Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The Secret to Success

Say you’re standing at the grocery store in the produce section.  A bin of oranges freshly stacked catches your eye.  Anticipation of a delicious treat forces you to grab one of those annoying bags that can’t be opened unless your fingers are moist.  You stand before the bin, study the possibilities then reach for two oranges.  The fruit in your left hand has a bumpy texture, fresh scent, good color, and firm skin. The one in your right passes the same inspection, except it has a small soft spot.  Which orange do you buy?

Our manuscripts go through a similar process.  One could say we stand in a packed room, shoulder to shoulder with other writers.  How can we vie for an editor’s attention?  What can we do to help our manuscript be chosen?

Today’s post will focus on the article.

Editors know their readers; that’s their job.  Amazing issues are passed on to friends who hopefully rush home to subscribe.  As their market fluctuates, editors update writer’s guidelines found on the web and resources like Sally’s Stuart’s Christina Writers’ Market Guide.

I used the guide to offer a children’s story to a magazine.  I followed every instruction in the guideline.  My story had the correct word count, age range, message, dialogue, and action. A grammar person checked for problems, and I read the article out loud to insure flow before stuffing an envelope with an SASE and the manuscript. 

Two months later I received a rejection letter. 

I went to the web site to read previously published articles for the magazine.  Each one had the same components as mine—EXCEPT they were written in the third person while mine was written in the first.

I rewrote the story in the third person, rechecked word count, age range, message, dialogue, action, grammar and flow before resubmitting the article.

One week later I received an email from the editor.  She said she normally didn’t accept anything resubmitted, but this story caught her eye.  She read it over and loved it.  She wanted to use it as the featured story in her special Easter edition.

Thinking back to the oranges in the bin example, the consumer never gives a piece of fruit a second chance.  They look, find one with a good appearance, picks it up and examines it for quality. 

As writers we have an advantage over the orange.  We can read the guidelines, research back issues of a given magazine, and tailor our manuscript to fit the needs of the readers.  When the rules are followed, the likelihood of an editor accepting our article or story increases.

How about you? What success story can you share to encourage us?


Beth K. Vogt said...

Literary agent Chip MacGregor just had a great post about success.
His first definition of success was "the feeling you get when you reach your goals." I loved your example because you worked at it until you accomplished your desired goal. I remember sitting in a writers conference several years ago, listening to a speaker talk about pursuing our dreams--and I realized I wasn't just pursuing mine--I'd achieved some of them!
Then Chip expanded his definition of success and included the idea of "significance"--making a difference in people's lives over time. I can do that through an article or book I write--or with something I say or do. The important thing is to not lose sight of the significance of people in my pursuit of success.

Sherrinda Ketchersid said...

The only goal I have met so far on this writing journey is finishing my first manuscript. I am hoping to start my next one in September...after my harrowing August. ;)

Mary Vee Writer said...

Beth, thanks for mentioning Chip's post. I read his posts weekly. Great information. I highly recommend it to any writer out there.
Your point was precisely correct, what we write is not for ourselves of course, unless its a journal. We write to meet God's calling. We write to help readers. We write for others. With this in mind, we can stay on the right path for our writing journey.

Mary Vee Writer said...

According to speakers I've heard at conferences, completing a manuscript is something few writers have accomplished. Great job!
To top it off you're ready to start a second? Wow. You're an inspiration. :)

Casey said...

I agree, we have the chance to go back and fix the mistakes we have made in the past. At least with our writing. I just love knowing that you don't have to get it perfect on the first try (at least while you are writing). It really takes the stress off. And hey! Congrats on that articale. :)

Mary Vee Writer said...

Thanks Casey.
There are no real stop signs in writing. Either we exit off the writing road, or we press forward with rejection warts and acceptance victories to publication. Where are you on the writing journey?

Casey said...

I like how you said that Mary,"press forward with rejection warts and acceptance victories to publication".

I have written one manuscript that I tried to edit, but it was pretty dead. It is the preverbial mattress warmer manuscript. Then I just finished my second manuscript which I will start editing this fall. I have another idea I am kicking around too. I have not submitted to anyone. I am looking at maybe putting a few submissions in just to say I have been rejected, *winks*, when this story is perfected.

Julia M. Reffner said...

Excellent tip. And thanks for the freedom to know we don't have to do it perfect the first time. I'm a recovering perfectionist and it is TOUGH for me to do a "sloppy copy." But I'm learning so much along the way.

Casey said...

Sloppy copy is hard to do. But if you just let yourself have that freedom, there is such creativity in that. But I do draw a line in certain areas, like I can't stand mis-spelling, so I always go right back and fix those! :)