Why Writers Shouldn't Rush Into Publication

By Jody Hedlund, @JodyHedlund

Spring has arrived in central Michigan where I live. Finally! It's come with lots of storms and flooding. But interspersed between the rainy days are a few that are perfect and sunny.

When we have those one or two beautiful days, everyone heads outdoors to walk or run. It's actually rather comical. The sidewalks are full of people desperate for the first breath of warm air after months of being cooped up inside.

I exercise inside all winter by using a walking DVD, and I'm just as anxious as everyone else to finally be set free. But this spring, instead of walking, I decided to take up the challenge to run with one of my daughters.

So a couple of weeks ago, during one of the lulls of rain, we started running–or I should say, she started running. I merely tried to survive, panting and puffing alongside her in an elephant-like gait. Finally for the last block she left me in the dust as she sprinted home. Yes, sprinted. I on the other hand, with my gut ache, stinging lungs, and sweating face, could barely manage to walk the last distance.

This was the first time running for both of us. But the difference between the two of us (beside thirty years!), is that she is in shape and I apparently am not. Even though I walked during the winter, my level of workout was minimal compared to my daughter's, who lap swims through her synchro swim team.

The truth is there's an obvious difference in our endurance, strength, and speed. While neither of us are ready to enter any races or marathons, she's much closer than I am.

It's easy to admit to the realities of our physical limitations, isn't it? When we're beginning, we can readily acknowledge the work and training that lie ahead of us.

But it's so much harder for writers to accept the realities of where they're at in the spectrum of readiness for publication.

When I was a beginning writer, I didn't want to admit that my writing muscles were weak, that my endurance was low, and that I still had a long way to go. I wanted to believe that I could beat the odds, that my natural talent exceeded everyone else, and that I could somehow skip ahead and bypass the long waits and rejections.

But the truth is, there are very few writers who are born with natural writing genius who can write a salable, commercially viable book on the first try (just as there are very few beginning runners who will be ready to race even if they're in shape like my daughter). All writers have to take the time to strengthen their writing muscles, learn techniques, improve their skills, and increase their endurance.

As I'm improving in my running skills, my lungs burn, my body hurts in places I never knew existed, and I feel like giving up. But I force myself to keep going and to run consistently. I realize it will take days, weeks, and even months to build myself into a strong runner. I don't expect to be fast or fluid right away, and I have patience with myself.

And the same is true as writers. There will be plenty of days when we'll feel like giving up, when we'll hurt deep in our hearts. But the only way to get better is to keep going, to write consistently, and to have patience–knowing the process of improving will take days, weeks, and even months.

My agent, Rachelle Gardner said this in a recent post: In the fiction queries I receive, average or poor writing is the biggest reason for rejection. Some people have terrific ideas for stories that sound like they’re going to knock my socks off. But when I start to read, I realize they haven’t taken the time to develop their craft prior to submission. (This can be quite disappointing to me, because often the ideas are really good.)

I believe one of the top reasons for those rejections and the mediocre writing is because beginning writers want to rush the process, instead of doing the slow steady work of getting into shape for publication.

Improving in running and writing are a lot alike. Essentially, the best way to improve is to do it consistently, over time, with a dedication to learning the techniques.

What about you? Do you think enough writers these days are doing the work it takes to get into shape? Or are they expecting to reach publication without the necessary conditioning and training?


  1. This is true for me when I wrote my first ever book in memory of my dad. I went the self-publishing route and really rushed to get it done by the end of the year.

  2. I do believe most writers rush into publication but I certainly don't want to be one of them. I've come to terms that developing my writing skills will take years and I am okay with this because I have come to really enjoy the journey. But this brings me to another concern of mine, perhaps something you could do a future blog on even.

    Speaking of running...I began this calendar year eager to develop a consistent exercise routine and for the most part I have stuck to one. It works best for me to do my exercise in the mornings. Then having a full time job, I spend the rest of my morning and afternoon at my desk, leaving only the evenings for everything else I have to do including my second job - writing. This has actually worked out well and I have been able to consistently write on average 1000 words a day or even more. I feel accomplished, I feel I'm developing my writing skills by consistently putting in the word count each day.

    But I have just one problem...when it comes time to put my story to bed and get the physical rest that I need, I can't. My story will not go to bed, my mind is in high gear, and I lose hours of sleep simply because I'm trying to sleep too soon after my mind has been working hard.

    Jody, I have tossed around every idea trying to figure out how to consistently write every day without suffering in other areas including my health including switching my writing time to the mornings which I don't feel will work either.

