10 Signs You’re Not Getting Published

Signs…or habits?  Sometimes when I talk to new writers, they say certain things that make me think, “this person isn’t getting published anytime soon.” Sad to say, but you can usually pick this up within a few minutes of conversation.  So here’s my personal top-ten list of things that wannabe writers say that are red flags:

10.  You never finish what you start, or you don’t submit what you do finish.

90% of the people who want to be writers don’t finish anything.  90% of the people who finish never submit it.  (Sorry, anecdotal statisics…but it sounds about right.)  So what if it’s crap?  You’re still ahead of 99% of the wannabes out there.

9.  You let rejections bother you, and you think a rejection with some kind of criticism in it is the worst.

Last year I had 12 accepances and 160+ rejections.  Getting a lot of rejections is a good thing.  And by the way, getting  a personal rejection is a sign that you were worth more than a form rejection.  Worth MORE.

8.  All things considered, reading books is not your favorite form of entertainment.  (Adjust this to suit your medium!)

If you’re trying to be a creative profession in a field that you don’t love, WHY?!?  And how do you expect to know your audience…if you’re not part of it?

7.  You only write when you’re in a happy place, with no interruptions or distractions.

Every successful writer overcomes challenges.  Stephen Hawking has written several books while basically unable to move.  What’s your problem?  Lack of priorities, that’s what.

6.  You don’t let anyone read your work until it’s perfect.

No work is ever perfect.  None.   If you never let people read your work until it’s perfect, you never submit it.

5.  You “only write for yourself.”

Have fun masturbating.

4.  You try to make everyone in your critique group/writing class happy.

Have fun destroying your work:  no book is meant for every audience, and yet you’re trying to make all possible audiences happy.  The only way to do that is to destroy that parts that make it good…for your actual audience.

3.  You’ve been revising for more than a year.

You’ve been second-guessing yourself for more than a year.  That’s your editor’s job, Gomez.

2.  You’ve been working on your first draft for more than 12 months per 50,000 words.

This works out to 136 words a day, or about 6 tweets on Twitter.

1.  You can comfortably say, “So I have this idea for a book…” or “I have lots of ideas for books.”

You know what happens when a writer hears this?  The red flag for bullshit gets thrown, and you start looking for ways to escape the conversation, because dollars to donuts, the next thing is going to be, “Want to write it for me?”



If you find yourself doing these things, never fear!  Once you quit doing them and start writing, it all turns around 🙂


Editing for Indie Writers: Intro


Review for Tales Told Under the Covers


  1. Oh hell yeah! I also like ‘I’m an artist.’ which lets the writer get away with a bunch of crap like misspelled words, fragmented sentences, and no plot. Great post!

  2. Good list. Now forgive me while I go off in the corner and look uncomfortably guilty …

  3. De

    Oh, man. That artist thing…I wish I’d thought of that. I’m pretty sure actual artists get annoyed when people who aren’t artists call themselves artists, too. I’m okay with some pretty weird experiments here and there, but it better be pretty entertaining.

  4. De

    Dave, don’t punish yourself. That’s Margie’s job.

  5. Great post! And so true. Yes: Writers write!

  6. De

    Why, thank you 🙂

  7. Very well written post. You caught me at #2, 136 words per day or 6 tweets on twitter! LOL. I DO write a lot but wow, that twitter is hard to resist!

  8. I heard “Well, I’d just write anything. Just tell me what to write, and I swear I’ll do it…” Run. Run away. Fast, fast, fast. My issue is the Perfectionist Syndrome (only fair to confess while criticizing someone else, I guess).

  9. De

    Ieeee! I can’t say I haven’t had moments like that, though. “Someone just tell me what to DOOO!”

  10. Chris Scena

    Holy crap, I almost sprayed beer across my living room on number five. Very timely post for me since I have been agonizing over edits for too long. Guess I’d better shit or get off the pot pretty quick.

  11. You posted it! I love our Twitter convos.

    This list made me giggle. I’m also guilty of #2… or was, anyway. As of November 2011, not anymore! #8 killed me, though. Who in their right mind would want to be a writer if they don’t love to read?!

    I can see how #4 might happen. When I first joined my writers’ group, I felt completely overwhelmed by all of the critique. Thankfully, I’ve learned how to filter it according to my own instincts. It’s my story, dammit. They can’t all be right.

  12. De

    Chris – save the beer!!

  13. De

    Liz – #8 is ALL OVER THE PLACE. People at PPWC writers’ conference are shocked, every year, when I say, “I really don’t watch TV” in response to their unending stream of babble about the latest TV shows. Hello? WRITER’S CONFERENCE.

  14. Everyone is entitled to have their say of course, but I found the comparison you made about writing for yourself to, um, self-gratification to be offensive.

    Who am I supposed to write for, the masses who want to buy books by Snooki and the Kardashians?

    I’d rather never be published, then.

    But then again, with Amazon and Lulu these days anyone who wants to can become a “published author” whenever they feel like it. I think that word, ‘author’ is going to lose all meaning (if it hasn’t already) and eventually it’ll be the craft of writing that counts again.

    At least, I hope.


    • De

      Is it just the word masturbation that’s offensive, or it is the idea that unless you’re writing for an audience you’re not going to get published that’s offensive?

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