Until I started hanging out on this website I had got to the point where I thought I was getting about ready to start submitting short stories for publication.
Now after getting some critical feedback and the corresponding ego reset, I've put that plan on the back burner. I'm concerned about the volume of comments I get in critiques, and that I don't have the proper judgement with my own work to make a good decision on when it is good, and when to send it in.
Anybody else have this dilemma?
Any thoughts on when to quit worrying and say "that's good enough"?
I know it's probably a tired old question for some folks out there, and I'll offer apologies in advance to anyone I aggravate by asking it.
Actually it is a question I had a few months ago, and one I've personally resolved. There is nothing else except gut instinct. I decided I was going to submit, just to actually do it and the rejections weren't as painful as I'd thought they would be.
Just make sure there are no typos and grammar mistakes (I let a few typos creep into mine on a final edit.) You'll find most editors are actually quite nice people and if they do comment it means they think you are worthwhile.
In terms of when a story is ready, well it may never be perfect. Do your best to make the story fit your personal desire, make sure it has clarity, and then submit. A story sitting on your hard drive is being lazy. It needs to go out and work. Even if it is rejected, editors will hopefully note the quality of your writing and look for your name next time.
One other thing; never submit until you feel you are ready.
You gave your own answer, if you paid attention:
quote:I don't have the proper judgement with my own work to make a good decision on when it is good, and when to send it in.
That's right, you don't! I don't have the proper judgement about my own work either. So the answer is to send it out and let someone far more qualified decide -- the prospective editors. Start at the top and work your way down. Sned it to pro markets, and thenm semi-pro markets, and then paying markets, and then, if you are inclined (I'm not) 4theluv markets.
If they accept your story, it was ready. If they don't accept your story, I'm afraid you'll never know. It simply may be that it wasn't the "right fit." But you'll never nkow anything at all if you don't send it in. I can't tell you.
I have to disagree with Christine a bit, as far as my own personal philosophy goes. It's true you can't be absolutely impartial when it comes to your own writing, but by doing market research and reading incessantly, you can have an idea if you're at least in the same category as other writers.
Also, if you want to do this professionally, there's something to be said for saving your postage after the first half-dozen rejections. Don't even worry about the free-markets. If you've already been rejected six or seven times, take that as a sign.
Rahl, I come at this from two different points of view, depending upon the asker and the tone.
First, there are people who need to be encouraged to start sending things out, because whatever else happens, you will *never* sell a story if you don't show it to someone.
Now, if this had been phrased differently, wondering why she never got an acceptance letter and what was going wrong, I would take the other route. Well, have you thought about where you're sending it? Have you read their stuff? Have you proofed your own work carefully?
This is not a black and white thing. It is a shade of gray. But ultimately, you do have to send it out. And half a dozen markets doesn't mean much. It's easy to find six editors who don't like it well enough for publication. I might feel more discouraged if there weren't any personal rejections in the bunch, but I often get those so I keep trying.
[This message has been edited by Christine (edited August 18, 2005).]
yeah, there is no clear point. You don't want to send out something awful - but you also want to send stuff out.
With every story I reach a point where I think either a) this is as good as I can make it and now it is just a matter of finding the right editor; or b) this is hopelessly deformed and rather than spending the next six months revising it, I'll just move on to the next one in my pile.
You'll know when you've done as much as you reasonably can with it; at that point, let the editors decide.
I think you also have to remember that when you are asking people for critiques, you are asking for them to critique. Yes, they will find things wrong with it, things with which they disagree, things they find confusing, because that is what you are asking them to do.
I generally find that when I start getting back critiques on the same part of the same piece that contradict each other, it's just about ready to go out.
When your instincts tell you it's ready, it's ready.
All of my publishing experience is in authoring / editing non-fiction scholarship, so take what I say with a grain of salt as applied to fiction. (For future reference, take everything I say on any topic with a grain of salt).
My sure sign that it's ready is when I give it to someone to read, and overwhelming majority of their criticisms are of what I said, and not how I said it. (E.g., "How can you argue that we should import common-law definitions to modern federal crimes?" as opposed to, "I found your organization confusing")
In the fiction realm, I equate this to the point where critiques start arguing with you about how the story should have gone instead of how you should have composed the text.
