In Defense of the Freelance Editor

May 18th, 2015
Do you really need a freelance editor?

A freelance editor is your friend in times of writerly uncertainty.

In a May 2012 blog posting, Vetting an Independent Editor, author and blogger Victoria Strauss makes a compelling argument against hiring a freelance editor. At Beaumont Hardy, I have long argued for the benefits of a freelance editor. However, Ms. Strauss’s argument makes several points that are worthy of further discussion. In the Comments section after her blog, several freelance editors disagree with the author’s argument, and I explain some of my own disagreements below.

The main point of Victoria Strauss’s argument is that authors should beware of fly-by-night freelance editors who charge—often very high fees—for services they are ill-equipped to provide. She warns of the people who try to capitalize on the recent self-publishing boom by setting themselves up as online editors. She recommends that authors verify the skill level of potential editors by asking about their membership in professional editing associations or by requesting a list of past clients and projects. Underlying Ms. Strauss’s argument is her assertion that many authors do not need a freelance editor at all.

Writers and editors often disagree about the type of training or certification a reputable freelance editor should have. Some claim that only people with advanced degrees or degrees in a particular subject are qualified to edit in a freelance capacity. However, while degrees are commendable and impressive, they do not necessarily indicate that the degree-holder appreciates the fundamentals of good writing. Academic study, even in a particular field, does not automatically confer an ability to edit. Similarly, membership in a freelance editing association, while indicating a level of interest and commitment, also does not conclusively prove that someone is a good editor.

I believe that what determines a good editor is the ability to efficiently spot the weaknesses in a text and correct them in such a way that the author’s voice and ideas remain fundamentally unchanged. It is the practice of editing, not the preliminary degrees or certificates, that determine an editor’s qualifications. For that reason, at Beaumont Hardy, I offer a free sample edit to every client. Usually five pages in length, the sample edit shows the client exactly the type of changes I will make to their work and, I believe, is far more illustrative of my abilities than a certificate or degree. In fact, I make no mention of my degrees on my website, and few clients have ever asked me for this information. I will, of course, willingly provide it.

As Ms. Strauss indicates, a freelance editor’s former clients and past projects can be very helpful to a prospective client who wants to know about the editor’s success rate. However, some editors are unable to provide much information about former clients. For example, I work with academics and job applicants who prefer not to publicize the fact that their work has received a final professional edit. Similarly, people whose business letters I write and edit often request that their projects—many of which contain sensitive information—remain confidential. Most prospective clients, I believe, understand the importance of confidentiality in the world of editing and might realize that full client lists are impossible to disclose.

Fundamentally, though, I differ with Victoria Strauss in her notion of the purpose of a piece of prose. She suggests that only self-published authors need to consider the option of hiring a freelance editor. I agree about the importance of a freelance editor for self-published books; too many readers have been disappointed by the unedited text in self-published books they have bought. But self-published work is not the only work that benefits from the objective eye of a freelance editor. I have edited the autobiographies of clients who write only for the purpose of leaving a personal, unpublished history for their families. They do not intend to publish but want to leave behind a piece of informative, well-edited text. Similarly, owners of restaurants seek editing help for their menus and flyers, even though nobody will ever pay to buy this written work. And students at all levels ask me to proofread or edit their assignments, destined only for a course instructor. These writers all recognize the enduring quality of text, regardless of whether anyone ever publishes it. They hire a freelance editor to leave behind a record of polished and streamlined text, even if it will only have a few uncritical readers. While Victoria Strauss might not argue with the need for an editor in each of these situations, she believes that a writer can usually find a friend, relative or fellow writer who can provide a solid edit for free. Effective, unpaid editors of this type probably do exist, but I believe that no friend or colleague can replace the objective eye of an experienced freelance editor who knows how to efficiently read and deftly improve a piece of text.

Hiring or not hiring a freelance editor is, of course, a personal decision that each writer must make for him or herself. But the hiring decision need not be as complex or as fraught with pitfalls as Victoria Strauss suggests. A writer need only find someone with a clear understanding of the written word. Many honest, scrupulous editors exist online, waiting to help writers create their best, most compelling written work. Beaumont Hardy is among them.