    I believe time management is a writer's biggest challenge. What can I do? I'm literally losing sleep! I know you've written about time management many times and I'm amazed how you can keep up with your family and your writing. Have you ever struggled with putting your writing to bed? How do you shut off those gears we've worked so hard to get cranking?

    1. Shelly, here are a couple of ideas (and I'd love to hear Jody's thoughts, as well!). When you've come to the end of your writing time, quickly jot down your ideas in a couple of sentences for the next scene or chapter you plan to work on when it's time to write again. Sometimes this turns off my brain to sleep, knowing I have my thoughts on paper and I won't forget it overnight. Another idea, similar to the first, is to keep a pad of paper and a pen next to your bed. When your mind is running at high gear, take a few minutes to get the ideas on paper so you can go to sleep. These are just a few things that have helped me. Good luck!

    2. Thanks for chiming in with your thoughts, Gabrielle! I appreciate your suggestions!

      I have to admit, Shelly, that I usually don't have trouble turning off my story and falling asleep. I'm usually so exhausted that I crash. But then again, I do my best and strongest writing in the mornings and afternoons. On days when I have no choice but to save my writing for the evening, I'm so wiped out that my word count takes me twice as long.

      But I will say that when I have a hard time "turning off" my thoughts, I usually read. I find that getting into some other world helps distract me from my own thoughts. Not sure if you tried reading for 30 minutes before bed, but that helps me.

      And time management is a topic we can ALWAYS revisit! There's so much about it that we can discuss! :-)

    3. Thank you both for your suggestions!

      Gabrielle, I do write down my thoughts and ideas to get them out of my head somewhere when I can come back to them and have also on more than one occasion had to use the paper next to my bed to jot something down. This used to help me a lot in the past with getting to sleep but not recently. I may have to try to be more consistent with this and see if that helps.

      Jody, I will try the reading before bed. I have tried watching a little television to get my mind "out of gear" but have also heard that can disrupt sleep. My other thought was maybe trying to start earlier in the evening and force myself to quit long before I go to bed but this can be hard when you really get in the zone and just have to finish the scene :)

      Thanks again for your help! And Jody, anytime you want to do a post on time management, I'd be grateful! I don't know if I can ever hear enough suggestions!

  3. This is a greta post and very timely too, especially given the ease with which we can all self-publish these days if we choose to go that route. I know I have a lot to learn, and I know that I get a bit impatient sometimes at the thought of re-writing, re-doing it all again. But each time I commit to the process I learn more and more. Bit by bit, very very slowly, I am learning my craft. But I've still a very long way to go. Posts like yours make me feel better about my snail-like approach. What's the rush?! Especially when the journey is such fun! xxx

  4. I am a big believer in and proponent of self-publishing. HOWEVER, one of the temptations of self-publishing is having the ability to write "The End" on your manuscript and then upload it to Amazon right away. That is a mistake. Good writing takes time and finesse. It takes lots and lots of revision. I do think sometimes people jump in too quickly and then wonder why they aren't experiencing success. My advice is always to stick your manuscript in a drawer for a month once you finish and then take it out and see if you think it's still as ready as you thought it was a month before. You probably won't.

  5. Jody, One of the hardest fights I have with myself, and one I'm still fighting, is the temptation to say, "There. That's good enough. I'll send it off." I've been warned about this since early in my writing journey, yet it's a lesson I have to re-learn frequently.
    In the past, the warning was, "You only have one chance to make a good first impression on an editor or agent." Now, with the relative ease of self-publication, the warning also has to be, "If you choose self-publication, be certain what you put out there is your best work." Thanks for the reminder.

  6. I jumped into things too quickly. Not publishing, but querying. And I learned my lesson. And yes, it was impatience, but it was also because I didn't know better. I didn't know how not-ready I was. At that point, I hadn't gotten into blogging, hadn't seen any articles like this. And just didn't know my writing was that bad.

    Over that next year I learned so much. Got into blogging. Made writer friends. I've improved a lot. But even now when I got to querying my 2nd novel, after getting comments, I still had changes to make. I feel confident about the mechanics of writing, but the voice... that's a hard one.

    But I'll keep working. Keep learning. And take my time doing it.

  7. I am running with my son too! It's not pretty... :)

    And, Yes! I definitely wasn't patient when I started writing and querying. I blame it on lack of knowledge. I didn't know how hard it was to get published. I didn't know most writers worked on their craft for years before writing a stand-out book. I didn't even know what craft was!

    Thank goodness, I had resources to teach me the ins-and-outs. I'm with you--we have to "train" and "condition" to make it in this business!

