Sunday, June 9, 2013

Lesson learned

A couple of months ago I entered a first paragraph contest, and after editing that paragraph about 30 times, I sent it in and waited for the top prize and the accolades to roll in. In reality, it took fourth place. Of course, when I sent it, I thought the paragraph would win, and an agent would read those few sentences and offer me a publishing contract with a huge advance. After I entered it, I read it again and realized why it didn’t win.

Every sentence was about the same length, with identical formatting. Each one was divided by a comma in the middle, pretty much like this sentence and the one before.

Why didn’t I see the pattern BEFORE I sent it in? You can bet that the next time I write or edit a paragraph, I will look more closely at sentence length, structure and patterns. I also reminded myself that it's never too late to learn a valuable lesson.

Write soon,


  1. Mary--You are a hoot. I thought I was the only one who thought things like, 'I haven't heard from them yet because they're arguing over how huge my advance is going to be,' or 'They're in a bidding war over my story. Several publishers are punching and tearing at hair over my piece.'

    It sometimes helps me to take a hard copy of a story and highlight the first word of each sentence (to make sure they aren't all the same word), and keep track of the word count of each sentence, to make sure they're varied...Little physical acts like highlighting, counting, circling punctuation--it can make us look at our work with new eyes.

    However, you should be proud. Losing meant at least you submitted, Mary. Revel in the rejection--now you have a draft to revise so you can submit it again.

  2. Ya know, I can edit someone else's work more effectively than my own! That's part of the value of critique groups. And I do believe that writers balance their lives and work along a very thin line of doubt and pride. I don't think I've ever sent in anything that I didn't think had some value, and I'm hoping that most writers can relate! But, if it's only you and me who think that way, then, that's OK, too!

  3. Same here, Mary. After I submit something then re-read it, I wonder why I didn't edit it more.

  4. I couldn't agree more. I'm usually tight on the deadline, edit until I can't stand to look at the piece anymore, then hit the send button. Weeks later I look at my submission and think Aaaaugh!

    Critter Alley