it’s not going to do you much good to expect to, either. For now, focus on refining your craft. Seriously. Put all your energy into getting a little better every day, and worry about publishing later.

Write because you enjoy writing 

Readers can tell when you’re fully engaged in a piece and when you’re not. We write differently depending on how passionate we are about certain subjects and ideas, even when we don’t realize it. If you’re writing just for the sake of writing, just to put your name on the Internet and increase your chances of getting published someday, honestly, you probably never will.

You need to write because you enjoy writing. If it’s not your passion, you’re not going to make it very far. Why? Because as we like to remind you here, writing is hard. It sometimes takes all your time and energy away from you. If you’re not fully invested in it, quitting will eventually seem like your best option. Besides, it’s not only ordinary readers that can tell when your heart’s not in it. Editors and the like can tell, too, usually within the first few sentences.

The biggest key to success in publishing is to never stop writing. Keep your eyes open for writing opportunities and know it’s okay if everything you write isn’t always your best. You’ll have good days and not so good ones. What’s most admirable in a writer, though, is pushing through till you make it count.

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

[DISCUSSION] “Publishing” Your First Piece of Writing

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I remember the first time I held it in my hands.

My story. My words. In print.

This was more than just a series of paragraphs scrawled on notebook paper, shoved under my bed for no one else to see. This was a book with real binding, with a real picture on the cover. Real words on the pages. My name.

Okay, so the words were still written in my 10-year-old handwriting, and the picture was a web image glued onto the front. In fifth grade, everyone wrote a story, everyone got a blank book with blank pages to write it in, to give to their parents for Christmas (or whatever holiday you celebrated, they were just then starting to get fussy about that in public schools).

All I remember about my first “published” story was that it was about a dog named Molly that got lost in a snowstorm. I imagined her as a Dalmatian because (1) Disney, duh, and (2) it made more sense for a Dalmatian to get lost in snow. I was more excited for my parents to open it on Christmas morning than I was about opening my own presents that year.

It was probably five pages long, full of flat, static characters and missing a linear plotline. BUT IT WAS REAL. And it was mine.

I’m pretty sure that’s when I started wondering if I could ever be a writer someday. I’d been writing little, meaningless stories for a long time, but it had never been a dream of mine to be an author, not really. I was more interested in painting and dancing and writing music (artsy much?).

You don’t ever forget your first “published” story. I think it changes you, even when you look back on it. I’m sure my mom stored that book away somewhere with all my other fifth grade projects, and someday I’ll probably find it again and be able to reflect how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown, since then.

I entered a literary arts competition when I was 13. I think I won an award, for a poem I wrote, but for some reason I don’t remember. What I remember most was how nervous I was showing my mom when she helped me submit it, and how self-conscious I felt about a bunch of other people reading it, too.

When I was 16, on the same day, I received in the mail (1) my very first proof copy of one of my very first novels and (2) a free print copy of Teen Ink magazine, in which, to my surprise, one of my essays had been published.

That was a pretty good day. Both pieces of writing were pretty awful and you could probably find one of them online if you looked hard enough (don’t). But once again, that didn’t matter. My name. In print.

A few weeks later, I published my first blog post.

It never gets old, honestly. Putting a name to your words, putting it out there. Not because I love seeing my name in print, but because I’m so desensitized to it now, when people think it’s cool, you remember how cool it was the first time, and it’s like you’re publishing something for the first time all over again.

I think it’s healthy to keep bringing that feeling back. Because it’s very easy, the more you publish, to forget that it’s still a big deal. Sure, everybody’s doing it. But that doesn’t make it any less of an accomplishment.

I also think it’s healthy to share these kinds of stories with each other. Not to brag, but to encourage. To remember. To feel on top of the world again, even if only for a moment.

So what’s your story? Do you remember the first time you ever “published” something? What was it – a blog post? An elementary school project? A post on a forum somewhere? Where are you now, compared to where you were then?

Do you remember how it felt?

Wasn’t it amazing?

Isn’t it, still?

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and health. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist, Meg is the managing editor at College Lifestyles magazine, a guest contributor with Lifehack and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine. She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has also written for Teen Ink and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.

So I’m Getting a Book Published … Sort of (Midweek Novel Update #4)

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I’m afraid of what you’ll think of me.

I want to be honest with you, and promise you I’m not giving up on my book. Just because I haven’t made much progress this past week doesn’t mean I’m quitting for good. I’m not stopping, I’m still writing, I don’t care how slowly my word count goes up.