When to Stop Describing

October 11th, 2013

Description is one of the most difficult parts of writing. We’ve all read books in which the author over-describes someone or something–pairing every noun with an adjective and every verb with an adverb. The effect of over-description is often the exact opposite of what the writer intends; too much description slows down the reader and makes the description feel artificial. Instead of recreating the world through writing, an overly descriptive author manages to highlight the artifice of the work. The written piece feel less realistic and more like just a collection of words on a page.

What follows is an unedited descriptive paragraph. Immediately below it is the same paragraph, after editing. After both paragraphs is the same paragraph with my editing marks and my comments in brackets. In this particular case, the author has asked for a heavier edit, so I have changed some words.

She had wild, curly black hair that reminded Byron of an evil witch on a wild and stormy day, casting magic spells with clawlike hands and a cackling laugh. She seemed like she ought to be unattractive, but she really wasn’t. In fact, the woman might actually be beautiful, if she would cut her hair or style it in a different way. She had deep, soulful brown eyes that you could hardly see because of her fierce frown and angry scowl. Byron noticed that she wore filmy layers of gauzy clothing that looked so voluminous that he could hardly tell what she was actually wearing. She seemed like the type of person to wear black or gray, but Byron was surprised to notice that she was actually wearing a soft and delicate white-colored tunic with bright turquoise pants. He hadn’t heard her speak, but Byron imagined that this mysterious, frightening and odd woman would have a deep and gravelly voice, like a witch casting a spell. She finally opened her mouth and spoke, and Byron was floored to realize that she had a melodious and bird-like voice. “Welcome to beginning yoga,” she trilled musically.

This is the edited paragraph:

She had wild black hair that reminded Byron of a witch in a storm, cackling and casting spells with her claw-like hands. The woman ought to have been unattractive, but she really wasn’t. In fact, she might actually be beautiful, if she cut her hair or styled it in differently. She had soulful brown eyes that Bryon could hardly see because of her fierce scowl. Byron noticed that she wore layers of gauzy clothing so voluminous that he could hardly determine the shape of her body. She seemed like someone who would wear black or gray, and Byron was surprised that her tunic was a delicate white and that her pants were bright turquoise. He hadn’t heard her speak, but Byron imagined that this mysterious woman would have a deep and gravelly voice, like a witch. She finally opened her mouth and spoke, and Byron was floored. “Welcome to beginning yoga,” she said musically.

This is the paragraph with my editing marks and comments:

She had wild, curly [Even thought “wild,” “curly” and “black” all effectively describe the woman’s hair, using only two of the words conveys the same idea more concisely.] black hair that reminded Byron of an evil witch oin a wild and stormy day, cackling and [Keeping the two verbs, “cackling” and “casting,” together creates a nice parallelism and trims the sentence down. The “laugh” following “cackling” seems unnecessary, since “cackling” already incorporates the idea of laughing.] casting magicspells with her clawlike hands and a cackling laugh. She The woman [After the talk of the witch, I’m just clarifying the identity of “she.”] seemed like she ought to have been unattractive, but she really wasn’t. In fact, the woman she might actually be beautiful, if she would [The conditional “would” doesn’t seem necessary here.] cut her hair or styled it in a differentlyway. She had deep, soulful brown eyes that youByron [I’m keeping the focus on Byron, as the one doing the observing.] could hardly see because of her fierce frown and angry scowl [I don’t think that both “fierce frown” and “angry scowl” are necessary. You could also say “fierce frown” or “angry scowl.” I just picked the most descriptive noun and adjective.] Byron noticed that she wore filmy [“Filmy” sufficiently incorporates the idea of “gauzy.”] layers of gauzy clothing that looked so voluminous that he could hardly tell what she was actually wearingdiscern the shape of her body. [Because Byron has already described what the woman is actually wearing, it seemed like this sentence ought to end differently. You might also say, “could hardly tell what she actually looked like.”] She seemed like the type of person to someone who would wear black or gray, butand Byron was surprised to notice that she was actually wearingher tunic was a soft and delicate white-colored tunicwithand that her pants were bright turquoise pants. [I eliminated “notice,” because Byron had noticed her clothing in the previous sentence.] He hadn’t heard her speak, but Byron imagined that this mysterious, frightening and odd [Only one adjective seems necessary here, and based on the previous description, the woman seems more mysterious than odd or frightening.] woman would have a deep and gravelly voice, like a witch casting a spell. [Because Byron mentions spell-casting in the opening sentence, it didn’t seem necessary here.] She finally opened her mouth and spoke, and Byron was floored. [Ending the sentence with “floored” emphasizes Byron’s surprise.] to realize that she had a melodious and bird-like voice [“Musically,” in the next sentence, sufficiently gets across the idea of “bird-like” and “melodious.”] “Welcome to beginning yoga,” she saidtrilled musically. [“Trilled” is so associated with birds that it might tend to distract the reader.]

