Sunday, February 3, 2013

You, too, can do Extraordinary

Aspiring writers often ask me tips on how to get published. They do this, well meaning enough, while showing me their "completed" manuscript, which they finished writing just yesterday and think is ready to submit to publishers and editors and agents and anyone else in the free world who'll appreciate their exquisite work of art.

My answer: Let me tell you a story.

Last year I got a new kitchen floor. The sample tile was so beautiful, shining like a slice of sunshine there in the store, I couldn't resist. I was was tired of the dull, lifeless, uninspiring tile that had besodded my kitchen for decades. (I don't think besodded is a word, but it should be.) I was ready to wow unsuspecting house guests and awaken every morning to a cheerful, gleaming floor.

But a strange thing happened once we got the tile home and installed on the kitchen floor. Within a few weeks, it began to lose its luster, become boring, quite ordinary. Annoyingly ordinary.

Every time I mopped and air dried my new floor - like I always had my old floor - it was dulled even more by dried water spots. I asked around and tried many expensive gadgets, products, and techniques that I'd been told would restore the glow, but nothing worked. I was extremely disappointed that I'd put so much thought, effort, and work into my new floor - which I knew had wonderful potential, for I had witnessed it firsthand - but no one would be able to see it.

And then one day, out of sheer desperation (guests were coming soon but the floor needed mopping), I grabbed two old terrycloth towels from my linen closet and donning one on each foot, ice skated around the newly mopped kitchen to speed up the drying process.

Oh. My. Goodness. The tiles gleamed like a newly polished silver tea service. The shine was nearly blinding. Gone was the ordinary. Present was the extraordinary. Big wow! The gorgeous floor I knew was there all along became a show-stopper and immediately caught the attention of every single person who walked in my house from then on.

Manuscripts are a lot like a kitchen floor. Ordinary is fine. Ordinary is functional. Ordinary is what everyone has. It is sufficient enough for you to say, "I've written a book." But it will likely remain unpublished and end up in your bottom right desk drawer, appreciated by no one and gathering dust.

But with a bit more work - okay, a LOT more work - that manuscript can be copy edited, content edited, and rewritten until it's polished and gleaming and extraordinary. Extra-ordinary; above-ordinary. The wow factor will suddenly appear. Your piece will shine brightly enough to attract the attention it deserves and will very likely eventually GET PUBLISHED. 

So take my advice. Have your manuscript professionally edited by a specialist in your genre. Someone who knows how to ice skate in terrycloth booties.