It’s a difficult habit to break. If you learned to type on a typewriter (as I did), you were taught to put a double space between sentences. Now, however, that’s incorrect and will be problematic when you send in that submission. Editors expect that you won’t do this.
Why did we (ahem, old folks) learn to do it this way? Well, letters on typewriters are monospaced, meaning that every letter takes up the same amount of space or width in a word (like the Courier font you still have as an option on your computer). Thus, a “w” takes up the same amount of space as an “i.” This made it very difficult to then distinguish between sentences on a typewritten page. With the advent of some electric typewriters and especially computers came proportional type, which means that a “w” takes up more horizontal space than an “i.” With proportional spacing, it’s easier to distinguish between sentences. Hence, a single space is now sufficient.
However, I have excellent news for you! You don’t have to retrain that ingrained habit. You can simply fix your manuscript after the fact and before you submit.
So don’t stress. Go ahead and type those double spaces to your heart’s content. Here’s how to fix it.
After you’re finished, go back to the beginning and set your cursor there. Then, on the Home ribbon, in the Paragraph section, click the Show/Hide button (it looks like a backward P). This will show hidden characters like paragraph returns, tabs, and spaces (every space will appear as a dot). You can see below the two dots between each sentence, showing the double spaces between sentences.
You don’t have to go through and individually fix every single location. Instead, let’s do it all at once. Here’s how:
On the Home tab, in the Editing section, click on the Replace button. This will bring up the dialogue box. All you need to do is put your cursor in the Find What line and type in two spaces (you won’t see anything except your cursor will move over). Then place your cursor in the Replace With line and type in one space. Then click Replace All.
You’ll get another dialogue box that tells you how many double spaces were changed to single spaces. If you have a long manuscript and an ingrained habit, you may have it report thousands. For good measure, you might click OK and then click the Replace All button again. (If you randomly had triple spaces anywhere, you’ll need one more pass to clean it all up.) Keep going until there are 0 replacements.
When I do any editing, my first task (after taking the manuscript and moving it onto my template, as noted in an earlier post) is to run this quick fix to clean up those double spaces.
For good measure, I use this same technique to find and replace all the quotation marks and apostrophes so that they are all smart (curly) and not straight (again, this is part of the industry standard). Just put a quotation mark in the Find What space and a quotation mark in the Replace With space and Replace all. Do the same with apostrophes.
This quick cleanup takes just a few seconds and helps bring your manuscript up to expected industry standards.
I’ve been watching Twitter feeds in the #writingcommunity hashtag and seeing lots of folks post that 2021 is the year they will finally submit — to magazines or literary magazines or a book publisher. I say, YAY. GO FOR IT! You pour yourself into those words and you have something to say into the world.
In order to do that, you’ll need to submit to gatekeepers at these various publications. Let’s make sure you do everything you can to get read! Following are a few tips as you make 2021 your year for submitting!
1. Follow the submission guidelines.
I can’t stress this enough. Read those submission guidelines — don’t just send off your piece. Not following the guidelines will assure that your submission will be rejected before it’s even read. Remember that editors and agents receive hundreds of submissions. They will immediately toss or delete anything that isn’t submitted per the guidelines.
You can find submissions guidelines on most publication or publisher websites (same for literary agents). You might need to scroll to the fine print at the bottom of the home page, or locate the contact page, but generally they will be there. You can also find information in Writer’s Market (or Christian Writer’s Market Guide if you’re writing for the Christian market).
For instance, if you’re going to submit to Grit magazine, navigate to their submission guidelines and follow them to the letter. Here’s the link as an example. Notice on the Grit submissions page that it tells you:
what they publish and what they don’t
the fact that you can’t send anything unsolicited; you must send a query letter first
where and how to send the query (even what to put in the subject line of your email)
how to write your submission (even how the first paragraph should read)
how NOT to write your submission
that you must submit through their website
That basic information will get you a long way toward getting your piece in front of an editor’s eyes. Of course, you still need to write well, have a compelling piece, and fit the editor’s desires or needs (which, of course, you have no idea about necessarily). But you could have all of that but will lose the opportunity if you don’t follow the submission guidelines to the letter. So make that a resolution!