For more about “trilled” and other overly descriptive terms, please read my earlier blog post, “Precise But Distracting.”

I would be happy to help you with any descriptive paragraph-writing you need to do. I look forward to hearing from you.

The Duotrope Controversy

January 5th, 2013
Duotrope subscription controversy

Is there anything better than Duotrope?

Beaumont Hardy falls on the pro-Duotrope side of the current Duotrope subscription controversy.

Once a free directory of various fiction and non-fiction writing markets and a helpful tool for writers to track their own submissions, Duotrope was unable to sustain itself on user donations alone and has now become a subscription-only site. Users can choose to pay either $5 per month or $50 per year to avail themselves of Duotrope’s services. Some writer/bloggers, like Author Alden argue that the subscription fee will narrow the pool of Duotrope users, skewing the very valuable results of its submission statistics.

It’s very true that if fewer people join Duotrope, the site will necessarily base its statistics on a smaller group of responses, affecting its results. However, the site itself claims that the payment requirement limits its user pool to a self-selected group of more dedicated users who might be more inclined to submit accurate results than free users would. Thus, payment ensures a more reliable set of statistics, according to Duotrope.

But the true importance of Duotrope, we believe, lies not in its submission statistics but in its exhaustive lists of paying and non-paying markets for writings. No other online or print resource contains such extensive and annotated lists. With Duotrope, writers hoping to publish their work can learn of journals, magazines and anthologies that they might never see on the newsstand or in bookstores. Many writers have said that they never would have sold their work if they hadn’t first learned of paying markets on Duotrope. In Part Two of his informative blog post, “Is a Duotrope Subscription Worth the Cost?,” Nathaniel Tower makes a succinct argument for Duotrope’s significant advantages over any other marketplace listings. As he indicates, Duotrope provides a service like no other.

At Beaumont Hardy, we believe that Duotrope’s service is worth its $5/$50 subscription fee. As long as the “duotroopers” are willing to provide us with this unique, well-organized and very helpful information, we are willing to compensate them for their efforts.

Beaumont Hardy has long been a fan of Duotrope. Writers can glean valuable lessons from the submission requirements of the publications it lists.

What do you think of Duotrope’s new subscription requirement? We would love to hear from you.

A List as Literature

December 7th, 2012
story as list

Beaumont Hardy helps you navigate the short story landscape.

Here at Beaumont Hardy, we still think writers can learn a great deal from the submission guidelines of publications listed in places like Duotrope. In studying the submission guidelines of Words and Images, the literary magazine from the University of Southern Maine, we came upon an interesting genre writers might want to explore further. Words and Images is eager to read all types of prose, and among their interests, they mention “to-do lists.” We like the idea of a list that can function as a compelling piece of prose or even as a story, and we wonder how such a literary piece would function.

Someone suggested the following list, which hints at a larger story, perhaps even a mystery.

