Ursula doesn’t have much time to read things other than editing submissions these days, but yesterday she perused the February 2008 issue of Romance Writers Report [RWR – the newsletter publication of Romance Writers of America] and her dark little heart went thump, thump, thump.
In the Up Close and Personal column by Dianne Castell, there’s a fabulous interview with E.J. Gilmer of Amber Quill.
In addition to discussing the uniqueness that is Amber Quill Press, EJ talks about writing in general, promotion, critique groups, contests and conferences. What Ursula [and I] found most interesting though was her response to this question:
What are the biggest mistakes new writers make?
[Note: I post this here not just from editor to authors, but from author to authors. Here are some important tips that, surprisingly, are overlooked far too often.]
EJ Gilmer says: ... “The other thing all writers need to do is polish, polish, polish.[emphasis added] Editors love to see work that’s clean with a manuscript not highlighted by spelling and grammatical errors. Don’t be so carried away by your story that you’re not your own toughest proofreader.
A new author must have a firm grasp of the English language! The largest percentage of all manuscripts we receive in our yearly contest are rejected based on misspellings, punctuation issues, grammar problems, sentence structure, etc. we find in the first few paragraphs. Authors need to learn their craft, and those who do not...well, the slush pile grows increasingly higher thanks to those individuals. No editor is keen to work with an author who acts like a prima donna and refuses to alter a single word, and unfortunately, with many inexperienced publishers and editors who aren’t given the support to demand the best from their authors, poor grammar, spelling, sentence structure, and even plotting problems are seen in books today.”
Ursula could not have said it better. Ultimately this is a humbling business and there’s a lot of disillusionment that goes on. Authors question their talents all the time, they get ripped by editors, devastated by rejections, panned by critics. Some of it is necessary. We have to take our lumps in order to be strong enough to survive but these are the things an author can do to minimize the pain and suffering of climbing up the publishing ladder.