Our guest today is the fabulous Anne K. Albert who writes stories that chill the spine, warm the heart and soothe the soul…all with a delightful touch of humor. She followed all five of the steps listed below on her road to publication. Defending Glory, is the first book in her Piedmont Island Trilogy. Visit her website, blog, friend her on Facebook or follow her on Twitter. Welcome, Anne.
The road to publication can be a gauntlet of trials, tribulations, roadblocks, potholes and traps. Yet, science fiction author Robert A. Heinlein believed a writer need only do five things to achieve success.
What are those five requirements?
(1) You must write
(2) You must finish what you write
(3) You must refrain from rewriting, (except to editorial order)
(4) You must put the work on the market
(5) You must keep the work on the market until it is sold
Sounds simple, huh? In theory, yes, but Heinlein often joked he had no qualms of sharing his “secret” because most writers lack the self-discipline to complete all five steps of the process.
Years later, Robert Sawyer took the rules one step further with simple math. This is how it breaks down….
If 100 writers decide to follow Heinlein’s rules only 50 will actually do rule #1 and write.
Surprised? How many people do you know who claim that one day they’ll write a book? If they’re serious they need to start today!
Let’s move onto rule #2. Finish what you write.
Again, only half will achieve that goal, leaving 25 of the original 100 writers.
Rule #3 dictates you must refrain from rewriting. How many writers labor on the same manuscript for a decade? I know a few. You probably do as well.
Sawyer claims only 12.5 writers will complete this rule. (I’m unsure who that half writer might be, but hey, math was never my strong suit!)
Rule #4 is putting your work on the market. Fear of rejection can be paralyzing. Fewer than 6 of the original 100 who began this challenge are brave enough to submit their work.
Rule #5 separates the authors from the writers. Only 3 will persevere and keep their work out in the market until they sell and achieve their goal.
Pretty daunting statistics, even with the new world of self-publishing, but learned how to write well, and following the five steps to success can be achieved by entering writing contests. Seriously. They provide a perfect opportunity to follow Heinlein’s rules. And it can be achieved in smaller, more manageable chunks.
(1) Contests force you to write.
You must have a story to enter a writing contest. It’s mandatory! This does not mean a complete manuscript. As few as five typed pages will do. Contests requirements vary from 5 to 50 typed pages. Start small. Five to ten pages is doable. Work your way up to ‘meatier’ contests.
(2) Contests require you to finish what you write.
Even if your submission is only five pages in length, those five pages should shine and leave the reader/judge drooling for more. Give them your best five pages.
That means no typos. No spelling mistakes. Not a single reason to pull the reader/judge out of the story. End your entry with a hook that leaves them wanting more. Never make the rookie mistake I did by submitting the first five pages, and ending in the middle of a sentence! (Duh!)
(3) Entering a contest forces you to refrain from rewriting.
While your entry should be free of typos, spelling and grammar mistakes, there comes a time when you just have to stop and let it go because every contest has a specific deadline. This deadline forces you to quit tweaking, editing, revising, and changing. Failure to do so could result in you not only forfeiting your entry fee, but missing an opportunity to get your manuscript read by a published author, an editor or agent.
(4) Entering a contest is like putting your work on the market.
Like agents and editors, contest judges are first and foremost impartial readers. They do not know you or your work. They will either be enthralled by your story…or not so much! What’s super about writing contests is that unlike agents and editors who generally just provide a yay or nay, contest judges will explain what they think you did well, as well as how to improve your story.
This feedback provides yet another step of the process. If two of three judges make the same comment, take their editorial direction to heart and make the changes that will improve your story.
(5) Entering multiple contests is like keeping your work on the market until it is sold.
Huh? It’s true. On average, most writers achieve publication after completing 4 or 5 manuscripts. That’s how a writer learns to write. Trial and error. Word by word.
In the meantime, enter contests. They’re a great opportunity for an unpubbed writer to build writing credits. Winning a contest can move you out of the slush pile and directly onto an editor or agent’s desk.