1. Clean windows

2. Get telescope out of attic

3. Check sighting device

4. Confirm Lefty’s schedule

5. Tell Shirley to take the kids to the movies

6. Borrow silencer from Vinnie

The problem is that a list of this type tends to feel heavy-handed in its attempt to convey plot. Perhaps a list functions better as a mere suggesting of an emotion or an experience. Consider the following list.

1. Wash beach towel

2. Put away sunscreen

3. Give umbrella and picnic basket to Goodwill

4. Delete photos from camera

5. Call Stacy re. girls’ night out

What do you think of a list as literature? How would you create a scintillating list? Please let us know. We’d love to hear from you.

Duotrope provides as invaluable service to writers, but it no longer survives on donations, as it once did. After January 1, 2013, writers can only use Duotrope’s helpful and extensive listings by subscribing to Duotrope. Please consider a subscription to Duotrope. We all benefit from the service it provides.

 

Learning from Submission Guidelines

May 2nd, 2012

jungleBeaumont Hardy is a huge fan of Duotrope and its extensive, detailed lists of print and online publications seeking author submissions. Besides acquainting authors with fine journals and magazines they might not otherwise find online or on the newsstand, Duotrope allows writers to focus their submissions on publishers that will be the best “fit” for their writing. Duotrope includes interviews with the editors of many of the publications on its lists; these interviews are extremely helpful to authors who might want to know more about a publication’s style and interests.

Here at Beaumont Hardy, I am also fascinated by the submission guidelines that accompany some of Duotrope’s listings. The guidelines are indispensable to authors who want to know whether their writing is suited to a particular publication. But the guidelines also serve as mini-lessons in writing–reminding writers what makes a story work or obliquely guiding them through a final revision. What follows are some of the many instructive guidelines I have found through Duotrope.

The submission guidelines section for Third Wednesday, a journal that publishes poetry and fiction, provides some useful tips about fiction writing in general. George Dila, the journal’s associate fiction editor, explains why stories that open with description can be problematic. He also expresses his dislike for dialogue at the start of a story. (Read Beaumont Hardy’s take on this dialogue controversy.) Mr. Dila also asks interesting questions about what drives a story’s plot, what keeps a reader’s interest and how writing style contributes to a story. He mentions stories that, to him, don’t “work,” and he mentions hackneyed ideas that editors see far too often. Even for writers who never plan to submit to Third Wednesday, these guidelines are extremely useful in conceiving or revising a story. George Dila’s suggestions are thought-provoking and very valuable.

Bourbon Penn is a journal of “the odd,” and its editors seek surreal, magical stories. But the Bourbon Penn guidelines are useful to writers of any kind of fiction. The editors want stories with honest, complex characters around which the entire story hangs. Based on these guidelines, writers can review their own stories, determining whether their characters have enough complexity and contradiction to breathe life into the story. The journal also seeks “mystery”–stories about which the reader will demand answers. Although not every story is mysterious, writers should always consider whether their stories create this same demand in their readers.

In its submission guidelines, Spilling Ink Review provides an entertaining and illuminating list of what they do not want to publish. This e-journal from Glasgow seeks well-written, original writing, and its list of “don’ts” is very instructive for writers. The editors mention plots that are less-than-successful and grammatical constructions that writers might want to rethink. Knowing what not to do can be incredibly helpful to a writer.

Even if writers never plan to submit to literary magazines with these kinds of detailed submission guidelines, I think there is a lot to be learned from the thoughts and suggestions of journal editors. Anyone contemplating a story or doing a final revision would be wise to listen to the opinions of the professionals at magazines like these.

Duotrope survives on user donations, so be sure to contribute when you use their listings.

The Dialogue Controversy

March 30th, 2012

jungleDialogue can be surprisingly controversial.

In fact, the submission editors of some literary journals say that they are so offended by stories that open with dialogue that they reject them outright. These submission editors argue that readers can be confused when they don’t know who is speaking or what is happening. Without the help of a “grounding” narrative sentence, the story gets off to an uncomfortable and disorienting start. Submission editors are so busy that they reject a confusing story in favor of one that neatly lays out the action for the reader.

