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Why Your Published Manuscript Won't Wow Everyone


I know I’ve been dishing out a lot of tough writing love these last few weeks about your manuscript. First I said that your first draft might be bad (mine certainly is). Then I said your second draft might actually be worse. And now the graphic above states that your final draft isn’t going to make every reader, literary agent, literary critic and publishing company happy.

Please understand that I’m not saying any of this to discourage you in your publishing pursuits. Unless you’re writing the next Fifty Shades of Grey or refuse to properly edit something along the lines of that ridiculous book I finished reading last week, I want your manuscript to succeed! I want you to have a successful and happy writing career.

As such, maybe I should have started this blog post out by saying this instead: If you’ve finished the editorial process and have a genuine final draft on your hands, congratulations! You’ve done what far too few non-fiction and creative writers have done.

For that matter, if you’re not done with the editorial process yet – if you’ve working on a second draft or third draft or fourth draft, congratulations again! Because you’re working hard toward seeing your final draft.

And if you’re still in the first draft writing stage, then more power to you! I hope you’re having fun on the journey and keeping your goals firmly in sight. They’re achievable, and you can see your manuscript published someday if you just keep working at it.

It’s just that none of this means you and your story are going to be met with universal praise and adoration. While you’re more than capable of writing a whole novel-length story down, and you’re more than capable of editing it up to a certain point and then soliciting outside help and then editing it some more…

You are not capable of producing a manuscript that makes every single recipient worship the literary ground you walk on.

There’s not a single final draft that can please every possible reader out there. There’s just not. It isn’t going to happen, no matter how hard you’ve worked on it.

Like I said yesterday, “You’re going to find readers who love you, readers who like you, readers who don’t like you, and readers who can’t be bothered to look at you at all. That’s true of every single writer on the planet, including the wildly successful ones,” since everyone has different tastes in story and writing style.

For example, I’m a big Philippa Gregory fan. I own about a dozen of her historical fiction novels, and fully support the fact that she’s a frequent figure on the New York Times Best-Sellers List. She’s one of my favorite authors to read.

But this year, I lent one of her books to my older sister, who liked it enough to read the next several in the series, yet complains about each new one, rolling her eyes about how repetitive they are. Here’s a text I got from her just two days ago:

These books would be 300 pages shorter if these insipid women didn’t repeatedly think the same thoughts a gazillion times.

And now that she’s made me think about it, I have to admit that she might be right.

With that said, there’s another New York Times best seller, David Baldacci, who she got me into last year. I’ve stopped reading him since, though I suppose I’d pick up another of his books if I had nothing better to do.

One of my biggest issues with him is that he doesn’t understand how to make his female main character come across as an actual female. She comes across as a female main character written and edited by a male – which is usually something different than an actual female.

I also don’t like how he always includes a cheesy villain dialogue at the end, which is completely unacceptable for a writer his age and with his experience. Plus, he throws in a new main character perspective whenever he can’t think of anything else to do – another major sign of an experience but lazy writer.

Oh – and I’ve met other people who think the same thing about him. So I’m not alone.

For that matter, I’m sure my sister isn’t alone in thinking that Philippa Gregory can step up her writing and editorial game, which reminds me of another point I made yesterday. “Your manuscript is never going to be perfect. There’s always going to be some error or perceived error that you missed. That’s okay though, because nobody else’s manuscript, published or unpublished, is ever completely flawless” either.

Your job as a writer is not to be flawless. It’s to make your story so interesting and your style so engaging that those errors don’t stand out as much as they otherwise would.

Likewise, your job as a published author isn’t to be universally loved by all. It’s to find readers who like your story and style so much that they don’t notice or care about anything else.

There will be detractors, yes. But you're going to have to accept that fact before you turn your final draft manuscript into a properly published book.

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