  8. I have to agree with Jill, minus running with my son. Mostly I chase my son around. lol

    I'm thankful that my first book didn't get published. It's a train wreck. But I thought I knew what I was doing. Time has taught me craft, patience and how to pace myself for this thing called a marathon.

  9. I see a lot of people on forums talking about how long traditional publishing takes, or if they're self-publishing, talking about how they can put out a book nearly every month.

    I can't help but worry that these people are rushing so fast that they don't take the time really needed to polish a book and get it ready for release. One thing I see overlooked time and again is the idea of a release schedule. Few of the self-published authors I've spoken to appear to consider how to structure a release schedule outside of "when the book is done," and I think people with that attitude miss out on a great tool for building momentum and interest in a series.

    1. Very good point, Paul! Another area to consider (especially those self-publishing) is how to time out the releases of our books. I like your suggestion of building momentum and interest!

    2. The example I like to point to is the Lord of the Rings movies. The studio could have waited until all three were finished and released them all at once, but they didn't. They released one each year because that lets audiences get worked up and excited for the next installment.

    3. Actually Paul, if you look at some of the self-pub bed authors who hit it huge, they published several books (like 8) in one year, building their own momentum.

    4. That's true, but I don't believe you can take the rare few (self-published or traditionally-published) who hit the big-time as the standard way to go. They all had the benefit of the precise combination of talent, hard work, marketing, and sheer luck to get them where they are.

      Jim Butcher releases one book in a series per year, and he's hugely successful. The Harry Potter books all had at least a year between them and are arguably the most successful series of popular fiction to date. But then, you have Amanda Hocking, who put out her entire catalogue in the space of three years. You can't guess what it was about these authors that led to their success.

      What I can say is that I've seen plenty of authors release multiple books in a series in a year and receive little in the way of sales. Simply getting the books out isn't enough. And relying solely on building that back catalogue is a mistake.

  10. I think even this is something you learn as you go along. I love the rushing and zealous feelings of starting out. I made a lot of mistakes early on, but I didn't evaluate my creativity or question the feasibility so much. I'm slower, more aware and more methodical and thoughtful several years later, but sometimes I have to dig a bit more to find that enthusiasm-with-blinders feeling again.

  11. I'm in that place where I'm trying to figure out how to KNOW that you're ready for publication. I'm sure you've probably written a post about it. Can you point me to it or give me your thoughts here? I know a lot of it might be subjective... :P

    1. Hey Lindsay, It IS hard to know, especially since we as writers are SO subjective with our own work! But I think that if you've written a couple of books (at least 2 if not more), and you've studied writing craft books (like JS Bell's Plot and Structure among others), then you can reasonably assume that you're getting closer. I also think that entering writing contests that offer feedback is a good way to begin to tell where you fall in the scope of other writers. Also, getting a partial critique from a paid editor is another way to glean some objective feedback. I think the key is that you're actively making an effort to improve your writing over time and by practicing what you're learning. When you can begin to go back to earlier manuscripts and see a noticeable difference in your skill level, then that's a good sign!

  12. A great post, Jody.

    I'm just not sure I'd pick on writers because I see the same impatience in every area of life. No one is immune and it seems to be something we simply cannot outgrow.

    Just look at society.

    Like Jessica, I'm glad the first book I put with an agent never published. Nor any of the other six finished over the course of the last ten to twenty years. I've learned a lot in the last four years (since becoming a "serious writer" as opposed to a hobbyist), and I'm just beginning to see where the problems lie with the most promising of those half dozen manuscripts.

    I have no idea whether or not any of them will ever be published, but I do read through them and think how grateful I am that they've never been picked up by agent or publisher.

    And the things I'm learning about them are definitely helpful in writing new manuscripts.

  13. No lie. Today my legs are sore because yesterday I went running for the first time in more than a year. It's a great reminder that if I don't want to consistently feel the pain of how hard it is, that I have to keep at it. I'm planning to go again tomorrow. Great correlation to writing. I have felt rushed, wanting to finish soon and now and yesterday. But some good advice recently gave me the freedom to wait on God's timing. And I met Karen Witemeyer this weekend (confession: we talked about you a little because I love both of you so much!) who offered some wisdom in this area too. So, I think my new goal is not to finish as quickly as I can but to keep going consistently over time and not be discouraged by my "progress." Because when I first started running, I had to remind myself that running, even if I was slow, was better than sitting on the couch. With writing, writing a little is better than not writing at all. :)

  14. When I started writing I knew I wasn't ready for publication. Unlike many writers, I struggle with spelling and never enjoyed word games. However, I love to tell stories. I've spent the last decade learning the craft and honing my skills. I'm almost ready to take the next step and start seeking agent representation.