2. Proofread your submission and have someone else (who knows what they’re doing) proofread as well.
Have your proofreader double check your submission along with the submission guidelines. (They might see something you missed.) Make it a joint effort. Don’t be in such a hurry to meet your goals of submitting that you hurt yourself. And proofreading by yourself is never a good idea. You’ve read the piece so many times your mind will automatically correct words or fill in missing words. I have previously noted some tips and tricks to help you proofread.
3. Don’t take rejection personally.
You’re going to get rejection letters. The more you submit, the more you’ll get rejected. That’s just the way it is. But also, the more you submit, the more opportunity you have to get published. It might help to do as this writer did and actually set a goal for rejections — the point being, of course, that eventually out of all those submissions will come publication. Sort of takes the sting out of it . . . a little . . .
4. Keep good records of your submissions.
Do this now if you haven’t already. Create a document or an Excel sheet or some kind of system whereby you track where you send what. Trust me, over time, you’ll forget. Whether you’re writing articles or seeking an agent/publisher for your book, you want to capture:
the name of the publication/publisher/agent
submission guidelines general information
title of the article/book you queried (or sent)
date sent (so that if it says they’ll respond in one month, you know when that month has elapsed and you can follow up)
In addition, you can keep a running list of various places that you want to query. In my Freelancing class (in the Professional Writing program at Taylor University), where we focus on writing articles, the students create a tracking system listing at least 10 possible magazines they can submit to, a separate page for literary magazines, and then another page with their various article ideas or WIPs captured. If they hope to one day get a book published, a new page can begin to capture potential agents or book publishers for the genre of their book. For every piece they write, they have to write an accompanying query letter, and then actually send three of those letters during the semester. Learning to have the discipline of creating solid query letters, tracking where they’re sent, and having a list of potential publications means that they can keep writing.
For example, you send out the query, you receive a rejection. Instead of letting that stop you, you go to your tracking list and mark down the rejection (so you don’t accidentally send the same query to them again). Then you look on your list for another publication that might like that same article or that article with a slightly different slant or focus or word count. You revise your query letter and send it to that publication. I know some writers who have such a system that, when a rejection arrives, they have that same article pitched somewhere else within 24 hours.
The same goes for book publishers. Find the agents and publishers that accept what you’re writing, create a solid query to them, and send it on. When a rejection arrives, move on to someone else.
The point is, keep going, dear #writingcommunity. Make 2021 your year!
But there comes a time when all writers have to understand that those carefully wrought words need to show up in a well-formatted manuscript, set to industry standards. And this is where things can become very frustrating.
So I’m here to show you how, along with a little help from other editor friends. I’m going to begin a series of posts to help you deal with some of those technical parts of prepping your manuscript–one step at a time.
Longtime author and editor Andy Scheer (andyscheer.com) one day posted on Facebook how thrilled he was to receive a correctly formatted manuscript. I dropped him a note to ask, from his perspective, what constituted a manuscript that is “formatted correctly.” Here’s the list he sent me. The manuscript should be:
Manuscript is .doc or .docx
12-pt Times New Roman
No extra space between paragraphs
Paragraphs indented—but NOT with tabs or spacing
No double spaces between sentences
Page headers with page numbers
Page break between chapters
Front matter completed (title page, copyright page, table of contents if needed)
Copyright page includes copyright info for all Bible versions quoted, especially the default Bible translation
In coming weeks, I’m going to walk through each of these bullet points individually. I’ll help out with the basics and offer some technical tips, screen shots, and more. BUT FIRST, we can deal with several of those issues by creating a template that you use as your base for every piece of writing you plan to submit. So let’s start there. (Note that the following uses a PC; if you have a Mac, stay tuned. I’ll work to get the information you need as we go.)
How to Build Your Template
Having a template that has all of the settings you need already embedded will be a huge help to you. (Just FYI that this is technically simply a blank Word document, but it will have embedded in it all of the settings you need to create a perfectly formatted document and save you trying to redo it every time.)