There’s a lot going on in my professional life this month and it’s okay to take it slow.

But … something else has been on my mind, too. Another book. A book I’ve already written and shelved a single proof copy of.

I don’t want you to think I’m betraying the story I’ve been working on for the past three years. You know I don’t give up easily and am always quick to encourage my followers to finish one project before starting another.

I guess this is a little different. But I wanted to start off telling it like it is, because I’m kind of terrified.

However, I am an aspiring writer just like many of you reading this post. I feel obligated to be open about my struggles of the literary variety because we all have them, and if we don’t talk about them, how will we ever overcome them?

So here’s the deal: I’m opening up an already finished book. 

I’m breaking my own rule. I’m returning to a project I already put aside. Some of you don’t care, won’t think twice about it, won’t understand where the worry comes from. Some of you are shaking your monitors/screens/phones/whatever pieces of technology through which you’ve accessed this web page.

Why are you doing this to yourself? Why are you being so stupid?

Because. Because I worked really hard on it, and wrote it without holding myself back, from the deep (dark?) depths of my soul, and all it’s been doing for the past four years is sitting on a shelf in my closet, read by few … but relatively liked by those few. I mean they have to say that, they’re my family and friends. But the book, while not the best story ever written, deserves more than a lifetime on a shelf.

I think I want to give it the chance to do more. I think I’m ready to introduce it to the world.

For years, I’ve wanted to start looking for an agent.

The book is called Queen Bee. It’s the last book I actually wrote from start to finish. It’s also edited, bound and shelved as a proof copy from CreateSpace, which is my self-decided signal for putting a full-length project behind me and moving on. I don’t think it’s the best story out there, but it’s the best book I personally have ever finished. And I think that counts for something.

I wrote it over one summer, between my freshman and sophomore years of college. Once I received the proof and let it sit on my desk for a few weeks, I shelved it to keep it safe and went back to school that August.

I got busy. I added a second major. I forgot about it, sort of. Excuses, excuses. By the time I came home the next summer, I had a new story idea, a new project … the same project I’m still working on today, many revisions later.

One of my goals this year is to finish my current project. It’s still a priority for me. I’ve signed up for Camp NaNoWriMo (join me?) and I’m ready to commit to 10,000 words of progress or more. I still love this story and am still dedicating it to my high school creative writing teacher.

As great as small goals are, though, I’m always looking at the big picture. And working with an agent/publishing a book are both on my Bucket List. Yes, I have a lot going on, but that’s the way I like it. That’s when I’m at my best and at my absolute happiest. I’m at the point of my life where anything is possible and no dream is too big. The only thing that can hurt me is never bothering to try.

It’s not going to happen this year, or maybe even next year or the year after that.

A lot of “experts” spend a lot of time talking about query letters and how you shouldn’t get discouraged if no one responds to the first x number you send out. If publishing a book was the only thing I wanted to accomplish in my lifetime, I would probably spend hours writing and emailing letters. I’d be in a constant state of worry when I didn’t hear anything back.

There’s a good reason I added a second major and have other career goals to work toward: I don’t want to depend on an unlikely circumstance to make me feel fulfilled.

For me, if it happens, it happens—if agents don’t like my book, I’m not going to curl up into a ball and forget about all the other things on my Bucket List I want to accomplish. I’m in no rush.

The story is already written and, though I might go back in and do a few touch-ups, it doesn’t need a complete revision overhaul—not yet, anyway. Okay, so it’s not as good as something by J. K. Rowling, but have you ever seen her first drafts? Exactly.

I’m not the most confident writer out there. But I think having a dream is more motivational than having a supersaturation of confidence inside you. I guess, I just don’t want to have to say I never tried.

So I’m trying. I’m getting a book published.

Well. Sort of.

Love&hugs, Meg<3

Image courtesy of Novelty Revisions.

A recent graduate with a B.A. in English and a completed major in nutrition, currently seeking a graduate degree in health communication, Meg is a twenty-something workaholic with a passion for writing, coffee and dietetics. In addition to her status as an aspiring novelist and Grammar Nazi (and the mastermind behind this site), Meg is an editor for College Lifestyles magazine and a guest blogger for Food & Nutrition Magazine’s Stone Soup.  She is a seven-time NaNoWriMo winner and has written several creative pieces for Teen Ink magazine. Follow Meg on Twitter.