I have a plant that I’ve nurtured for a couple years now. This is a real feat considering I can kill a flower faster than most sentient beings. This little plant has achieved what others before it couldn’t; survive despite my best efforts. I know it should be growing and flowering more and the reason it doesn’t is because I need to plant him in a bigger planter. Problem is, I really like the one it’s in. And that’s a problem because I’m not allowing him to be all he could be.
The nicest thing I could do is move him to larger digs. In return, he’d reward me with lovely flowers and greener leaves.
My little plant reminds of some writers I encounter. Like many of my colleagues, when I reject authors after reading their pages, I include a critique as to why it didn’t work for me. I do this because I want to help them understand how they can improve – knowing full well that my opinions are purely subjective, though they do come from an informed source.
Maybe the work was overwritten. Or maybe they are juggling a ton of characters and it results in a mish mash. It’s possible the voice and story is fabulous, but the narrative is muddy, or the humor forced. Whatever the reason, the crits are meant to benefit the author – to guide them toward a successful story.
But I can’t compete with authors who live in a too-small planter boxes. This means their roots are poorly defined and it’s pretty crowded in there. The soil’s nutrients are probably all used up, and it’s struggling to stay alive. In a word, there’s little room for anything else – like critiques.
Rather than seeing crits as an opportunity for improvement, they are defeated because there’s no room for growth. They’ve gone as far as they can go – like my little plant. Instead of digging in and doing some serious rewrites, they believe their only option is to…vanity pub their book.
If you have visions of shelf space and marketplace dancing in your head, why would you give up so easily? Is your planter box that small? I’ve seen all the excuses for defeat:
- “Editors won’t accept debut authors.” Bullpucky
- “They want to edit my work, and I want to leave it exactly the way it is.” Oh puhleez, get over yourself already. Your work does not come directly from the hands of the Great Cosmic Muffin. We. All. Need. To. Be. Edited.
- “I want complete control over my book.” Ayieeee. Vanity publishing does not give control. You do not set the price, the cover (unless you submit it yourself), the distribution, or a return policy.
These are excuses for not moving to a bigger planter box. It’s easy to be complacent because it demands nothing in return; a contract, publication, success, a feeling of triumph.
Expanding your four literary walls is an admission that you’re not done, that there is room for improvement. That you won’t settle for second best. And yes, it might even be an admission that this manuscript isn’t marketable. What better way to honor your desire to be better than realizing you wrote a dud. Heckfire, wanna see the duds sitting under my bed? No, I’m not talking about the beagle. She sleeps on the bed.
The idea of not being done when you thought you were is tiring, for sure. It’s so much easier to simply stay put and settle for a vanity option. And just like my poor plant, your manuscript will never grow, and you’ll never grow as a writer.
“Yah, but I’ve had over a hundred rejections!” you scream at me.
And is this not a screeching indication that a larger planter box is needed? Is this not a sign that something is inherently and consistently wrong with your story? When you’ve been handed comments on a silver platter, this is the time to hit up the Literary Garden Store because you need to be nurtured and developed so you become a better, wiser writer. This will prevent you from ever saying, “I give up, the only option is vanity.” You’ll know when to hold ’em and when to fold ’em.
Vanity pubbed authors rarely make the jump to mainstream publishing because their small planter box doesn’t allow enough room for improvement. They’re satisfied pumping out inferior work in the belief that the “system” is against them. Nothing could be further from the truth. All we want is brilliant writing, and that takes a willingness to listen to crits and work to become better.
So for crying out loud, pick up your roots and move!