The following the instructions will walk you through the steps in Microsoft Word. Doing that, you will create a template that will give you the first 6 bullets above: the .doc or .docx extension, 12-pt Times New Roman, double-spaced copy with no extra space between paragraphs, no extra space between paragraphs, 1-inch margins, and indents not with tabs or all those spaces.
(1) Open a new blank Word document. (2) It mostly likely defaults to one-inch margins, but to check, click on the “Layout” button to give you that ribbon. On the far left is a button called “Margins.” Click it. You should see a “Normal” setting that defaults to all one-inch margins. If that is not clicked, click it.
(3) Now go back to the Home tab to give you that ribbon. Above the “Styles,” box, you’ll see a series of styles that are common to this document. You’ll probably see Normal and some various heading styles. Most everything you type will default to the style called “Normal,” so let’s make sure that “Normal” is the normal that we want for our template. Click on the little down arrow at the bottom right of the Styles box that will drop down a menu of styles (your menu may look different from mine, but you should be able to find Normal).
Locate Normal, click on the down arrow to its right, then click Modify.
This will open a dialog box with lots of options. (4) About halfway down on the left, you’ll see “Formatting.” Make sure that the first box says Times New Roman and the second box says 12. If they don’t, click on the dropdown arrow and choose those options.
(5) Next, below that, you’ll see buttons with lines in them. The first set on the left is giving you the options to have your copy flush left and ragged right, centered, flush right, or justified (straight on both sides). You want to choose the first button for flush left and ragged right. (6) The next three buttons show lines really close (single spacing), sort of close (1.5 spacing), and far apart (double spacing). You want to click on the third button for double spacing.
Wait, you’re not done yet! Let’s deal with the other issues:
(7) In that same box, bottom left is a button that says “Format.” Push it, and then click on “Paragraph.” Yet another dialog box pops up!
(8) In this box, halfway down on the right side, you’ll see the word “Special.” In the box should be the words “First line.” If not (it probably says “None”), click on the dropdown arrow and choose “First line.” In the box beside that, you can set how far the indent should be. It’s probably best to put .5 there. This will automatically indent your new paragraphs so you don’t have to add a tab each time. (9) Keep going, there are a few more boxes on the left below that under “Spacing” with “Before” and “After” choices. Make sure that those read 0. (The default often has 10 in the After slot, which is creating extra space between the paragraphs. You want it to say 0—so change it. And don’t use “Auto.”) (10) Since you already set this to double spacing on the previous menu, you should see the word “Double” under “Line Spacing.” (11) Now click OK. This will take you back to that previous dialog box. Do one more thing here to seal the deal and help you not have to do this again:
(12) At the very bottom, right above that format button, are a couple of choices. Put a dot in the circle that says “New documents based on this template.” Now click OK. (13) This will take you back to your blank document. Now do a “Save As” and save this document as your own personal template for doing all of your writing. Calling it “Mytemplate” should work. Store it on your desktop and you’ll always have a template ready to go when inspiration strikes. So now you have:
Manuscript is .doc or .docx
12-pt Times New Roman
No extra space between paragraphs
Paragraphs indented—but NOT with tabs or spacing
Every time you start a new book or a new story, open this template, do another “Save As” to save that piece of writing with whatever title you want to give it. That way you’ll always preserve the settings you created in your template and won’t have to redo them every time for every piece of writing.
We’ll continue our tech-y talks in coming weeks to help make sure you’re submitting your documents the way the publishers want them.
If you have some other tech-y questions, write them below and I’ll see what I can help you with in future posts.
From the fire at the end of August to our now sadly undecorated and still unfinished restoration that will not happen before Christmas (we’re living in two rooms and a kitchen), life has managed to be an adventure.
October found my husband and me visiting Washington D.C. Highlights included the Library of Congress, seeing the Gutenburg Bible, all the wonderful monuments, and meeting up with several dear high school friends I haven’t seen in over 40 years.
But the main reason for visiting was to attend a celebration at the Museum of the Bible honoring the release of the third edition of the Life Application Study Bible. (Read more about the event here.)
