Three things an author should never say

Three things an author should never say

Questions authors ask
Be specific, do your best and never undermine yourself

Even in the middle of a pandemic, an author should never say these three things

For the past few months, I have been hearing a constant refrain from authors who query me for editing related services and publishing consultation. I want to stop them and tell them those questions are self sabotage. Since it is work from home for many of us, we think our options are limited but that’s true only if you see the glass half empty. However, I want to warn every author, established or aspiring to never say these things even in the middle of the biggest pause we have ever seen.

  1. I just want a good publisher!

    Many authors ask me, ‘Priya, I just want to get published’ or ‘I just want a good publisher.’ The word ‘just’ is a sufficient and potent killer of your desires, which is what makes us humane. Remove the word just from everything in your life, not only writing related aims.

    Incorrect Correct
    I just want to get published I want to get published
    I just want a good publisher I want a good publisher

    Firstly, notice the word ‘just’ undermines your desires. This could be a result of constant rejection or poor response from publishers. Most agents as well as trade publishers in India get a high number of manuscripts and many authors don’t even get a rejection. So even if you are waiting for longer than you can bear, know that if you have done everything you could have, your resilience will pay off. Secondly, change your desire into something that’s best for you. For instance, instead of telling yourself you want the ‘best’ publisher, which is subjective, tell yourself, ‘I want the publisher who understands my needs and can help me meet them.’

  2. ‘I have written my book. What do I do now?’
    Irrespective of whether you have finished writing, are still writing or have submitted, don’t ever ask a general question. The more specific your question, the more specific will be the answer. Of course, the answer to a question, ‘What do I do after finished writing?’ seems obvious: submit it. However, each story is different and so are its needs. If you are submitting your story, instead of asking what do I do now, ask yourself, ‘Have you done your best?’ and if so, ask yourself, ‘Who are the publishers that publish books in the genre you are writing in or at least the subject?’ An agent or editor or publisher will be pleased to help an author who has done his or her homework. Ask a question that shows you have a unique problem. Such a question should show that you are not merely seeking reassurance but are serious about your writing.
  3. What do you think of my story?
    You may be wondering what’s wrong with asking for an opinion. It is undoubtedly true that you need a third person’s view to gain clarity about your writing but I also believe that there is nothing more damaging to our self and our writing efforts than this seemingly naive question. What do I mean? Of course, you must seek feedback and opinion from a varied readership, not merely your loved ones. If you have battled your inner critic, you will know it is easier to face the monsters outside. However, there are only two things a writer should ask: 1) Do you know what you want to write about? and 2) Have you done that on the page? If you strike off both, it is unlikely you will feel the need to ask for someone’s assurance or approval in the guise of opinion. It is OK if others do not like your writing. Instead, ask the question, the answer to which, you can manage, i.e. ‘Have I done my best?’ It goes without saying that if everyone is being tight lipped about your work or raising the same issue, then you must address it.


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