Sunday, October 14, 2012

The Unforgivable Sin for Writers

I read an interesting article in the November/December 2012 issue of Writer's Digest: "The 7 Deadly Sins of Self-Editing" by Janice Gable Bashman and Kathryn Craft. According to WD, writers may hurt their own chances at getting their manuscripts published. Some writers submit prematurely. Others are too sensitive to constructive criticism. Much to my surprise, I find myself to be not as guilty as I expected but vulnerable nonetheless to what I think is the unforgivable sin for writers.

When writing fiction, I work very hard at developing characters who take a story through surprising turns to a hopefully unpredictable end. I concentrate on multi-dimensional characterization, sensory setting, punchy pacing, decisive dialogue, imminent action and relevant themes. I appreciate that everything matters.

When editing, I examine my stories on the sentence level and have rewritten some work many times. I share what I write with honest readers. I may have reached the point of no return with some stories, meaning I don't want to go back and re-edit. And yet, I'm reluctant to submit. I know why.

When reading published work, I can always find stronger prose. This doesn't mean I want to mimic authors I admire, but it does mean that I'm still "growing" as a writer of fiction. I have put edited stories aside. When I reread them, I can see blemishes more clearly. When I'm wrapped up in the excitement of writing and editing, that fervor must interfere with my ability to be rightly objective and critical. I think of a time when I'll be able to write and edit stronger prose. Sooner or later, I will seek representation, but I know that I'm not ready yet.

I'm going to continue writing, hoping that this humility-driven process may in fact be my personal path to publication. I think "quitting" is the unforgivable sin for writers, and the only literary outcome I refuse to consider!