“You get only one chance to make a good first impression.” That statement is especially true when it comes to submitting your writing to a book or magazine editor.
You can do much, however, to shape that first impression, thereby increasing your chances of getting your work accepted and published. My experiences as both an author and an editor have taught me that making that good impression requires looking at your work on two different levels: a macro view and a micro view.
The Macro View
Looking at your work from the macro view means looking at it to get the “big picture.” Imagine it as using a telescope to view your writing. It involves asking yourself the following questions about your writing.
- Does your manuscript deliver what your proposal or query promised?
- Is it logically organized?
- Does it adhere to the publication’s/publisher’s stated guidelines and style?
- Does its message meet a clear need?
- Does it have a clear focus?
- Has it had the benefit of a second (or even a third or fourth) “set of eyes”? (Have you had others read and comment on it and suggest any changes?)
The Micro View
The micro view of your writing involves examining it for the details. Imagine it as using a microscope to view your writing to detect such characteristics as those listed here.
- Spelling, grammar, punctuation, capitalization, etc. (Don’t rely on the spell-check feature of your software. It can be a big help, but it is not infallible!)
- Style (Does it reflect the industry standard and the publication’s/publisher’s guidelines?)
- Usage and vocabulary (Is it age appropriate for the intended audience? Is it precise?)
- Reference citations, if any are necessary (Are they accurate and formatted correctly?)
- Active versus passive voice (Does the subject of each sentence do the acting, or is it acted upon? Eliminate as many passive constructions as possible.)
- Strong verbs and nouns (Are they precise? Ensure that you aren’t overly reliant on adjectives and adverbs to “carry the weight” of your message.)
- Concise and precise vocabulary rather than needlessly verbose (Make every word count. When in doubt, take it out!)
Looking at your writing from these two levels and asking the appropriate questions will help you identify any weaknesses that would tend to give an editor a bad impression of your work. Correcting those weaknesses before submitting your work will take you several steps closer to your goal of acceptance and publication. The less work the editor must do on your submission, the greater your chances of acceptance.
So do your homework, ensuring that you make that good first impression and making it easier for the editor to say “Yes!” You will reap the benefits of not only acceptance of your work but also possibly a long-term relationship with that editor and publication!