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Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Screwing the Pooch

Before I begin: I was honoured to be interviewed this week by Angelina Hansen as a "Partner on the Path". Check it out! If you want to know more about me, that is. *grin*

* * *

It probably seems counterintuitive to be writing a blog post when I'm already a tiny bit overdue in finishing my [EXPLETIVE REDACTED] WIP and sending it off to the professional parties who have requested it. But this past week I had a ... um, I won't call it an epiphany, because part of me has had a feeling I was headed that way anyway. And "slap in the face" implies that someone slapped me. Realization? That sounds so ... lame. But yeah, "realization" is probably the best way to put it for now.

It started with Monday's Magical Words post, on Revisions and Editors. I asked, "Is it possible to reach a point where you can’t see any more problems and you *need* to send it to the editor/agent? (Or in the unpublished case, where hopefully it’s decent enough that an agent will take it on?) I’ve been held back from sending out my WIP by this constant vicious cycle of 'it needs more work', but it’s starting to grate on me."

The response I received?

Laura, yes, there is absolutely a point after which further revision doesn't do you any good. [...] No matter when you sell your book, and no matter who you sell it to, you're going to have an editor who wants to make changes to the book. Every editor is different; every editor will identify different strengths and weaknesses, and there is no way for you to anticipate every criticism. At some point you just have to send it out and trust that while the book is not perfect, it is good enough that an editor will recognize its potential.

I posted the link to my personal Facebook account, as I often do with articles I like. (Hi, total MW groupie here. *waves* ... *blushes* ... *hides*)

For the third time in my life, I received a piece of advice that because I've heard it so often, it feels like old hat and my brain glazes over. Three significant times I heard it where I distinctly recall the advice actually registering.

The first time was ten years ago, when I went to see Science Fiction author Spider Robinson give a talk on his latest novel, THE FREE LUNCH. (And thus began my addiction to Spider Robinson ... but that's a tale for another time.)

The second time was my very first Surrey International Writer's Conference. It was 2006, so a solid 5 years had passed. Robert J. Sawyer gave a keynote speech and included it in his "best advice for writers".

The third time that it actually registered, though, was Monday. One of the fantasy authors I'm honoured to be friends with, John Hartness, commented on my link and recited the advice there, which originally came from the Grand Master himself:

    #1. You Must Write.
    #2. You Must Finish What You Write.
    #3. You Must Refrain from Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order.
    #4. You Must Put Your Story On The Market.
    #5. You Must Leave It On The Market Until It Sells.
    #6. You Must Start Working On Something Else.
And every time I heard that advice, a part of me thought, "Well, I *am* writing something. But it's not ready yet." (Don't get me wrong; I did send a few things out over the years, just not as much as I could have.) I even laughted it off on Monday because of course I've heard that.

But this time, it started to naggle at me. I'm not sending it out yet because I keep trying to fix it, to make it sparkle before an agent or editor's eyes see it. Because I have ongoing issues of worrying whether I'm "good enough" yet.

To continue the thought started in that post: in bracing for the answer once again being no, I've been screwing the pooch at sending things out.

Fear of failure again?

Or worse: fear of succcess?

See, one thing that has been consistent lately over the last few years has been positive feedback on what I've submitted. So if I've been very moderately successful, what's holding me back?

And I meant what I said at Magical Words on Monday. I'm starting to get a bit sick of my heartsong. So why the heck am I dithering about finishing this piece?

Failure won't exactly mean "going back to the drawing board", either. The last few times I failed, I took one rejection as failure, and scrapped my work (or at least stuffed it in the proverbial drawer). This time, and once again thanks to the sage advice at (you guessed it) Magical Words, I know better than to take a single "no" as "you suck". I can keep sending it out. (Oh, hello RAH Advice #5.)

I may be a little bit afraid of success. Can't deny that. But I'm more afraid of being the one who never succeeds because she never tries. That's what the contest entries a few weeks back were all about, right?

So. Here we are. I have a list of scenes and fixes that need to be written to deal with any glaring plot issues. There are 17 changes (not all of them whole scenes, thankfully) that need to be made. I am going to aim for at least 2 per day.

Because honestly, I'm ready to be done.

And #6 is looking mighty tasty right now ...


  1. Oooh, interviews are fun! I've had a couple. I just followed you after finding your link at Books and Writers. Now why haven't I done this before now? ; )

  2. Thanks, Zan Marie! I think we all find each other when we need to. The Internet multiverse is great that way.

  3. I could say, "Yeah, what she said," and leave it at that, but I suppose that wouldn't be polite here. But I do know the feeling of wondering if it's time to stop revising and move it out into the world. Sometimes we just need a kick in the butt, or perhaps a word of encouragement to do what we've known all along we need to do. For me, it's a little like standing on the river bank, desiring a cool swim on a hot day, but I can't quite convince myself that after the first frozen seconds I won't mind if the water's cold.

    We just have to dip a toe in the water, start the countdown, and commit to action. We can do it! :)


  4. Carol, I completely agree. I've found I make the most progress when I jump in. The water may be cold, but on a hot summer's day, it's exactly what I need. :)