Thirty years ago, this group (pictured above) worked together on what would become the bestselling study Bible of all time (I discussed the process here.) We didn’t know then that God would use our prayerful labors to sell 20 million copies so far of the Life Application Study Bible. I am humbled to have worked with this group and appreciate the honors we received on the evening of October 16 as the pioneers on the project, now also celebrating those who completed work on the third edition of this Bible that has been updated for a new generation. We so enjoyed hearing from special speakers Ed Stetzer (director of the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton) and Dr. Barry Black (chaplain of the US Senate). It was a wonderful evening of celebration of the power of God’s Word.
Finally, in November, Tom and I drove to Nashville to attend the meeting of the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association. I recently became a member of this group, knowing that in my teaching about publishing, I need to stay on the cutting edge of the industry. Was fun to see a former student, Amy Green, publicist at Bethany House, who helped to plan the Christy awards celebration.
Now I’m prepping for final exams and papers and decidedly NOT decorating for Christmas. But we’ll get in the spirit. I’m looking forward to sharing how I’m working on that. Stay tuned!
How was fall for you? What are you doing to get into the holiday spirit?
As a Christian publishing professional, editor, writer, and now faculty member teaching Professional Writing, I have been considering my responsibility to my students about their responsibility as Christian writers.
The first concern, as noted in this post, is that my students stand firmly on the foundation of their faith. From the first day of the 101 class to the last day of capstone, I want to help them understand that they must stand on solid foundational truths that will undergird their writing (and, by extension, their lives).
Most of my students have a foundation of faith that drew them to Taylor University. Most are Christians but with a wide variety of perspectives on doctrines, social issues, and politics. There is room for all of those perspectives in my classroom, but I always want to draw them back to where we all agree: belief in Jesus Christ as Son of God and Savior. Scripture is pretty basic: “If you openly declare that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9 NLT). We have our theologies and our beliefs and our opinions, but it really comes down to that.
So where do they land? Where is their faith, personally? Much of this exploration occurs outside of my classroom in other classes, at chapel, in their small groups in the dorms, and just in living lives as college students. I want them to wrestle with these questions so that as they take the classes across the Professional Writing curriculum, they stand on a foundation as they think critically about how their faith matters in their lives and how it affects their writing.
It matters because their faith matters first and foremost. They don’t know if their words will ever get published into the world, but they do have a responsibility to write where they are called to write. They must not make their reason for being or their standard of success tied to getting published—that should never be the “be all and end all” for any writer. Far more important is their obedience to God wherever He places them and whatever words He gives them. Their relationship with God trumps anything else in life—it trumps every success and every failure, for it is ultimately what matters most.
I encourage them to pay attention in the Biblical Literature classes, to explore Scripture in small group studies, to read the Bible all the way through, to listen to God in a quiet time (in whatever way that looks to them). I want them to understand how God’s Word is “alive and powerful. It is sharper than the sharpest two-edged sword, cutting between soul and spirit, between joint and marrow. It exposes our innermost thoughts and desires” (Hebrews 4:12 NLT) and how Scripture needs to be a daily “lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path” (Psalm 119:105 KJV). I want them to love the Bible.
So then, what it means to be a Christian is to have foundational belief and, I would add, to seek in individual, faulty ways to live and act on those foundations through a daily personal walk with Jesus. It means staying in Scripture and prayer so as to always walk closely with the Father. This doesn’t mean that all Christians will believe the same, act the same, apply those foundations the same, or carry that faith into the world in the same way. We are each working out our own salvation with fear and trembling (Philippians 2:12-13). But still, the biblical faith foundation is vital.
Christian writers must be marinated in Scripture, in prayer, and in a daily walk with Jesus.
That’s the foundation we must have.
Christian writer friends, how do you keep your faith fresh and alive?
It’s been an interesting challenge, this past school year, as I’ve taken on new classes (translate—learn what I need to teach and then figure out how to teach it) and gotten out of my comfort zone.
But it has forced me to do some deep thinking about what I’m doing, why I’m doing it, and what really matters.
Why do I teach writing and publishing?
What do I really want my students to know?
