What comes first is the self-serving blurb. My monthly story review for Page and Spine is available and will be on the front page of The Writers' Table tab for the rest of the week, after which it will tuck itself comfortably into the archives. Here's the link: http://www.pagespineficshowcase.com/the-writers-table.html
Second thing: there is a very smart young lady who is blessed—or cursed—with aspirations of being a writer. Her name is Autumn. She was salutatorian at her graduation, and probably would have been valedictorian, but she suffers from very painful and frustrating health problems that restrict her attendance at school to as little as one day a week.
Autumn, if you are reading this, (or even if you aren't), I wish you all the best of luck, success, and whatever medical magic can be summoned up during the summer and your upcoming career as a college student. And I applaud your courage. It would be very easy to just stay home and use your troubles as an excuse.
Now, speaking of aspiring writers. I have heard of, and met, aspiring writers that will not submit their writing. Their excuses are legion. Take it from someone who has many more rejections than he will ever have acceptances: they don't hurt. They don't leave physical scars, and though they are never pleasant, the sting eventually declines. (But it never goes away.)
A very successful professional writer, Mary Rosenblum, has written this dictum: Rejections are good! You've got to get out there and earn those rejections!
I've written about this particular dysfunction before for Page and Spine. Now I want to go into a little more detail.
There are at least two distinct types of what I consider to be defeatist attitudes. One is the writer that keeps their creation, holds it close to their hearts, and declines to let an editor sully it with even their view, let alone any commentary. As one lady said at a writers' conference, "But it's my baby!" She couldn't bear the thought of surrendering her baby to judgment. More on that shortly.
The second type is the one that is never satisfied. He or she will finish fifty or even a hundred pages of text, then decide it isn't good enough, and trash the whole thing.
Please don't do this. Not only is it a bad habit to get into, but you are depriving yourself of finishing a project. What would you think of a sculptor who consistently stopped with the image only half-carved, or a painter who, after laying down the background and adding a few lines to the foreground, then trashed the whole canvas? In effect, that's what you've done when you reject your own manuscript before it's even finished.
Worst of all, you may be depriving potential readers of a masterpiece. Anecdote: An aspiring writer, who had been rejected many times, looked at the completed manuscript, disgusted, and threw it in the trash. This was back when a completed manuscript meant a typed ream of paper. Fortunately, his wife found it, read it, and submitted it to one of the publishers that had been encouraging even while issuing rejections. This manuscript the publisher found acceptable and Steven King's Carrie started one of the most successful writing careers in history.
Remember, when you are writing, you are only working on the first draft. A completed first draft that stinks is still hundreds of times better than no first draft at all.
As I have learned oh so painfully, the writer is not the best judge of his or her own writing. Not even close! Lastly, the readers will judge it, if it gets that far. Before them, the editor will judge it, but the editor must have the opportunity to do so. Before that, the beta reader (if the author has one—it's almost a must) will judge it...again, if he or she has that opportunity.
In Arthur C. Clarke's acknowledgements in the front of his short novel, Earthlight, he mentions two names, one who "massacred the second draft" and another who "slaughtered the third." Clarke, author of 2001: A Space Odyssey, and considered one of "The Big Three" of science fiction, had beta readers! And needed at least four drafts!
How many of you have ever heard of the successful writers that never risked rejection because they never put themselves, or their writing, out there? I haven't either.
As for that lady that couldn't bear to subject her baby to the inspection of an editor: what about your real baby? The child you take nine months to finish? Will you keep that baby close forever and never allow the child to be seen?
Of course not! And you can be certain that the minute that child is out in the world, the world "edits" him or her. The caregivers at day care will add text. Later, school teachers will cross out some lines and add others. Friends and peers will change this living "text" even more! Their scrawls and snide editorial remarks and rare compliments will leave the original version almost obliterated.
Parents accept that as a normal part of growing up. Such "tampering" is also a normal part of the growth of a manuscript, be it fiction, biography, essay, or even poetry. So be a responsible "parent" to your writing and allow it to be exposed to all those things that may help to shape it into something worthwhile. And, If it never is accepted, it's all still a learning experience. It will help you make the next one better.
One last note: I make a habit of touting Page and Spine as a great place to submit. P&S is free to read, but they do pay their authors. You won't get rich. BUT!! Every single submission, accepted or not, gets honest editorial feedback. Most magazines, on-line or print, do not offer this at all, or certainly not without an additional fee.
In 2012 when they were getting started, they accepted my poem and suggested that if I had a short story ready, they'd take that too, if satisfactory, to pair the offerings. I had just finished changing the ending on a short story and they bought it. It was published very shortly thereafter.
These days, they don't even accept submissions of stories or poetry from June first through September 30th. They get too many through the other eight months. They accepted an essay from me for The Reading Lamp last year. It's scheduled to see print sometime this fall; P&S is a definite success story of on-line publishing. I'm pleased and proud to be a very tiny part of that.