I have to disagree with that. When you're starting out, it's such a heartache to get form rejections. You want to make sure the story is as good as possible before sending out there. Have it critiqued and rewrite it at least once. Then send it out. In my opinion, it's as ready as it's ever going to get. After you've sent it out, move on to something else. So far, this works for me (not for the publishers, who have all rejected me-although some with nice notes-, but that's for another day :-D).
Posts: 1075 | Registered: Sep 2004
Just wanted to second, and add to, RFLong's post. I belong to another workshop website where lots of forum topics concern the quantity and quality of 'critiques'. I'm starting to learn that 50% of critiques (in whole or in parts) can be thrown out. Many say nothing, or simply disagree with your politics/religion/favorite cartoon. Of course, 5 people complaining about the same thing should be an indicator. In another topic thread someone made the comment, "no good book was written by committee" (except, THE Good Book, but it has thousands of POV changes, the first chapter is a big info dump, the plot jumps around, the second half contradicts the first half....)
As others have said, at some point you have to let the story go free or put it back on your pile. Maybe the story is nothing more than a good exercise in writing. Maybe the story, like some of mine, is better than your current writing ability. Let it 'rest' for awhile and come back later (a month, a year...even a decade : ^ )
[all opinions are my own and fit me, but you may find the sleeves are too long/short for you and I like mine a little baggy in the waistline.]
I have lots of rejection letters, but I still send things out as soon as I can't think of anything else that needs fixing, and after I've had someone else read them. However dissapointing rejection letters are, in a way, they're also encouraging. To me, it means I'm a real writer. I don't just sit around and day-dream, I'm sending things out. I can say with great pride that I have four short stories out in the mail right now. Will any of them get accepted? Maybe not. But they're there, and one day, an editor will accept a story. That's good enough for me.
Posts: 189 | Registered: Jul 2005
quote:No good book was written by committee...except THE Good Book.
That one goes right into the "bits box", thank you very much
The only reason to not submit your work is because you are unwilling to see it published by someone else. There can be many good reasons for that. You might not want it published because you'd rather not be known as a romance novelist before selling some heroic fantasy, or vice versa. You might feel that it is not the best you could do. You might be a celebrity who intends to self publish. You might think that most people will associate books from that publisher with something you found truly nauseating.
Any of those are good reasons not to want someone else publishing your work, and there are plenty of others. I'll be the last to suggest that you're under any obligation to allow others to publish your work if you don't want them to do so.
However, if you do want someone to publish your work, then you should try submitting it for publication. Fear of being rejected is no reason to hold back. If you're writing something that other people will voluntarily read, then you should send it, even if it gets rejected, because slush readers deserve to see something that's close from time to time. It gives them heart to carry on.
I recall a story I wrote years ago which I had critiqued. The critiquer bascially said that the story really did not work and I should try again with another story.
I received his feedback about a week after selling the story.
Critiques are only to help you improve your story. If the critique doesn't improve it, disregard it. But don't use a critique to determine if your story is "good" or not. Make it the best story you can (which means rewriting two, three, or as many times as you can), and then send it out.
Because, as pointed out before, the only opinion that matters is the editor's. And even they can't agree on every story. So eventually you may find one that loves your story, despite how many didn't before.
You can't always judge when a story is good enough. What makes you think a critiquer is any better?
Think about it this way. (I've only recently started to.) The worst thing that could happen is it gets rejected. (Actually the worst thing that could happen is that the world is destroyed but I meant the most likely worst thing.) I imagine that editors don't remember the stories that they don't like, so if they do reject it it's not like your going on an enemies list. (And if you are you might consider a less creepy editor.)
Posts: 1871 | Registered: Mar 2004
Maybe what's worse than rejection is putting a story on the shelf you're unsure of and then seeing a new book months later using you bright idea. Next worse is writing a "near future" story then being overtaken by the future before you finish (I think William Gibson said, "The problem with the future is that it arrives too soon and in the wrong order.")
I wonder if the HUB comes with an anti-aging cream that will keep your story/idea current?
First of all if you feel the book is right then go for it. Think of all the professional opinions cast towards Edison in his youth. It makes me laugh as to how many people of different professions said he was mentally challenged. When you wade the waters of critics only pay attention to those who show themselves to actually be successful beyond self imposed crowns. No matter how good you write, or how ever bad, someone will always tell you how they would have penned it. If you fail then you know it was yours, and not some others failure.
Posts: 26 | Registered: Aug 2005