I was reading a book on ‘How to Write Best-Selling Fiction’ this past week when a chapter jumped out at me, and I couldn’t help but smile. It was totally me. I’m ashamed to admit my naivety, but it was like I was reading my story.
Dean Koontz, the author, tells a story about an unpublished author. He had agreed to look at the man’s manuscript and got a little more than he bargained for. For the purpose of his story, he decided to call the man Bubba.
Bubba was very excited about his work, and said writing was the easiest thing he had ever done. All he had to do was sit down and type. The story just flowed off the top of his head. He wondered why everyone wasn’t doing it.
Well Bubba did give him a manuscript, but it was nowhere near publishable. In fact, according to Koontz, “In the first chapter of that novel, Bubba commits virtually every grammatical error known to English-speaking people.”
Like Bubba, I finished my first novel and was eager to put it out there. It was a great story. I knew I had a best seller. I sent it out to literary agents and waited for my offer. One never got back with me. Three said it wasn’t what they were looking for. One very gracious agent took the time to review at least a portion of my work, and provided me with a list of reasons why my novel wasn’t ready.
Grammatical and Structural errors were at the top of the list. Dean Koontz calls these the unforgivable sins. New writers may need pointers on pacing, transitions, POV, backstory… but if you’re calling yourself a writer, you should know and follow the basic rules of grammar.
There you go. I’m a sinner, but I have worked hard to redeem myself 🙂
One of the myths that I fell into, was that it didn’t matter if my grammar was perfect or even approaching perfect. The publishers had editors that would go through and correct all of my mistakes. Right?
I could have given up, the novel obviously wasn’t publishable. I had spent a year writing it. I spent countless hours revising and making sure everything was flowing, and the story made sense. I couldn’t believe it was being rejected because of grammatical and structural errors.
Of course there were other issues, but that was the one that stopped the agent in her tracks. She was kind and did praise the actual premise itself.
She encouraged me to go back and learn how to write, apply what I learned to the novel I was writing, and resubmit.
I took her advice after some time off to lick my wounds. The novel I am currently preparing for submission is a much improved version of the original manuscript.
DON’T GIVE UP! DO YOUR HOMEWORK! LEARN YOUR CRAFT! WRITE! WRITE! WRITE!