Submitting my first children’s story of the year prompted me to muse on why we call writers’ accomplishments ‘works’. So I turned to the American Heritage Dictionary to find that work is (1) an artistic or intellectual creation or composition as well as (2) labor, effort, exertion, and/or toil. Both definitions fit an earnest writer’s works to a T.
Beginning writers/poets might be wondering what it takes to “get published”—not in the self-publishing sense writers are being steered toward today—but by magazine and book publishers who accept submitted works and print them in their own realm, with the author’s byline attached. I had no idea myself, until my first four children’s poems were accepted for publication some thirty years ago; no idea how much work I was in for in the coming years, performing all the writers’ tasks necessary to get published, while keeping detailed records of every piece of writing submitted and published, from one-line quips to rhyming children’s stories and inspirational poems. Those records show that of the 1,491 pieces submitted to date, 591 have been published and/or reprinted (reprints require that publishers ask for permission to reprint) in magazines and books, including my own Snaps, Scraps & Snippets and Light for the Burning Soul.
When done in earnest, writing—whether a poem, a story, or a book—is work in every sense of the word: work getting it on paper/screen; work editing and/or rewriting it; work finding the proper publisher/editor to whom to submit it; work readying the manuscript according to that publisher/editor’s guidelines; and work submitting it.
While every writer accomplishes the above steps in his or her own way, earnest writers have one thing in common: commitment. I continue to refer to earnest writers because I so often meet poets who would love to see their byline in a magazine or a book, yet they lack the commitment it takes to get it there. New poets, especially, have a tendency to step out too soon and make the fatal mistake of putting their first hundred or so poems together, hoping their book will sell. All that work, yet they rarely think of submitting their poems to an editor first, to see if they even warrant publishing. And that brings me to some advice given by a bestselling author/poet several years ago: that some poems of even the best authors should probably be left in a drawer or put back in a working file until later; and that it’s best to wait until you have a good-sized collection/selection of poems to choose from before setting the goal of publishing a book of poems. So, whatever else you do, don’t let family and friends lull you into thinking that your work is wonderful enough for a book until you have put it to the test with actual editors who will tell you the bold truth.
Another jaunt through the dictionary tells me that commitment is the state of being bound emotionally or intellectually to some course of action. That pretty well sums up my commitment to writing. What about yours? What do you write, and how committed are you to your writing, whatever genre, and to getting it published? How much research have you done, to find publishers/editors who might be interested in at least reading what you write? They’re out there; it’s just up to you to find them, because, until you get your name in print, they won’t come looking for you. So don’t sit back and wait. Revise your work to the best of your ability; have it edited; and get it out there.
Closely related earlier blog: The Flip Side of Rejection Slips
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