Susan’s Randoms: The 5 Biggest Mistakes I Made that Kept Me Unpublished

This week, The 5 Randoms discuss what kept us from getting published. Below are my dunderheaded moments:

1) Because I’d heard category romance was easy to break into, I started writing category romance manuscripts–even though I don’t like them and I don’t have the voice for them.
It’s true: When you start looking at writing as a real career (i.e., something that you’ll get paid money for), you hear that category romance (Harlequin, Silhouette, etc.) is a breeze to break into. I’d like to put some duct tape over the mouth of whoever started that insane rumor. It’s one of the hardest to break into, AND you maybe only get $2,000 for a book. You’ll make more money working at McDonalds! I wasted time putting together two partials (synopsis, first fifty pages) for this genre.

2) I kept doing the same thing over and over again, hoping for different results–in other words, I kept entering writing contests, hoping I’d get published that way. Writing contest judges either hate me or love me–and you sort of need across-the-board love to win a contest. Anyway, I spent about one year, 40 precious hours, and about $100 in postal costs trying to get “discovered” with a contest. I eventually did win one contest, by the way, and an editor requested my manuscript. And summarily rejected it. Sniff.

3) I volunteered for something in my writing group–PR coordinator for a conference–and what a time suckage that was. Now, don’t get me wrong. You should volunteer–give something back and all that. But only when you’re published and at a point in your career you’re satisfied with. In other words, J.K. Rowling should be the one heading up every and all YA conference from here on out.

4)  I didn’t study the market–and so, after a year and a half of writing an amateur sleuth for the adult market, I found out no one was buying that genre. D’oh! That manuscript is in a file in a file in a file on my desktop. Bits and pieces of that manuscript find their way into other manuscripts, so at least a little good came from that vain attempt. But when I hear someone attempting to write for a genre that’s flagging at the moment, I bite my lip and shudder quietly.

5) I have to admit, my path to publication came a lot fast than most people’s–I started avidly pursuing fiction writing in August 2004, and I got my first book deal in August 2005. So I didn’t waste too much time. What do I think helped me?

By being schizophrenic with my writing (stay with me, I’m going somewhere).

I would write the first chapter of a book. Then rewrite it in a different person. Then rewrite it from a different perspective. From a different location. With a different conflict. With a different plot question. In other words, I never married myself to the original idea. My story was never “precious.” I had no problem with wanting to hack the heck out of it, picking it apart, making the pages bleed with edits that would elevate the story into something better than my initial, half-formed thoughts. Truthfully? I don’t think a lot of pre-published writers do that. And as a result, they start thinking the publishing world just doesn’t get it. And, in turn, the pre-pubbed writer just doesn’t get that book deal.




Filed under Susan's Randoms

2 responses to “Susan’s Randoms: The 5 Biggest Mistakes I Made that Kept Me Unpublished

  1. Emily Marshall

    Just have to say, I LOVE this post. I even mentioned it on my blog this week (, because I think this is great information for every writer trying to break into this business. Thanks so much!

  2. Susan


    If anyone can learn from my mistakes, then the mistakes were all worthwhile. ;o)

    Thanks for the link, darlin’!


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