I have several shorts in the hopper, and find myself constantly fiddling with them. I'm involved in a couple of writing groups (joined this one just yesterday) because I'm not sure any of them are ready to ship. The fear is that I might send one out, it gets roundly rejected by everyone, and by the time it makes the circuit I've learned enough to know what I did wrong... of course, by then it would be a resubmission, which some (many?) editors and publications frown on. Also I've only been doing this intensively for about three months, so I lack sufficient experience and judgment to "just know."
Unless they're full of typos and not in proper manuscript format, in which case fix those things first. Then send.
What's the risk? An editor hates it? Trust me, that wouldn't be the first story that day/hour/minute they hated, and they will *not* remember.
You get rejected 10, 15 times, if they seem to be saying the same things "rejected - weak characterization" for instance, then perhaps after 10 or 15 times, you can go back and reassess something. But just put your work out into the world. It's doing nothing for you on your hard drive, but imagine the possibilities out there in the real world!
I personally select markets with fast turnaround times. Or I've begun epublishing my own short stories (for many different reasons, not because i've exhausted paying markets but because I'm an impatient sort mostly.)
Just send them out into the ether. And write your NEXT story. That's where the real learning comes!
You have to send them out now. Get today's works out now and start on tomorrow's. Rejection is part of the game. And based on what I have gotten back from editors, you won't learn much about what they like.
Word to the wise, read each publishers guidelines and follow them. There is a standard format for manuscripts but each publication has their own tweaks and desires.
Getting published is hard, but you have no chance of being published if your stories sit on your desk (or hard drive).
You may want to give yourself a Three Pass rule.
Once it's finished, only allow yourself to go through it and revise a maximum of three times, then call it done and mail it out. Stories don't have to be perfect to get published. I can attest to this first-hand. They don't even have to be perfect for you to get fans. But they do have to be complete and mailed to someone who can buy them.
Never, ever, ever let your fear that they're not good enough stop you from sending them out.
I agree with others. The most I will edit is three times. Sometimes there will be something obviously WRONG with the story, like a big part of it that has to be rearranged or something. But that is usually obvious and happens in the first edit. Go through, make sure things are spelled right and the grammar and all that fun stuff works. Then send the sucker out.
Your story will NEVER be perfect. What story is? I think i have mentioned before that I had a publisher ask me to change the entire end of a story once, but they still wanted it. If they like your story, they will take it, as long as there aren't huge amounts of typos and really careless stuff.
Usually two drafts and revision...though sometimes something that gets that far fails for one reason or another. I was just recently reworking an old story, whose main imagery is a direct lift from a late 1970s movie---it was fun to work with, but when I got to the end of the revision stage, I threw it back in my files.
Sometimes I just don't like the results. A while back, I worked extensively on a story about a school shooting---mind you, a lotta writers have tried that one---I had a couple of good ideas and characters and scenes, but the story foundered, mostly 'cause I couldn't decide how to handle a memorial service. (Hmm...didn't take a look at that when I was going through my old stories a couple of months ago...maybe I better find it and take a look at it again...)
But if I like it enough after two drafts and revisions, I send it out to market...
It is possible to edit a story to death. I think it's better to send it out with as much of it's original energy as you can, as long as the story is working. Nitpicky edits can suck the life out of it.
Get your stuff out there and keep writing. It's really the only good answer.
You post an extremely good question. I wonder this myself, actually. The way I see it, once you've gone over it looking for grammar and punctuation mistakes, had some people who's opinions you trust take a look and give you feedback, and you change what changes resonate with you, and you're comfortable with it, then that's the time to put it out there.
I read that Steven King received a trunk full of rejections before he was published. It's part of the process. I have a scrapbook of sorts that I keep my submissions and rejections in. I love that book - though it contains rejections, it really makes me feel like a writer. And it gives me the incentive to keep going.
His chapter on revision gave me a novel approach [ha, no pun intended] to revising as "triage." It's a notable book and he's a talented editor so your library should have it.
I've found it excellent way to revise my manuscript. It involves dealing with the big concerns versus going through page by page which so many writers do. Here are the life/death concerns he mentions in triage:
1 - character problems 2 - Evaluate most memorable scenes [cut, cut, cut unecc. ones] 3 - motivation - 3 most important actions of novel
Then approach general revision - lots of good advice here.
All good advice. I am absolutely guilty of imperfection phobia. It's a hard one to cure.
genevive42: I try not to kill the energy of the original idea. I have a problem with that in my first project, a novel draft. I made a terrible mistake and started revising a lot of the stuff before I plowed to the end, and now I find it hard to get back into the manic head that started it. As of now it's three months and 104k words worth of rehearsal. (I finally resolved to just shove through the end and then go back to fix it last night.)
Grayhog: I once had advice from a friend of mine about losing steam and burnout. He advised I take a short break, then go look at the outline again, and then go back to the work. Do you think doing another outline after finishing a long draft might be useful here, as opposed to a page-by-page, for spotting critical structural problems?
Absolutely. I did triage first, working on my big character concerns, then moved to scenes and cut, merged etc. I realized I needed more organization so I did a storyboard of the 43 chapters which has been helpful.
Like you, I realized I wanted an outline. I wrote my first draft with a loose idea of plot, more character driven and a lot like Stephen King's approach. But it needed tightening. The storyboard and outline helped me see structural problems, roles of minor characters, loose threads [I color coded the characters and could see at a glance the plot threads, moved/changed parts, etc]
So, after triage, storyboard and outline. I am now going through that result for the first 'straight through' time. I applaud [and envy] writers who get it right the first time and send out drafts with minimal revision and rewrites, but that's not me. My end product is a huge improvement on the 'crappy first drafts' as Ann Lamott called them.
I'm reading Richard Peck, a Newberry medalist, and he says he only shows people his work after the fifth, count them 5, draft.
Try the outline, maybe a storyboard. I also am updating character analysis and understanding them really well. I didn't know my characters when I started and by the end, I do. I also put my manuscript on the shelf for over 3 months so I could read it with new eyes. Work on other stuff. It helped.
[This message has been edited by Grayhog (edited March 24, 2011).]
[This message has been edited by Grayhog (edited March 24, 2011).]
muranternet that imperfection phobia is hard to overcome but I think we can help you do that. All writers get rejections. Someone or two said it's part of the process and that's true even of the pros. Writers with hundreds of stories published still get more rejections than sells. While it can be true that a sell now and then helps, there are other ways to see that you are improving. That's where I am working on seeing if the other ways show any improvement, most here are doing better and it shows. Those that aren't haven't been here for long.
So take a chance, pinch your nose together and take the dive.
I had to leave before I was done but I just wanted to add that as I told someone on my blog. You're in good company with rejections, as I said up above, all the biggies get them. Hmm, not sure how many Isaac Asimov got but I'm sure it was a lot even for him.
And about revisions. There's a debate going on about that out in writer's land. You can read more on another thread hereabouts if you haven't discovered it yet. I won't repeat what I said there but there's a nice long list of comments from a few people.
[This message has been edited by LDWriter2 (edited March 25, 2011).]