Saturday, January 30, 2010

Resolve to be an Empowered Writer

Side profile of a businesswoman working on a laptop

Why do we writers leave the responsibility for deciding the worth of our work in the hands of others and then feel completely devastated by rejection? The cure is to become and empowered writer.

The first step is learn your craft. In “No More Rejections,” Alice Orr describes her younger self in the woman's room of a sushi restaurant resting her head against the tiles feeling completely clueless about why her latest manuscript had been canceled after. The solution, according to Orr, is to learn your craft. None of us would trust our bodies to a doctor who said, “Hey, I want to be a surgeon. I think I'll try this operation on you. When I'm finished, I'll ask a senior surgeon whether I did it right.” That may sound facetious, but it's exactly what many aspiring writers do. They labor for months, or years, over their novel then fling it into the mail hoping an editor, agent, or publisher will love it. Anyone can write a novel – right?

As a professional, you should determine whether your novel has potential. You'll still get rejections. Many business decisions and matters of taste are responsible for a publisher's rejection of a manuscript. But when the letter comes back, you should not feel helpless. You do control the destiny of your work, if you understand it's limitations and can assess it's economic potential. Writing is, after all, a business.

The second step is accepting responsibility for your work. In a recent exchange on Amazon's comment section, a writer received a very negative review from a reader. Instead of shrugging it off as a matter of taste, the author became defensive. However, instead of giving her own reasons for the novel's lack of success, she blamed her editor. Editors can be extremely helpful. Mine is superb; but, not all editors are created equal, any more than doctors, lawyers, engineers, teachers or mothers. If you really believe your editor is giving you bad advice, it's your responsibility to do something about it. If you elect to take the direction and keep your mouth shut, you can't blame the editor. As a professional, you accepted the criticism and you, not she, are responsible for your work. Your name is on the cover.

This brings us back to the first point. You can only be responsible for your work only if you have a thorough knowledge of your craft. At the start of this new decade, lets all resolve to become empowered writers.

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