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Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Mid-Week Rude Awakening: Pay to Play?

Welcome to a new feature here at Flights of Fancy where I'll attempt to slap you silly with reality in the writing world. Or at least, my version of reality. Feel free to disagree or dispute my arguments in the comments and I'll be happy to join any kind of spirited debate on the topics I bring up.

Ready for today's pearl of wisdom? Here goes:

Everyone who writes is not destined for publication and everything you write doesn't necessarily deserve to be published.

Harsh, huh? Maybe. But also true. Ask any bestselling author and I bet they'll admit to the manuscript that stays hidden, never to see the light of day. Why is it hidden? Because it's not good enough and they know it. Maybe their grammar skills were weak. Or the storyline didn't have a full array of successful elements. What matters is, regardless of how long they worked on it and how they struggled, they understood that particular manuscript was not ready and might not ever be.

Nowadays, it's easy enough to take those drekky pages and publish them. You can use a vanity press or self-publish. Or you can hire on with a so-called professional that asks for money up front to improve your story or help get you published. The opportunities to "pay to play" are limitless. But when you pay to play, chances are excellent you'll wind up with nothing but fewer dollars in your bank account. Or maybe you'll be one of the "lucky ones," who pays the cash, and forever links your name to something less than stellar that will eventually become an embarrassment and a hindrance to your career.

Or...

You can skip laying out the cash and pay your dues. What do I mean by that? Take writing courses, join writing organizations like RWA, find critique partners to help you improve your skills. Absorb, keep writing, keep learning, and keep growing as a writer. Stash those less-than-stellar stories in the dark. Be patient, grasshopper. Forget about Author X who sold her first book right out of the box or Author Y who just signed a three-book deal and isn't even that good. Focus on your writing. Figure out what your weaknesses are and strengthen those skills to improve your chances in the real writing world.

Don't be in such a rush to see your name on a book that you pay to play. Pay your dues, learn your craft, and offer a quality story time and again. That's what will keep people coming back for more. No shortcuts, no secret words, no genie in a magic lamp, and no amount of dollars can make a poor story good. 

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