Nancy's Books

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Perseverance, Part II, Zen story, Contest and Call for Submissions

An Old Zen Story:

The Zen master dipped a brush into paint. With swift flicks of the wrist, he trailed dazzling colors across the canvas. A young Zen student stood beside the master and watched.

As the painting grew more beautiful, the Zen student whispered, “Master, how do I learn to paint beautiful pictures?”

The master continued to paint.

Ten years later, the Zen student returned and said, “Thank you, Master.”

The Zen story resonated with me because to be a writer a person must write. Learning to write takes time. As with the Zen story, ten long years passed from the time I began writing professionally to the time I held my first book in my hands.

To adapt the lesson of the Zen master to writers, try the following: Write as often as possible.You may not have the time to devote to a manuscript every day, but write as often as time allows. Get the first draft of the story on paper; then begin revision. Novice writers often have great ideas and develop those ideas in interesting and innovative ways; however, they tend to submit a manuscript before it’s ready for professional publication. Editors state this as the major reason manuscripts are rejected.

When a manuscript is complete, revise, revise, revise. After it is the best you think you can make it, set the story aside for a minimum of one month and begin writing another manuscript. Give yourself time away from your story so you can return to it with less emotional attachment. Writing a new story also takes you mind off the first manuscript so when you reread it after a few weeks, you’re more likely to find elements that don’t work as well as you originally thought. Revise again.

Pass your manuscript to other writers for critiques. Again, revise, revise, revise. At this point select three to five publishers that accept unsolicited manuscripts of the type you have written. Submit the manuscript. I recommend selecting 3-5 because you may get feedback from an editor that will be useful in yet another revision.

Nothing about the process of preparing a manuscript for publication is fast. Remember, perseverance is the key to a successful writing career. As Aesop wrote long ago, “Slow and steady wins the race.”

I’ll discuss the process of critiquing a manuscript in my next post.

Contest and Call for Submissions

Real Simple’s Life Lessons Essay Contest
Finish this sentence: “I never thought I’d. . .”

Have you ever taken a huge, surprising risk? Did you climb a mountain? Go back to school? Get married (again)? Tell us about it: Enter Real Simple’s Third-Annual Life Lessons Essay Contest and you could have your essay published in Real Simple; win round-trip tickets for two to New York City, hotel accommodations for two nights, tickets to a Broadway play, and a lunch with Real Simple editors; and receive a prize of $3,000.
Deadline: September 24, 2010
Details at Life Lessons Essay Contest

Glamour "My Real-Life Story Essay Contest"

"If you have an inspiring story about a life changing event, an obstacle overcome, a relationship of passion that's defined you - then we want to read it! You may see your essay appear in an upcoming issue of Glamour...and you could win $5000 and a meeting with a top literary agent." For legal residents of the 50 United States and the District of Columbia.
Details at
Deadline: September 15, 2010

CICADA (ages 14-23) has opened up submissions again through July 31.
They're wide open to all genres, with a special interest in humor.
Details at Click on Contact Us, then scroll down to Submission Guidelines and go to Cicada.

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