In the past few months, three things have become more clear to me. For the Christian writers who come through the Professional Writing major at Taylor University, I am committed to them graduating with the following understandings:
as Christians, I want them stand strong on the foundations of their faith, understanding that Scripture and their faith impacts every aspect of their lives; I want them to fall in love with God’s Word and see its power for the rest of their lives;
as writers, I want them to understand that their love for and ability with words is a calling and a gift from the Caller that they should and must continue to hone and improve;
as Christian writers, I want them to comprehend the power of those words and their responsibility to God for how they use their giftedness with words, especially as they seek to publish those words into the world.
How can my faith intersect my discipline as I teach the Professional Writing curriculum? How can I—a Christian publishing professional, editor, writer, and faculty member—bring these fundamental truths into our program? How can I bookend my students’ learning from their 101 introductory class to their final capstone class with these truths that matter?
It feels like a very heavy load.
But down deep in my soul, I sense that this is vital. This is more important than anything else I can do.
It is incumbent on Christian publishing professionals—whether authors or editors or publishers or marketers or bloggers or social media experts or agents—to deliver material that is well written, winsome, true, biblical, and honors Jesus Christ.
In a recent discussion, one of these Christian publishing professionals told me, “Too much of Christian writing is either preachy or saccharine. We need to bring wisdom, winsome words, and truth from our foundation into our writing.”
But what does that even mean anymore? The world is so deeply divided. Even among Christians there is so much division we sometimes act like a circular firing squad. I wonder how we can impact our world for good. How can we disagree about living out our faith (our politics, our work lives, our theological beliefs) but do so in a winsome and respectful way? How can we engage the questions so important in our culture, even as we disagree, while still being able to help others find what we have discovered in the foundations of our faith? In the end, that foundational piece is going to be all that matters to us anyway.
How do I guide my students to these understandings—even as we learn good writing and style tagging and editing and platform building and how to do a book proposal?
How do I guide them—even as we look for truth in Scripture and perhaps disagree on many other areas?
How do I help us all “work out our own salvation with fear and trembling” and work out our writing and publishing lives in the same way?
There’s a lot to unpack here, and I invite you to join me both as I prayerfully seek God’s guidance and express my thoughts in the blog. I invite you to comment with your own thoughts and ideas as I think this is a big conversation worth having.
I’ve been reading the essays of author Andre Dubus, considered a master of the short form. In his book, Meditations from a Movable Chair(New York: Vintage, 1999), Dubus writes an essay called “First Books” and offers this encouragement to writers:
An older writer knows what a younger one has not yet learned. What is demanding and fulfilling is writing a single word, trying to write le mot juste, as Flaubert said; writing several of them, which become a sentence. When a writer does that, day after day, working alone with little encouragement, often with discouragement flowing in the writer’s blood, and with an occasional rush of excitement that empties oneself, so that the self is for minutes longer in harmony with eternal astonishments and visions of truth, right there on the page on the desk, and when a writer does this work steadily enough to complete a manuscript long enough to be a book, the treasure is on the desk. If the manuscript itself, mailed out to the world, where other truths prevail, is never published, the writer will suffer bitterness, sorrow, anger, and more dangerously despair, convinced that the work is not worthy, so not worth those days at the desk. But the writer who endures and keeps working will finally know that writing the book was something hard and glorious, for at the desk a writer must try to be free of prejudice, meanness of spirit, pettiness, and hatred; strive to be a better human being than the writer normally is, and to do this through concentration on a single word, and then another, and another, and another. This is splendid work, as worthy and demanding as any, and the will and resilience to do it are good for the writer’s soul. If the work is not published, or is published for little money and less public attention, it remains a spiritual, mental, and physical achievement; and if, in public, it is the widow’s mite, it is also, like the widow, more blessed. (162-63)
Writers, we must endure. We must keep working knowing that the words we write are worth it . . . it being the process, the “splendid” work, the worthy and demanding work.
No one said it would be easy. No one said it would be a sure path to fame and fortune. But as writers, we must be true to ourselves, to our giftedness and our calling. We must reach and try and write and rewrite and reach again because it matters.
If we’re true to our giftedness, then we will continue to write — no matter whether published or not, read or not. It is the “widow’s mite” that we offer up, and we are blessed.