At Beaumont Hardy, I am not so opposed to an opening line of dialogue, as I think it might draw the reader immediately into a story. However, some stories are so complex that writers may need to establish their openings more clearly than dialogue might allow.

Consider this example:

“But wasn’t Charlie supposed to bring the rope?”

Penelope held the flashlight and looked at her boss.

Two sentences into the story, the reader still has no idea what’s happening. Is Penelope speaking? Is Charlie Penelope’s boss? Are there two or three characters in this scene? A confused submission editor might not care enough to read more in order to answer these questions.

A story as complex as this one might need a few expository sentences to set the scene for the dialogue:

Penelope held the flashlight and looked at her boss. He was trying to pry the gate open with a crowbar. Once it swung open, he asked Penelope for the rope.

“But wasn’t Charlie supposed to bring the rope?” Penelope asked.

Or consider this example:

“The green ones are three for a dollar.”

Susan and her brothers shoved each other as they stood in front of the carnival barker.

A reader might wonder who is talking and what that person is talking about. What are the green ones? Is Susan telling her brothers the price of them? Or is the carnival barker the one who is speaking?

Of course, one assumes that the author of the story will explain everything at some point. However, a busy submissions editor might not have time for that explanation, and she or he might toss the story onto the rejection pile after reading the two confusing sentences. Once again, some expository explanation might help:

Susan and her brothers shoved each other as they stood in front of the carnival barker. They had waited all week to buy the marbles he kept in the locked glass case. When Susan asked how much the marbles cost, the barker smiled and unlocked the case. “The green ones are three for a dollar.”

Despite what some submissions editors might say, however, I still think a clear opening line of dialogue can be an effective beginning to a story. If the dialogue conveys enough meaning to explain the action and to suggest the relationship between the characters, it can be a refreshing start to a story.

Consider this example:

“Give me your money.”

The gun felt slippery in Gavin’s hands, but he kept it pointed at the man with the briefcase.

Or:

“I never knew I could bake a pie in a hubcap.”

Susan carried the dessert into the dining room and wondered why her guests looked so startled.

Let us know what you think about dialogue in an opening sentence.

Writers can find the editorial guidelines of various journals at Duotrope, a website that provides an invaluable service to those who might not otherwise know where to submit their stories. The website keeps exhaustive and updated lists of online and print publications that are actively seeking submissions.

A More Compelling Cover Letter

August 5th, 2011

lionCover letters are often the most challenging part of a job application. Job hunters find it difficult to quantify their skills and abilities in a way that sounds humble yet assertive, compelling and worthy of response. At Beaumont Hardy, I have helped many job applicants craft succinct and well-written cover letters.

What follows are two versions of the same cover letter. The first is the original, unedited one:

Dear Ms. ——-:

I would like to apply to the Administrative Assistant position that you advertised. I am a well-organized person who appreciates order and organization. I think I would be a good addition to your staff in the Administrative Assistant position.

I graduated from ——- College with a degree in Accounting, and I had a 3.9 GPA throughout college. I was always well-organized, and I led many campus organizations at the time: The Tri-Tones (an a capella trio), the campus debate team and the wrestling team.

You mentioned that the Administrative Assistant would need to be able to file and keep track of orders that come in. You also said that the Administrative Assistant should answer phones and answer questions that clients ask. I would be good at all of these tasks, as well as being a self-starter and able to work with minimal guidance.

Thank you very much.

The second version is the letter after editing:

Dear Ms. ——-:

Please consider my application for the Administrative Assistant position at your company. I understand that the position requires strong organizational skills and a keen appreciation for order. I have excellent organizational abilities and believe I am an ideal candidate for the Administrative Assistant position.

I have a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting from ——- College, where I maintained a 3.9 GPA throughout my four years. Because of my leadership abilities and sense of organization, I became the head of three campus organizations: the ——- College debate team, the varsity wrestling team and an a capella trio.

