Monday, October 15, 2007

The Best of the Best

Question of the week: Is it better to send out something you're not quite happy with because maybe you're too close to it, etc, or to just let it go and wait until you've got something you think is really good?

I know how easy it is to want to dive into the query pool. I do. I know that you want to GET. YOUR. WORK. OUT. THERE, and start garnering rave reviews and frothing agents who are dying to sign you.

But.

Don't do it until you are 120% sure that your manuscript is ready for the big time. Getting published is ridiculously hard - seriously - it's about as hard a professional goal as you can set for yourself, and to go out with anything less than the best version of yourself and your work just isn't advisable, in my opinion. You not only waste the time of agents, you also run the risk of having them remember you - and quickly cast you off - should you requery them in the future. (I know, I know, it's not likely that they'll remember you, but you never know.) Additionally, let's say that by some chance, an agent says, "Sure, I'll take this on," even though you suspect that it's not your best effort. Then what? Your agent shops it around and publishers say no. Guess what? You're back at square one, and even though you may now have an agent, he or she might have lost faith or enthusiasm for you because your work ceased to sell. OR, let's take this one step further, let's say that a publisher DOES buy your work...philosophically, do you really want an only semi-decent example of your talent out there? Enough people won't like your best effort, don't give them a chance to pan your half-best.

My gut feeling is that if you know that your work isn't quite ready for prime time, then it isn't. It's hard to swallow when you so desperately want to move ahead in the process, but try to reign it in, and instead, focus on creating the best possible representation of your skills.

But that's just me...anyone else out there agree or not?

7 comments:

Manic Mom said...

Agreed.

Marijke Durning said...

I sgree, but many writers never feel that their writing is ready for prime time and that leads to never submitting it. Perhaps there's a happy medium somewhere?

I do know when my writing is ready to go and that's a good feeling. But it's fairly new, in the past year or so. Before that, I had a hard time judging and was much harder on myself than others were.

Trish Ryan said...

I agree. The only thing I'd add is that once you have an agent and/or an editor, you then have to dial back and realize that perhaps that wasn't the best writing you had in you after all, because they're suggesting changes. I'm learning how to identify when something is the best I can make it, but still stay open to the fact that another set of wise eyes on my work will spot places that still need tweaking.

Carleen Brice said...

Agree...and disagree. I'm one of those writers who was going to work on my book until the end of time. Finally, a very good, wise and published friend of mine told me it was time to send it out and let it take its lumps. I got an agent and a publisher so maybe she was right.

I also understand writers who want to get a sense of how their work might do in the marketplace. I know agents don't like the idea (and I don't blame them), but I say if you're curious or think your work might be ready...take a shot. But don't be surprised if you get rejected. And I do heartily recommend first getting someone (anyone) to read it before you start with agents.

Another thing to consider is you might get great feedback from one agent and spend a lot of time rewriting for one agent's specifications to no avail.

Allison Winn Scotch said...

Carleen and Marijke, good points and points taken. I think I'll blog on this later in the week, and maybe we can discuss how to know when you're good to go.

veronica said...

Thanks for taking this on Allison! And great comments all. Carleen, I especially like your friend's advice that sometimes you need to send it out there to get its lumps. I, too, might work on a book till the end of time -- if I don't stop myself. I had a published say something similar after reading my mss, but have since spent months reworking the beginning, still not satisfied. Am I procrastinating? Putting off the inevitable? Trying to drive myself insane? Who knows? I look forward to seeing the discussion on knowing when you're good to go.

veronica said...

oops. that's published friend . . .