“Calling is the truth that God calls us to himself so decisively that everything we are, everything we do, and everything we have is invested with a special devotion, dynamism, and direction lived out as a response to his summons and service.”
–Os Guinness, The Call
In a previous post, I told you about how our Professional Writing capstone class was kicking off with my 17 seniors. That was Part 1.
For Part 2, my students worked on the Flower Diagram from What Color Is Your Parachute?(I used the 2017 version). If you don’t know, the Flower Diagram is a self-inventory that helps individuals work through their own personal preferences in working style, environment, coworkers, location, and even stretching to what each person wants to accomplish in life. The students overwhelmingly found this exercise (which took us two class days, so seven hours) to be helpful in capturing in one spot a lot of scattered information about themselves. (We even built a preliminary budget on Excel docs!)
For another class, we talked about how to network — which basically means learning how to be a good listener. I then had each student write a 30-second elevator pitch to answer the question, “So tell me about yourself” (much as an interviewer might). They then did a “speed dating” exercise where they moved from one person to the next, spending three minutes sharing their pitch, listening to the other person’s pitch, and then conversing before the bell rang and they moved on to the next person and did it again.
Having to say the pitch and hone it over eight times helped them be ready for . . .
. . . mock interviews.
I gave the students a list of the most-asked questions, and a link to a website that would help them understand what employers are looking for when they ask these questions. I required the students to use their journals to write answers to each question, or at least to take notes as to what they would need to do to prepare for those questions.
Six professionals gave of their time to interview six students each. The students went in groups of three; each was interviewed while one of the other two kept time and both observers wrote assessments. After each interview, they all had five minutes to talk together about the good and the areas that need improvement, and then the groups moved to another interviewer to try again and improve.
Sort of helped with the jitters and to make the interviewing process a tiny bit less intimidating.
I really wanted this to be a practical class so that they are ready — resume polished, LinkedIn profile and portfolios ready, answers to interview questions prepped, all with a feeling of certainty that they understand themselves and their goals just a bit better.
But lest you think it was all fun and forms, stay tuned for Part 3.
“Calling transforms life so that even the commonplace and menial are invested with the splendor of the ordinary.” (Os Guinness, The Call)
My seventeen Professional Writing seniors are closing in on the end of their careers at Taylor. I’m privileged to be teaching what our program calls the “capstone” class — three credit hours together to “cap” their time at Taylor U and their time in our major.
It’s a daunting class — and this was the first time I’ve taught it.
From the start, I knew the class needed to have a writing element, it needed some self-inventory, it needed some interview and job hunt practice and information, and it needed some “adulting” conversations. Three solid weeks, 3-1/2 hours per day. And I wanted all of it to feel practical and meaningful and purposeful.
And that’s what I’ve tried to do.
One day, we talked about our “callings,” considering the definition in Os Guinness’s classic book. How calling can be to many types of work, not just “Christian” work per se. How calling can be simply to finding splendor in the ordinary. How calling can change the world in small ways. How calling, with the acknowledgement of a Caller, gives meaning to life. That was the initial part of our self-inventory.
Then we did what one of my colleagues calls “the red thread.” Each student went through all of the classes taken at Taylor, noting what they liked and didn’t about each — trying to understand how they like to learn, how they learn best regarding type of class, type of instruction, type of content, etc. This traces a “thread” that serves to remind them of the many types of information and skills they’ve gained across these four years.
A highlight was a bus trip to Grand Rapids to visit Zondervan Publishing House, RBC (Our Daily Bread and Discovery House Publishers), and lunch with author Travis Thrasher. The students were encouraged that many of the folks in jobs they hope to have got there in convoluted ways while learning much about themselves along the way.
The Zondervan folks were incredibly welcoming, even offering us a panel discussion. They shared with my students about their pathways to their “dream job.”
In the lobby at Zondervan. The mission statement applies to my students as well.
Travis Thrasher has gone from being an employee at a publisher to being a full-time writer. We enjoyed hearing about his fiction writing and ghostwriting.
