Guest Blogger B. Lynn Goodwin talks about Taking Your Writing to the Next Level – A Look at Editing and Polishing
So you’ve been inspired, found the time, and drafted a story or memoir that you really want to share with the world. Maybe you’ve even shared it with a critique group, or had a good friend read it to you so you could hear your own glitches.
What do you need to do to take it to the next level and make it ready for publication?
- Look at the content. Does everything contribute to the story you’re telling, or do you have extraneous material?
- Do your characters struggle, try, and give it their all? If not, is there a clear reason not to? Does that change before the end of the story?
- Now that you’ve drafted it, what is your story about? It might have several themes or messages. Make a list.
- How does the story end? Is there an epiphany? Does the ending reinforce your message? Has the protagonist changed?
- Do you feel stuck? Try listing 5-20 things that aren’t likely to happen. It’s a circuitous route for opening yourself to new ideas.
- Why is this story important? What matters? What’s at stake?
- What makes this story unique and what makes it universal?
- Is there some kind of tension and how does it enhance the story? Does the pace work?
- Are your mechanics polished until they shine? Do they make you look professional?
- Who is your audience and why will they care about these characters and their situation?
- How will your audience find this story? Who can help you bring it to them?
- Condense your story into 45 words or less. That’s your pitch, the speech you use to tell your story. If you can’t do that, what do you need to cut, and what do you need to sharpen?
Sharing with readers is different from sharing with writers. Readers can tell you what they like and what troubles them. Writers and editors can tell you how to fix those problems. You might consider sharing with both before you submit.
Then make a list of ten magazines or e-zines or editors you’ll send it out to. As soon as it’s gone out, make a list of another ten. That way if you get a rejection, you can keep sending it out. Be sure you send to places that are looking for your subject matter, your style, and your level of skill.
Be courageous, not arrogant, whether you’re responding to acceptances, fan mail, or even rejections. And keep writing, even on the days when you’re down and discouraged. As my husband says, “You don’t lose until you quit trying.”
Lynn Goodwin is the owner of Writer Advice, www.writeradvice.com, which is currently holding its 10th Flash Prose Contest. She’s the author of You Want Me to Do WHAT? Journaling for Caregivers, and a YA called Talent, which Eternal Press will be publishing this year. Her short pieces have been published in local and regional publications.
Lynn will be on a panel of editors at Writers Forum in Petaluma, California on May 21, 2015.