    My extended family has given up on me. They don't understand that I needed time to practice before getting published. At first they would ask me how my novel was going, and what to know when it would be in print. They have stopped asking, and for that I am glad. I think that the extra pressure was counterproductive. I was beginning to catch their impatience. We live in a society of instant gratification. Our culture tells us, if we don't reach out and grab our dreams immediately, we'll miss our big opportunity. I still believe that good things are worth working for and waiting for.

    Thank you for this excellent post.

  15. Thanks for the great post! I'm an aspiring writer and you've given me a healthy dose of perspective. Time is my friend--there is no rush. It is better to take the time to do the work the right way than to get ahead of myself. Thanks for the encouragement, too, that I'm not "behind" somehow, but on track to be a better writer when I finally have a manuscript polished enough for submission.

  16. How do you determine it's the right time? When an agent or traditional publisher accepts your book? Or when you self-publish and find readers who love your book? How about both?

    1. Suzanne, I don't know that I would feel completely comfortable putting a book out there to readers (or agents) without first determining whether it's ready. If you put something out there that is subpar, then everyone will know and see your subpar work. It could damage your name and reputation. I think it would be better to make sure that you've spent the time working on the craft, reading fiction how-to books, writing several books and practicing what you're learning, and then at that point consider sending a book to a critique partner or editor.

  17. This comment has been removed by the author.

  18. No, I don't think enough writers /care/ to try as hard these days as writers of the past used to. People write a book, think it's perfect because they themselves are so flawless and perfect for writing a book, and then if/when an agent/publisher rejects them, the writer gets defensive and turns to self-publishing, because the publisher clearly can't "see their genius."

    Personally, although self-publishing does allow more people to get books out there, I think it also destroys the potential of so many books. Writing is an art, but when you think one or two drafts is perfect, you're ruining the core values of this art.

    So no, I think so many people just want a quick buck for their writing that they don't spend nearly enough time on CRAFTING their book.

  19. That's more than likely true. I've been writing since I was 5 years old, and I don't think I'm ready for publication yet.

    The thing that gets me, though, is that I'm putting a lot of energy into this work, but everyone keep on asking me, "Are you done yet?" Like I can just sit down and pop it out my butt like magic.

    I'm writing a 28 book series, creating a language for the series, mapping the entire world, creating legends, outlining literally thousands of character backstories for all these books, and I'm designing short stories for some of the side characters (I want to offer them on the website when I get it all finished which I also plan on designing myself). I plan to at least outline every single book in the series before I pursue publishing for the first one, and I seriously think I should wait until I have them all done at least to their first drafts before I try to get published.

    That's a lot of work. And a lot of time. It isn't going to happen overnight, and I don't expect it to. I expect to work my butt off pursuing it, because I love it. But it burns me up when people act like I should be finished already because I'm just writing a book.

    That's not that hard to do, after all.

    Anyway, sorry for the vent. Thanks for the great post, and I hope you realize I agree COMPLETELY. If you want to be great at anything, you have to work at it. For a very, very long time. The ten-year rule isn't very far off here.

    Have a great day!

  20. Great analogy, Jody. I'm trying to be more consistent with exercise, too, and every time out, my muscles protest! I think many beginning writers are in too much of a hurry, both in terms of mastering the craft and in terms of sending out work. And some aspiring writers are looking for shortcuts. There aren't any if your goal is to build a lasting career. In his book "Outliers" Malcolm Gladwell says it takes ten thousand hours of practice to master a skill. That's a lot of writing! As a beginner I attended a conference where a speaker advised us to read 100 books for every one we hoped to write. Not to copy, of course, but to internalize a sense of pacing, language, plot. After publishing 16 novels, I still read two or three novels a week. It's how I unwind after a day of wrestling with my own writing. Patience, Perseverance, and Practice are the keys.

  21. Great analogy, Jody. I'm trying to be more consistent with exercise, too, and every time out, my muscles protest! I think many beginning writers are in too much - See more at:
    shemale cams

  22. This restriction is dictated by the amount of your excellent economical debt. If you figure out that your home is going to be selling for an amount reduced than the total excellent economical debt you currently have, selling your home would do you no excellent. Cash for property


© All the articles in this blog are copyrighted and may not be used without prior written consent from the author. You may quote without permission if you give proper credit and links. Thank you!