At RBC (Our Daily Bread and Discovery House), we learned about their incredible worldwide ministry, got to see their printing presses in action, and heard from two editors who told about their pathways to where they are today.
The takeaway? Be patient. Try on a lot of jobs. Learn what you can wherever you are. Network with people and let them know the kind of work you’re looking for.
And this was pretty much just week one. I’m excited to watch my students get excited about their possibilities for the future. They are well prepared to become publishing professionals.
Stay tuned for more adventures in Professional Writing capstone!
The first time I saw the Eiffel Tower, I stopped in my tracks, astounded. It’s so BIG! For some reason, in my mind, it stood much smaller over Paris. But walking toward it, seeing it close up, standing under it and looking up, the thing is massive. Thousands upon thousands of pieces of iron — each had been perfectly cut and angled, then riveted together in a lacy pattern. When it was completed in 1889, it was the tallest man-made structure in the world at the time. At 984 feet, it nearly doubled the up-until-then tallest structure, the 555-foot tall Washington Monument (which opened in 1888).
I’m currently reading a book titled Eiffel’s Tower(Jill Jonnes, Penguin, 2009) about the building of the tower, which went up iron piece by iron piece during 1887 through 1889 as the focal point for the Exposition Universelle, the World’s Fair in 1889.
But as it was ascending — the four legs at the base going up separately and slowly uniting at the first platform — Parisians were not too fond of it. They feared that it would draw lightning, change the weather, or fall over (indeed, without the intensive and minute calculations of Gustave Eiffel, it well may have). Many tried to stop it. A letter signed by several important Parisians said this (with a slight insult to America):
For the Eiffel Tower, which even commercial America would not have, is without a doubt the dishonor of Paris. Everyone feels it, everyone says it, everyone is profoundly saddened by it, and we are only a weak echo of public opinion so legitimately alarmed. When foreigners visit our Exposition, they will cry out in astonishment, “Is it this horror that the French have created to give us an idea of their vaunted taste?” . . . And for the next twenty years we will see cast over the entire city, still trembling with the genius of so many centuries, cast like a spot of ink, the odious shadow of the odious column of bolted metal. (27)
It was supposed to be temporary, the tower; then it was given a reprieve to stand for twenty years. And that was in 1889. Clearly, the tower has come to symbolize Paris itself and, if the plethora of Eiffel Towers on everything from lamps to stationery to jewelry is any indication, it has become a well-loved icon. (I have little Eiffel Towers everywhere. Ahem.)
The point is that Gustave Eiffel kept building. He believed in his structure; he saw the beauty when those watching its slow ascent across the Parisian skyline couldn’t see it.
Thinking of nay-sayers, I’m reminded of F. Scott Fitzgerald. When The Great Gatsby hit the shelves in April 1925, a review of the book in the St. Louis Dispatch said, “Altogether it seems to us this book is a minor performance. At the moment, its author seems a bit bored and tired and cynical. There is no ebullience here, nor is there any mellowness or profundity. For our part, The Great Gatsby might just as well be called Ten Nights on Long Island” (Reach).
In June of 1925, the author Edith Wharton weighed in, fancying herself a better editor than Maxwell Perkins: “To make Gatsby really Great, you ought to have given us his early career (not from the cradle—but from his visit to the yacht, if not before) instead of a short resume of it. That would have situated him & made his final tragedy a tragedy instead of a fait divers for the morning papers” (Reach).
By the time Fitzgerald died in 1940, he had made a little over thirteen dollars in royalties on the book.
But like the Eiffel Tower, The Great Gatsby has become an icon to later generations.
The point? Don’t give up on what you’re doing — your book, that poem, the painting, whatever creation is before you. Don’t worry about the nay-sayers. If you believe in it, if you’re doing what you perceive is your best work, then just keep on doing it.
You just never know what will happen.
Jonnes, Jill. (2009.) Eiffel’s Tower. New York: Penguin.
Reach, Kirsten. “Ten Nights on Long Island: The Great Gatsby’s Early Reviews,” 9 May 2013, mhpbooks.com/ten-nights-on-long-island-the-great-gatsbys-early-reviews/. Accessed 24 Jan. 2017.