Posted by: L.J. Popp | June 22, 2013

Cheaters Never Prosper

A friend of mine contacted me by email last week, concerned about the ethics of entering an unfinished novel into a novel category of a contest. I assured her that I contacted the judge beforehand and made sure this was OK.

She brings up a very good point, though. Follow the rules. Exactly. Don’t cut corners. If it says at least 5,000 words, you’d better submit that much. If it says no more than 5,000 words, don’t submit a hard copy and write “4,900 words” on the first page left-hand corner when it’s really 5,100. First of all, it’s lying. Second of all, it’s just not professional. Third of all, they will probably find out. After you’ve been in this business long enough, you can tell a fudge when you see one.

Some guidelines may seem stupid or even expensive. 12-point font. Double space. 1 inch margins. But think about it. If you were reading 50 manuscripts for a contest, wouldn’t your eyes start to cross if it were all squeezed tight on the page?

Another thing. When submitting to agents and editors, unless they say otherwise, they absolutely DO want you to have the whole project finished. Polished to perfection. Why submit less than your best and make this difficult dream of publication even harder for yourself? I know you can list a dozen authors who found representation without a finished product, even point to the anecdote at the end of Steven King’s best-selling writing book On Writing. Sweetheart, that was fifteen years ago. The worst thing you could do for your career is pitch thirty pages of a novel to an agent, have them shouting, “Give me the rest!” and you ain’t got it. That just screams unprofessional, can’t finish what he/she starts, etc, etc, etc…

So keep fighting the good fight and writing the good write.  ‘Cause cheaters never prosper.

L.J. Popp


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