How Not to Get Published

I’ve been reading Limyaael’s fantasy rants again, which I just love. But I find it funny that so many people read them and think all the while that they are somehow exempt from the things she points out. “Yes, I see your point, but my magical unicorn man answers your points like this.”

It reminds me yet again of my experiences as a beta-reader.

It’s one thing to have my personal struggles with technical questions. I have the right answers, know they are right, but sometimes have a reluctance to accept it. But it always frustrates me to get similar behaviour from people who ask me to review or edit their work.

One problem is that a lot of people write because they want attention. They use the fact that they write to get attention, and less often, they use their writing to get attention.

This will help you not get published. See writing as a means to garner attention, first and foremost. It isn’t important to tell a good story. Just make sure people know your name.

Another great way to not get published is to insist that you know best and must not change anything. I have seen a person cry rather than rewrite a poor scene. A ploy which was repeated whenever the need to rewrite was mentioned, even if no criticism was offered in that mention.

The excuses that people use are eye-rollingly ridiculous. “I did that on purpose,” is my favourite. They invent these long, twisty reasons that sound just like a six-year-old explaining why it’s okay to jump on his bed right after mommy said no. Even better is when feedback is outright ignored with no reason at all.

Then there are the ones who think they are going to change the world with errors. “Screw rules and form! There’s already lots of that. I’m revolutionary.”

Writing is not like painting. There is not as much freedom of form in writing. You can throw anatomy away and call it art. If your opening sentence is “Fenderbender litigate murray mints overwrath,” then you have merely written nonsense. You have not invented a new way to start a story.

The sheer arrogance necessary to perpetuate this behaviour baffles me. Perhaps it goes back to the need for attention. You are Special and the world must Know.

It’s most common with perspective and tense. Usually, people who make mistakes in this area cite a published author as their excuse.

  • Hunger Games uses present tense–but it does so consistently. And it also has a compelling, urgent premise and sympathetic characters. I think that those are why readers enjoy it. Some might even have to look past the present tense as an irritation to get to the story.
  • The Bartimaeus Trilogy (which I have talked about many times before) uses first and third person from the perspective of three characters. But each of those shifts between perspective only happen in the change from one chapter to another–and the only character written in first person is Bartimaeus. I know this is a long example, but oy. This was a design decision that was clearly made before writing. It was not an excuse not to rewrite chapter two.

I’ve seen people who claim some kind of spiritual ancestry in other writers, usually classics that arose from a different time and place in reality, and therefore a completely different context. Often, they don’t even know why a writer was innovative–I don’t mean how, I mean why the writer chose to write that way, and why it is seen as innovation instead of ignorance or lack of skill. Some weren’t lauded as classics when they did the work, but these writers now want the world to see their genius NOWPLZ.

Form and structure are there for a reason. Unlike the many forms of visual art (painting, cartooning, sculpting) there are not points for participation in writing. You don’t get recognition or a paycheck just for writing at all. If you fail, you get nothing, and you rewrite or try a fresh start.

In the end, it’s just a shinier, more annoying way to show that one cannot take criticism. Not being able to submit to critique is the fastest way to get an editor to cut you loose. It’s also a great way to get a beta-reader to make up a flimsy excuse to drop you and your story. And if you can’t keep a beta-reader, then good luck getting anyone to bother with your query.

At least you have Smashwords. Remember the days when Amazon was the subject of fun-poking for “selling anything with an ISBN”? Now these arrogant morons have access to people who will give them an ISBN. Happy reading.


3 thoughts on “How Not to Get Published

  1. I think you have a good point, but at the same time I’ve found some pretty fantastic, self-published books via Smashwords or Kindle direct. It’s not self-publishing that makes a writer bad, it’s people who don’t take their writing seriously enough to even proofread it.

    That being said I’ve run across some horrible writers when reading through my slush pile. I’ve emailed writers to tell them their submissions were not formatted in the way required on our submission page (not rejecting them, just asking they resubmit their file in correct format) to get countless emails yelling at me about everything from web design to font size to “well, someone else who read it liked it this way”. People suck…

    • Oh, I would never say self-publishing means a book or writer is bad. I self-publish. ;-) I only meant that it is the best option for those people who think they are perfect or don’t want to correct any mistakes. Editors aren’t necessarily a part of the process when self-publishing.

  2. Pingback: Mini-Interview with Jane Green, author of Another Piece of My Heart « Books in the Burbs

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