Are you a give-a-shit writer?

Look, I get that writing a book manuscript isn’t easy. I know it takes countless hours of your life and it can drain your brain like nothing else. If writing were an easy feat, every person would do it. But that’s no excuse for sloppy manuscript submissions. At the minimum, you should have punctuation in  your manuscript, as well as paragraphs. Who the hell thinks having NO PARAGRAPHS in a manuscript is a good idea?!*

(*Interrobangs are so much fun to use, aren’t they?)

Please, respect your editor and publisher. Don’t send them a manuscript that’s laden with errors and half-assed efforts like missing quotation marks (really?). Does a person who never uses quotation marks realize that dialogue requires such marks, or were they too damned lazy to bother with it in the first place? I’m betting on the latter.

While you’re at it, why don’t you run a cursory spell check so it appears you made an attempt to check your work in some small way before you shunted it off to your editor or publisher? Yeah, that would be nice. Oh, wait. Is that too much to ask? For many so-called writers, it is. Learning the craft of writing is SO last century, isn’t it? I mean, who has the TIME? *insert hair flip*

You can always tell the difference between writers who sling together a manuscript in hopes of selling a bunch of books to make a wad of cash versus a writer who takes the craft of writing seriously. The latter will obsess over every. little. detail even after the manuscript is out of his or her hands. In fact, once the book is published, the caring writer will still regret not making even more changes before the book found its way onto the bookshelves. This type of writer gives a shit. 

And the slapdash writer? This is the kind I want to strangle (not really, but the angry emotion is there). Well, that writer doesn’t give a damn about much of anything. They’ll serve up a pile of prosaic poop and expect their editor to turn a sow’s ear into a silk purse. Who needs to know anything about spelling and grammar, right? The editor should fix all of it, so why does the writer need to know the difference between their/there/they’re? Who has time for figuring out and learning homophones, right? This type of writer gives no shits…at all. They’re the type who will fling crap at a wall and then expect others to turn it into a Picasso. If you’re this type of writer, you’re an asshole. Yep, I said it because it’s true.

The funny thing is, once writers who don’t give a shit have their books published, they’re shocked to learn they’re not outselling J.K. Rowling. Take it from me: these writers almost always go out of their way to tell you how they are the next big thing in the literary world and how all their books will be bestsellers.

Conversely, the writer who gives a shit hardly, if ever, allows those words pass his or her lips. It all leads back to thinking of writing as a craft and something you do for your entire life, as opposed to something you do on a lark to see if you can rake in money so you can brag about it to your Aunt Martha at Christmas time.

Writers who care will write no matter what. Most of the time, they want to earn a living with their words so they can keep writing as a career instead of being stuck in a hellish cubicle doing something they absolutely hate. They cannot NOT write. It’s not possible. Writing is not just what they do, but is an essential part of who they ARE.

People who masquerade as writers only give a shit about writing when they can get something superficial out of it. You won’t find these types at literary meet-ups or discussing the wonders of Shakespeare or Murakami. They won’t know who Jack Kerouac is, nor will they know the difference between David Sedaris and David Copperfield (he’s an author, right?). Because, heck, they probably don’t read much. Reading is for boring people, you see. They may even brag that they haven’t read a book since high school or college. They aren’t concerned with the importance of literature OR the art and craft of writing. They’re concerned with the potential for fame and quick cash to use for their next casino trip to Las Vegas.

It pains me to say it, but the people I’ve described in the previous paragraph are still considered writers. If you write, you’re a writer. But not all writers are the same. This type of writer never earns my respect, nor will they ever. They use writing like it’s little more than a White Chapel whore for their personal pleasure. They use it, wring out what pleasure or benefit they can, and then toss it to the side with nary a backward glance. They don’t truly care about books, writing, literature, authors, readers, or anything of the sort. It’s all about what’s in it for them — that’s it. They’re users, not givers.

Do me a favor, will ya? Strive to become the type of writer who gives a shit, not the kind who doesn’t. If you don’t have the proper respect for books and writing, find another hobby. We need more givers and fewer takers. Which one are you?

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Guys: If you’re going to write about sex, make it sexy!

Over the years, I’ve read and edited a lot of manuscripts. Most men cannot write about sex worth a damn. They’re terrible (most of them, anyway). It’s true! Talk about lame. Ugh! When you find yourself rolling your eyes or emitting a deep belly laugh, then you know the scene is anything BUT sensuous or erotic. Guys, please, if you’re not adept at writing sex scenes, DON’T! Don’t name your penises, either. You end up sounding silly, not sexy.

Want to get published? DON’T do ANY of these things!

Ever wonder what’s going on inside other people’s heads? I sure do. Writers, especially. Now, I’m a writer. I’m also an editor. I know what each side of that desk looks like, and it’s helped me become a better writer and avoid the many pitfalls I’ve seen while wearing my editor hat.

There are times when I ask myself, “Is this writer looking for a way to get their work rejected ON PURPOSE? They must be, because otherwise why would they do something so stupid and…and…inexplicable?” After pounding my head on the desk for 20 minutes, minimum, I straighten my glasses, take a huge gulp of coffee and compose myself. How do I break it to them professionally, yet gently? It’s difficult at times. Trust me, it is.

If I made a list of all the idiotic things writers do that make them flirt with — or outright coax — rejection, I could be here for days, weeks or years. Let’s take a handful at a time, shall we? There will be plenty to cover for the foreseeable future. Trust me on that!

Here are some things you should NOT do if you plan to get published at any time in the near future:

*Don’t submit handwritten manuscripts. Certainly not on colored or perfumed paper. It screams, “Amateur!”

* Don’t ignore spelling or grammar. Learn it. If it’ll be a while before you get a rudimentary grasp of either, then HIRE an editor to polish your work!

* Don’t use weird fonts or formats in your manuscript. You might think Viner Hand is an interesting font to use, but it makes this  editor all stabby!

* Don’t ignore the basics of manuscript format. Scour the internet for information, buy a book on the subject or ask a seasoned writer how to prepare your manuscript.

* Don’t tell me you’ll be the next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling. Maybe you will, but chances are you won’t. Besides, if that’s the only reason why you’re writing (to get rich and famous), you’d be better off playing the lottery.

* Don’t think because I’m friendly, I’m your best buddy. I may like you and be friendly and personable to you, but business is business. How I feel about you personally has no bearing on whether your manuscript is worthy of publication. No, you can’t have my home phone number or address. Don’t ask.

These are only a handful of things you shouldn’t do when you’re hoping to get your work published, and there are many more. If you want to save your editor’s sanity and make a good impression, DON’T do any of the things I’ve mentioned. Editors are overworked and underpaid. Please make our lives easier by submitting professional work. Creativity doesn’t give you license to be LAZY in your presentation to a potential publisher/editor/agent.

Till next time, I hope to avoid pulling out more clumps of hair in frustration. I’m already finding gray strands of hair on top of my head, and this does NOT make me happy. Please don’t add more to the bunch, I’m begging you!

Now…back to writing! Make it good, make it entertaining, make it PROFESSIONAL!