by Peter Leavell
You’ve been writing your first work like a crazy woman or a madman,
and suddenly, you wonder what happens next.
Doubt in your writing is like cruising your bike along a trail and someone shoving an iron rod through the spokes. Or thinking the earth is a giant Peanut M&M and you dig a hole through the candy shell and chocolate layer to arrive at the center of the earth and find a giant, overcooked chickpea. You’re thrown off-track, and things aren’t quite like what you’d thought they’d be.
You think your work is good and has excellent potential for publication. But what will everyone else think?
There’s so much to consider. Experienced writers, when asked for advice, are put in an extremely difficult position. There’s a small element of an oracle about it, reading the future and prophesy.
Yet, here are the considerations I contemplated before I looked up from my work and saw I was an award-winning author.
Remember, you’re critically analyzing your situation, which means each point is a different angle. Don’t just pick one point to run with. Instead, think through your situation from the top, sides, bottom, and inside out.
- Top—Empirical evidence. This is raw data from agents and editors. What are they saying about the work? If they’re saying it’s not ready, or there’s no slot for it, it’s a strong indication the manuscript needs some rework or there truly is no slot for it at this time. As much as editors want to do the opposite, most must make business decisions, not artistic decisions.
- Bottom—Emotions. If you’re sick of this project and it’s finished with all the rewrites, has been sent to everyone under the sun, and your ability to write is strangled, then the project no longer has wings. It’s time to set it aside. Never throw it away because you don’t know what the future holds. But passion is an important element in writing.
- Sides—State of the manuscript. If you don’t feel like it’s ready, don’t stop. At the very least, this is great practice in finishing a full piece. Go all the way. Make sure it’s completely edited and ready for publication. Then you have an important decision. Should you self-publish? If self-publishing is not your cup of orange juice, then write another manuscript with less pulp—different from your first work.
- Inside Out—Consider changing your mentality. You’re not actually writing books, but instead, you’re training to become an author, and one of these days, one of your manuscripts will stick.
This is all good advice, and I realize it is devoid of the input of what you feel God wants you to do. But these considerations are a start in knowing what you will do next.
Peter Leavell is the 2011 winner of Christian Writers Guild’s Operation First Novel contest, and 2013 Christian Retailing’s Best award for First-Time Author for his historical novel Gideon’s Call. Peter currently teaches literature, history, and rhetoric at Boise Classical Academy where he now serves as director. He is also finishing a master’s degree in history, where Boise State tosses him into the classroom to teach from time to time. He writes fiction to relax. Peter will present three one-hour prerecorded workshops and lead a one-hour live session on general writing as part of the Oregon Christian Writers Spring Conference on May 15. Visit https://oregonchristianwriters.org/2021-spring/ for more information and registration details.