Lessons Learned

Last week, while reviewing the first twenty-five pages of my manuscript Love, Hospital Style, in preparation for entry in the Great Expectations contest, I learned two very valuable lessons.
1) You can’t please everyone.
2) You need to step away from a manuscript for at least a week so you can do your final edit with a fresh pair of eyes.

Let me explain. In my attempt to write a perfect manuscript that would appeal to the masses, I obtained many critiques. Some loved my hero, others thought he wasn’t a nice person. Some found the humor entertaining, others thought it was over the top. Some thought the heroine was fiesty, others thought she was whiney. Luckily, my critiquers found my voice strong and my writing entertaining.

Mistake #1: In my attempt to please everyone, I reviewed each critique and went back into my story to tweak my characters, explain motivation, and expand on backstory accordingly. As a result I slowed the pace of the all-important first chapter, where editors and agents get their initial impression of writing style and voice, and often times make the decision of whether or not they want to work with the writer.

Mistake #2: I thought 3 days was enough time to let the story sit before I went in for my final edit. It wasn’t. A fact made painfully clear when I reviewed my story last week (about month after entering it into the Golden Heart Contest and submitting it to Harlequin and 3 Seas Literary Agency) and immediately identified flaws. How could I not have noticed this? I wondered. Because I was too involved in  the thought processes of writing the story to complete the final edit with any objectivity.

At first I was devastated. I’d had such high hopes for this manuscript. But after a handful of Ferrero Rochers I decided not to dwell on it. After all, there’s nothing I can do now but hope the judges and publishing professionals reading what I’ve submitted find potential in my writing despite what I feel are a few easily correctible flaws. Even better, maybe they won’t even notice! In any event, I’ve learned from my mistakes and my future manuscripts will be better as a result!

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  • GenaL
    Posted December 28, 2009 at 1:14 AM | Permalink

    Hey Wendy,
    Very impressed with your attitude and tenacity (based on this post). Do you know I'm an English teacher? Saying that, let me share 2 things: 1. It's really, really, really hard to please everyone; you shouldn't try (sounds like you figured that out). Finding your voice is difficult, and while you should certainly listen to and hear your critics, at the end of the day it's YOUR name on YOUR work. 2. I'm really, really, really good with punctuation, weird sentences, flushing out ideas, etc. Feel free.

  • Linda Rader
    Posted December 28, 2009 at 1:28 AM | Permalink

    I think you've learned well Wendy. I understand the part about seeing mistakes after you've sent the ms out. It seems only then can you relax enough to see the ms with new eyes. Good luck!

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