I can effectively transfer the skills I developed in these leadership roles to the Administrative Assistant position. I am a self-starter and am able to complete tasks with minimal guidance. I enjoy interacting with coworkers and clients and can answer telephones and client questions cheerfully and professionally. I am also an efficient filer and can responsibly keep track of incoming orders. I am a strong candidate for a position that requires motivation and organization.

Thank you for considering my application. I look forward to hearing from you.

The second version of the letter highlights the applicant’s skills in a well-organized and interesting way. It expresses an understanding of the requirements for the job and closes with an indication of the applicant’s continuing interest.

Please let me know what you think of these two versions and which you think works better.

The “Less is More” Exercise

October 15th, 2010

FictionEditors and other writing professionals constantly advocate “showing,” not “telling.” The idea is that readers ought to draw their own conclusions about the characters and action in a story, without the author having to provide explanatory narrative. As trite as “Show. Don’t Tell.” might sound among writing connoisseurs, the advice is still valid. Writers who can effectively convey personality, tone and meaning without relying on overt narrative usually produce the most satisfying and believable fiction.

My suggestion is that writers experiment by paring down their prose from the very start–deliberately saying less, rather than more, in their exposition. There always exists a moment when a writer might want to explain something to the reader–to clarify a character’s emotion or emphasize the tone of a particular scene. I recommend not taking that explanatory route, holding back on the explanation and allowing the reader’s own thoughts to fill the resulting textual “silence.” Hold off on the impulse to tell, and I believe you will show readers more.

The following passage indicates the “telling” moments (underlined) a writer might be tempted to add. Read the passage with and without these underlined parts, and see which version you think works more effectively.

more telling:

“Would you like some more tea?” Susannah hovered over Peter with the dripping teapot, even though she knew he wouldn’t want more tea. He hadn’t touched the tea she had already served him. Peter probably thought he was too good to drink tea out of her chipped and mismatched cups. “Bourgeois cups,” she thought he had called them, even though she hadn’t really been able to hear from the kitchen.

“No,” Peter said, moving his hand as though to cover his teacup.

Susannah was so angry that she wanted to dump the tea on his head. Who was Peter to suggest that her tea was second-rate? That her life was second-rate?

“How about a scone?” Susannah rattled the scones on the little blue plate, knowing the sound would probably annoy Peter. It did.

“I don’t eat scones,” he said.

“Well, isn’t this nice? The tea is sweet and hot.” Mr. Partridge sounded flustered, as though he wished Susannah and Peter would just get along. But she couldn’t get along with anyone as arrogant and egotistical as Peter. Susannah wanted to scream.

“More tea, Mr. Partridge?” she said instead.

Peter sighed outrageously and looked out the window. His tea was getting cold.

less telling:

“Would you like some more tea?” Susannah hovered over Peter with the dripping teapot, even though he hadn’t touched the tea she had already served him in the chipped cup. “Bourgeois cups,” she thought he had said, even though she hadn’t really been able to hear from the kitchen.

“No,” Peter said, moving his hand as though to cover his teacup.

“How about a scone?” Susannah rattled the scones on the little blue plate.

“I don’t eat scones,” he said.

“Well, isn’t this nice? The tea is sweet and hot.” Mr. Partridge sounded flustered.

“More tea, Mr. Partridge?” Susannah said.

Peter sighed outrageously and looked out the window. His tea was getting cold.

Which version do you think works better? Feel free to let me know. I would love to hear from you.

The Abraham Lincoln Method

May 26th, 2010

At Beaumont Hardy, I meet many writers struggling with writer’s block. Although no amount of editorial coaching can pull a writer through a “dry spell,” I argue that any writing is better than no writing. Even a terrible rough draft can yield positive writing results. The point is just to write. I now propose the Abraham Lincoln Method for putting pen to paper or fingers to keyboard and writing that rough draft.

