Sunday, January 31, 2010

Resolution or Commitment?

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New Year’s resolutions—no matter how well-intended—are made to be broken. Why so? Could it be that they are created on a whim and aren’t backed by the commitment that turns intentions into actions?

Before moving into a smaller place recently, I spent days going through old files and eliminating bags full of no-longer-necessary papers. I even found several rejection letters I received some years ago when I sent out my not-quite-ready-for-publication first novel. Most were form letters, but one agent sent a personal note, commenting that the manuscript needed revision. He was right. I later pared over 20,000 words off the story, some of which I dearly loved. Letting them go met with more reluctance than I care to admit.

What’s the point here? I had resolved to write a more compelling book than the ones I was reading, a story that kept the reader turning pages despite the missing sex and profanity. And I had indeed written a story—some 116,000 words of story. However, I hadn’t committed to polishing that story into a marketable manuscript. “But it was finished,” you might say. “Surely that took commitment.” Yes, it did, but not enough. My ordinary family tale needed to be transformed into an extraordinary family drama.

Every year, hundreds of thousands of writers thrust their creations into the marketplace. Because few have found homes in traditional publishing, the vast majority of their works are churned out by small presses and print-on-demand houses. This glut of reading material—much of it poorly edited or unedited altogether—overwhelms the most prolific readers and leaves many authors disillusioned about ever realizing their dreams of writing a bestseller.

What’s the commitment? Help writers to learn their craft. Don’t just edit their manuscripts—teach them to become better writers. Instruct them in the finer points of painting word pictures in a variety of colors and hues. Teach them the difference between “show” and “tell.” Take them down the path to writing great dialogue. Make a difference for those who, for whatever reason, choose to travel the non-traditional publishing road. And in the process, give readers excellent stories that will keep them coming back for more.

Owner of Pen and Sword Publishers, Linda Lane heads up an editing team committed to raising the bar on non-traditionally published works. She and another member of her team will be presenting a 50-minute program on editing at the annual seminar of the Colorado Independent Publishers Association in March. Linda offers writing workshops and is promoting the development of standards for editors that will assure writers that they are getting their money's worth when they hire a freelance editor. Visit her Web site at (Site is under construction.)


  1. If someone was dipping their toe into the writing game by starting a blog and trying to get some momentum, what would you say is the best source of mentoring?

  2. Thank you for this post.
    You summed up the mission behind my blog, GlobalWatchWatch.
    I may come across as mean and spiteful, but really, I care too much about writing to cede the writing field to ill-prepared hackery. If my blog makes only one Tom Clancy clone rethink and rewrite the torrent of words he thinks we all should read, then I will have succeeded.


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