Saturday, July 02, 2005

Must Have Follow-Through

This entry today about the Writing Life continues a series on characteristics of successful writers. I’ve got about ten to twelve aspects which will be critical for your success as a writer in the world of publishing.

As an editor, I’ve been surprised at the number of times at a conference or through an email or a phone conversation, I’ve said, “I’d love to see that proposal or that manuscript.” Then I never see the proposal or manuscript.  I understand the writer may choose not to send it to me or find another place for it but there is another reason why I never receive it: a lack of follow-through.  Of course, I’ve had other projects that I’ve asked to see then sent back because they weren’t right. These writers followed through but they didn’t send what I expected. You have to not only follow-through but send excellent writing when the editor asks for it.

Some writers wait for inspiration to write or treat their writing like a hobby. If they don’t determine publishing is a business and should be conducted like a business, then it will be hard for them to gain much ground and find a place to get published (in my estimation).

Many years ago, I told bestselling author Jerry B. Jenkins about working with Moody magazine on an article assignment. I described writing a query to the editor, then delivering the article when expected. Jerry’s response has stuck with me, “So few writers do.” He meant that few writers follow through with their promised manuscript on the deadline—in the magazine world as well as in the book business.

Follow-through is a key characteristic for successful writers.

Are you delivering what you promise? I know many people struggle with this aspect of the business. It’s easy to take too much responsibility and get too overwhelmed and overloaded.  There are more demands on our time than ever before. Whether it’s a local or national writer’s group or your local church or other organization, they need volunteers to accomplish the work.  If you are successful as a writer in magazine or books, you will be asked to carry additional responsibilities. I’ve learned to be cautious about what I take on—and to have the ability to say, “No, thank you. I can’t fit that into my schedule.”

Whenever someone asks me to do something (large or small), often (if I remember this principle) I will ask for some time to consider it. Then I will either accept the responsibility or turn it down. I do not want to accept something that I can’t fulfill. So if you are struggling with this aspect of the business, first, count the cost and only accept what you can handle.  Then continually work hard to get organized and meet your various deadlines. I’ve seen this characteristic repeatedly in writers who are successful.

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