Our 16th President famously studied by candlelight, refusing to allow less-than-ideal conditions to deter him from his reading and writing. We all know how far Abraham Lincoln’s candlelit writing sessions took him. I advocate writing under the same conditions Abraham Lincoln once did, as a stimulant for creativity

On a night when you can guarantee an hour or two of solitude, I recommend clearing a table of everything but a note pad or computer; turning off every light, radio, television or electronic gadget in the room; lighting several candles; and settling in to write a rough draft. This is the Abraham Lincoln Method.

Not only is this method energy-efficient, it can also be highly productive. Writing in a new environment–even just a new lighting environment–can stimulate creativity in surprising ways. Many writers work with constant noise distractions, and the silence of an electronics-free room can be mentally freeing. The flickering of the candlelight is also oddly conducive to reflection and introspection, gently stimulating the imagination. And turning off all the lights and every electronic gadget makes for absolutely no visual distractions–no sudden impulses to dust or to rearrange tchotchkes before writing the next sentence. Staring off into a room’s darkness is simultaneously frightening and thrilling, and I argue that this combination of emotions, tinged as it is with the primeval elements of darkness and fire, can inspire even the most uninspired of writers.

The Abraham Lincoln Method honors one of our most diligent and scholarly of Presidents, and it carries with it the flickering light of hope that we might achieve some of his greatness.

Submissions: No Reason to Fear

May 17th, 2010

Many as-yet-unpublished authors long to see their work in print but might never do so. Their problem is not a lack of writing ability, a lack of ideas or even a lack of a finished piece of writing. Instead, what stops them is a fear of the submission process itself. Writers list various reasons for their submissions fears, but at Beaumont Hardy, we want to reassure them that submission should be the least of their worries.

One submission fear that writers seem to share is that their work will face mockery and criticism from editors. This fear sometimes spreads to the writing process, and writers become self-conscious in the very act of creation. They imagine the sneering editors who will ultimately read their work, and they begin to write defensively, protecting themselves from the criticism they imagine editors might make.

Having worked at a literary agency, I always reassure writers that the professionals at the other end of the submission process have little time to criticize or make fun of the work they receive. The smallest literary agency can receive hundreds of unsolicited queries a week, the entire staff working constantly to keep the office from being inundated with manuscripts and letters. An agent or editor who must plow through dozens–or even hundreds–of author submissions per day has very little time to engage in mocking or criticism. In fact, individual authors often make very little impression on the harried editorial staff. While this fact is of concern to writers hoping to be noticed for publication, it should be reassuring to the authors who fear ridicule. Editors and agents have too little time and very little inclination for mockery.

Another related submission fear stems from the writers’ knowledge that complete strangers will be judging their work. Writers wonder if they should cater their work to these gatekeeping readers or whether these strangers will completely misunderstand their creative impulses. Some of my clients tell me that they are unable to submit their work when they know nothing about the person who will be reading it.

I argue that writing is universal and that its beauty lies in the fact that complete strangers can understand and appreciate the work of someone they have never met. Professional editors and agents can understand innovative and unusual writing and will recognize the creative impulses of writers they do not know. Writers, I believe, should write whatever moves them and trust that the most unknown of readers, editors and agents will be able to relate to what they have written.

Still other writers fear the rejection involved in submission. For most—perhaps, all—writers, some amount of rejection is practically guaranteed, but that should be no reason to avoid submission. In fact, the more a writer experiences rejection, the less painful it becomes and the more rewarding is an ultimate acceptance. And of course, the only rejection-free submission is no submission at all—the worst possible path to publication.

For better or worse, I tell writers that they can find safety in numbers when submitting their work. The sheer number of submissions makes it more difficult to get published. However, this sheer number guarantees a certain anonymity and safety to the process. Editors and agents read so many, many submissions that they are virtually unable to single any one out for mockery and derision. They rarely remember a particular author after reviewing his or her submission and hardly ever know when that author submits a new piece of writing after an initial rejection. Editors and agents read so many submissions that they have a deep understanding of good writing and good creative impulses and can be trusted to recognize solid work when they see it.

At Beaumont Hardy, I am happy to help any writer prepare his or her work for ultimate submission. The submission process is absolutely nothing to fear.