An editor within the agency I write with rejected an article I had written and submitted recently. I've had them rejected before, but usually, the editor has pointed out corrections needed.
This time, the editor's words were piercing:
"You failed to deliver on the article's title.
Do not resubmit."
Wow. That hurt. Surely I could change the title. I'm certain something could be reworked. And, by the way, isn't it up to a client to decide if it is buyer-worthy or not?
So the idea that I failed to deliver on the article title's promise hit me for more than a few seconds. Ultimately, my writing didn't take the editor where they felt they were promised to go.
I admit, this was one article I wanted to get submitted without letting it simmer longer or re-editing. But had I let it simmer, I might have seen the problem for myself and changed it.
Here are some points on that topic.
Make Sure Your Writing Delivers
Literary agents will be sure to tell you problems like that mentioned above are common. They want to know a book is going to deliver not only on what the title promises but on what the book back or Amazon description promises.
As for my editor, she wanted to know the article she was about to read would give her some new insightful information that answered any question posed in the title or introduction.
It sounds simple, but time and again authors miss the point of their article or book too easily.
I've purchased self-published books and discovered that for myself. It may be the book trails off in a new direction. This can happen when an author puts the writing aside for a time and, when they return, their passion or mindset is different.
I've started books only to discover what an author suggests works for all people doesn't work for me. Painting too broad strokes may be problematic. For example, in a number of books I've read on life purpose, the author has assumed readers have fulltime jobs or careers like they do. They tend to focus on finding purpose in a career. Since my main focus for many years was that of stay-at-home mother, their advice didn't fit me. Neither will it fit the retiree.
Sometimes the problem with a book is a chapter problem. An author gets so attached to a chapter he can't bring himself to chop it. It gets included but has little relevance to the rest of the book.
When writing and editing, it's important we write for a target audience. Otherwise, we're merely writing for ourselves and our own fun.
Ask These Questions
We can ensure we make a point when we ask ourselves important questions as we're writing such as these:
- What's the goal of this article, book, or book chapter?
- What is the point of this paragraph?
- Does this story illustrate the point of the chapter?
- Does this anecdote reflect the book's theme?
- What conclusion am I urging the reader to draw?
- Have I enlightened, informed, or inspired the reader?
- Do the stories I add undergird the theme of the book or simply make the reader feel displaced?
- Why am I mentioning such-and-such?
- Have I already said this?
- Does mentioning such-and-such distract from the story?
- Are my words bossy, preachy, or spoon-feeding the reader?
- Do I let the reader fill in the blanks?
- Is this book merely my own catharsis, a way to brag, an attempt to make a quick buck, or does it offer value to the reader?
- Why would someone pay to read this?
Writing is easy and hard. Good writers get tough on themselves and grow with each writing project they take on.