As this year comes to a close, I’ve been asked to reflect on what I’ve learned or internalized as a writer in 2019. I’ve done a few things different this year, and although it hasn’t gotten me where I want to be quite yet, I think I’m headed in the right direction. For what it’s worth, here are my writer reflections on 2019.
This one could be perennial because I’ve been at this a while. A quite successful, big name writer once told me that it’s better to be unpublished than published badly. She meant that once you have a sales record, and if that record is poor, it’s hard to get another deal. If you’re unpublished, you are learning and growing in private. When you write the book that pops, you have a better chance of getting a lasting career. After all, you can only be the shiny new thing once.
I’ve had manuscripts that have gotten me a few near misses—ones that have won me awards, landed me an agent, and made it to acquisition meetings at publishing houses. Still, maybe it’s better those other ones didn’t sell. Each new manuscript is better than the last. Until I’m published, I’m going to choose to see this as an opportunity to grow.
I’ve always had critique partners, and I’ve attended numerous craft sessions at writers conferences. In short, I’ve done what I could to learn from experts about improving my storytelling. Of course, the best teacher is actually writing. This year, though, I took a leap and hired a professional editor to evaluate all elements of my writing. She looked at plot, pacing, characterization, etc., and wrote me a detailed report. This was not cheap—I obviously had to pay for this professional’s work. But let me tell you: it was worth it.
Unlike a friend or fellow writer at about the same level, she had previously worked as an editor at a publishing house. She is very aware of the market and was able to give me feedback on how my manuscript might be perceived. This is information I was interested in because my goal is to be traditionally published. Also, she gave my work her full and undivided attention because I was paying her. She wasn’t worried that her response might hurt my feelings or other such complexities when friends evaluate your work. She was able to be direct, and she was able to identify places to improve that I don’t think other people could have seen.
In short, this was money well spent. I asked a successfully published friend for a recommendation, which is how I found this particular editor to hire. The friend said the cost could be justified by deciding if I wanted to attend craft workshops at a conference and pay all of those associated costs, or did I want to do this instead? In the end, I got a lot more out of a “case study” of my own work than I ever have generalized tips for improving writing.
These two points are my biggest takeaways from 2019. Going forward, I intend to finish the manuscript I’m working on right now. Who knows? Maybe a combination of patience and help will get me where I want to go. Good luck to you all!