From Draft to Publication: The Value of Manuscript Review

“…don’t worry about publication…” 

~ Abigail Thomas

If I had a nickel for the number of times I’ve been asked this question, well, you know the rest. But it still comes at me year after year. “How do I get published?” It’s an important question, a necessary question, a bit of a driving-question because we writers want to cross that finish line. But often a writer asks the question too soon in the process and this is important because the answer isn’t always the same based on the changes taking place in the industry. So…unless you have a final draft that is done and dusted and ready for submission, you might want to hold off asking and to help I’d like to share this post from years earlier when I took a survey of several writers I knew where I asked for a quick, knee jerk response to this oft asked question.

I start with my dear friend, Hope Edelman, who was the first “real” writer to endorse Blackbird and who had been a long time mentor.

Hope Edelman, New York Times Bestselling author of Motherless Daughters, Motherless Mothers, Mother of my Mother, The Possibility of Everything and more.“Getting published isn’t the same process that it used to be, where good work found an agent who helped you find a publisher or good work found a publisher on its own merit. New writers still try that route and some find success that way, but an increasingly smaller number each year, it seems. Now I emphasize the importance of building an audience in advance (I refuse to use the word “platform”) through social networking and blogging and whatever other means possible. I’m a terrible example of that myself since I hate doing all that and will probably as a result doom myself to obsolescence before long. I always suggest trying to get short pieces or excerpts published in magazines, journals and newspapers since that’s always a way to get advance attention and buzz for one’s work. And of course self-publishing is becoming more acceptable each year, though I still suggest that writers wait a little longer for distribution to get figured out.”

~ Hope Edelman, New York Times Bestselling author of Motherless Daughters, Motherless Mothers, Mother of my Mother, The Possibility of Everything and more.


“My honest knee-jerk reaction is to tell a new writer to concentrate on writing her/his absolute best writing and don’t worry about publication. After that, which nobody really wants to hear, send stories out to small literary magazines for publication. After that, find your favorite living writers, find out who represents them, and send short modest query letters.”

~ Abigail Thomas: Safekeeping, A Three Dog Life, Thinking About Memoir and more


“To get published, write beautifully, urgently, and authentically.”

~ Sue Silverman: Because I Remember Terror Father, I Remember You, Love Sick, Fearless Confessions 


“Write something worthy of publication. And by that I mean to imply too many writers focus on the publication instead of the work. Don’t even try to get published until your writing is so good it almost skips into that submission envelope by itself.”

~ Cheryl Strayed: Torch, Wild, Tiny Beautiful Things, Brave Enough


As for me? Well, I am all about writing things down. Just like you intend to get your to-do list done, or even go shopping…until you write down those to-do’s, or what you need to buy at the grocery store, it’s not going to happen. Or if it does happen you might not get done all that you wanted to or you might forget a bunch of stuff. Ever been in the store without a list? Notice how scattered you are? But a list is like a laser. It focuses your mind. The same goes with writing down your desires. If you long to get published…write it down. Focus your mind on it.

Grab a 3×5 card right now, write your goal to get published down, post it above your computer, and as everyone else has already said, your next task is to write. And write well.

A long time and wonderful literary agent, Anne Edelstein, told me that there will always be a place in publishing for good writing. So, now you’re on your way. You know what you want. You’ve written it down. And you are busy improving your craft. Leave the specifics for when you have finished the best book you can possibly write. Once that’s done, read Becky’s experience on finding an agent here, and also, reach out and we’ll help get your work read by the right people.

~ Jennifer

Lit Lessons are posts pulled directly from the on-going teachings at The Blackbird Studio. For students, they are a reinforcement of the weekly classes. For those popping in to check us out, they are a taste of our depth studies. Comments welcome and appreciated. If you are a student who would like to publish something about your experience at the Studio, or a lesson you’ve learned, please read these guidelines