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Sharpening My Ax

While searching for quote for an article I’m writing, I came across this one from Abraham Lincoln:

If I had eight hours to chop down a tree, 
I’d spend six hours sharpening my ax.  

When I read this, the first thing that popped into my head was a writer honing her craft.

I’ve dabbled in writing since I was sixteen. Life had a way of filtering into my dreams of publication. As I look back, I realize God was giving me life experience to incorporate into my novels.

I’ve been writing seriously for the past decade, slowly honing my craft…or sharpening my ax. Honing my craft isn’t limited to writing the best possible story. It also involves learning more about the publishing industry and hearing what agents and editors want. Sharpening my ax may necessitate some expenses such as writing books, online workshops, writing conferences or retreats.

I met with an agent at a writer’s conference who told me she didn’t like to hear a writer say she had been writing only a year or so before pursuing publication. That agent wanted to see writers who took the time to sharpen their axes–learn the craft, get a feel for what publishing houses wanted, understand the sting of rejection.

Sometimes people want something so badly, they rush into a situation without being prepared. There’s a reason they keep getting those rejection letters. Yeah, they suck, but editors and agents are looking for great writing, not mediocre.

Even though it can be frustrating and discouraging, take the time to sharpen your ax. You’ll be rewarded when it’s time to cut down your tree.

How long have you been writing? How long did it take you to receive your first contract? Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently when you started?

Lisa Jordan

3 Comments

  • Jill says:

    I've been writing since I was a teenager. I've been honing my craft for about the last seven years. What would I do differently? I'm not sure anything. Writing and being published is a process. Everyone strives toward the goal, but it's going to be a different path and timeframe for each person.

  • I think it is so important for a writer to know the ins and outs of publication before starting the submitting process. And they must know their craft. I wrote for a few years before I started submitting, but I hadn't studied up. I didn't know anything about pov, first person, third – I just wrote and I liked what came out. Oh boy did I get a rude awakening!! There is SO much to learn. And years later, I'm still learning. It's been a fun journey, but yes, if I had known then what I know now, I would not have sent out those first horrible manuscripts!

  • Jen says:

    I think as a writer it takes time to research every aspect of writing, and that includes agents, editors and publication. Knowing it all is part of the process, I have been writing since I was a teen, however I am just now starting to really get serious in becoming more aware of what is needed. Gathering information and writing my story.

    I know it's a process, but it is one I am ready for!

    Great post and great blog! I look forward to more!

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