As editor of the Maine Review, I’m often asked what I look for in submissions. As a writer who has been submitting to literary magazines for years, I know the process is fraught with anxiety, hope, and an occasional bit of dread. It’s sad that there’s no easier way for editors to discover excellent writing than through an impersonal submission process, and I hope that by sharing my thoughts, I can help make the experience a little easier for you.
Best-selling thriller writer Ian Rankin writes a book a year. At a certain point, usually at the end of the first month, he is struck by "the fear." He becomes convinced that all the work he's done so far has been a waste of time, that this new book won’t be any good. When he mentions this to his wife, she usually asks, "Are you on page 65?" He then realizes that he goes through this phase with every novel, always at the same point. Many writers experience this kind of doubt about their work. And, as writing is such a lonely profession, they don't all have someone with whom they can share their frustrations.
Moby Dick was declared "dull, dreary, and ridiculous" and Orwell's 1984 "a failure." In literature, bad book reviews and effusive praise come with the territory. Just celebrate you are being noticed, and be sure your name is spelled right.
Completing a novel is a major accomplishment for any writer, and every novelist has his or her own writing method. From outlining to sticky notes to just writing the darn thing, the process of completing a novel will differ from writer to writer. For novelists out there struggling with their current writing method, or those embarking on their first book, look these over – you might find a process that works for you.
The Ploughshares at Emerson College blog recently posted an amusing series of graphs titled "Depressing Graphs For Writers." Did I say amusing? Well, it depends on your sense of humor and which phase of the literary arc you're currently in, but it might help lighten your mood after a rough week of writer's block or frustration that your latest has yet to land on the best seller list.
When writing – be it a short story, an exposé, or marketing copy – there are three questions you should answer before you actually sit down to work. Follow this guide to help clarify and focus your message
Self-editing can be harder than writing because we grow to love our creations, and we often have difficulty seeing them objectively. We have a hard time destroying the little superfluous bits that keep our manuscripts from greatness because it feels like we’re destroying pieces of ourselves.