How do you know your work is ready for submission? If only I knew the answer to this question…
We’ve all heard it many times – don’t submit until you are absolutely sure it’s as good as it possibly can be. Edit, leave it in drawer for a while, come back to it and edit some more, leave it alone, get a few people to read it aloud, edit it again etc etc. But how many times have I honestly believed something was ready, submitted it, and realised later on – sometimes even at the very instant I pressed ‘submit’ – that it wasn’t ready by any stretch of the imagination.
Most writers I know are an eager bunch – keen to get a second opinion, but then secretly crushed when that second opinion doesn’t come back with glowing, ‘thumbs ups’, and ‘send it out immediately,’ comments. Then there are the other kind of writers, those who are such perfectionists they sit on things and never send anything out. I, unfortunately, fall into the first category. In some ways it’s a good thing – if you never try, you never know right? It’s because of these hasty submissions that I’ve had, on occasion, some positive feedback – which for the unpublished is a really big deal. But, it also has some major downfalls….
I have one particular story which has caught the eye of more than one agent now, though unfortunately not enough for an offer of representation. This same story has had no response whatsoever from the few publishers I’ve sent it to. Its been edited countless times, tightened up to a point that it reads seamlessly, and everyone whom I’ve shown it to have loved it. I honestly thought this story could be polished no further. Yet, just the other week I showed it to a writer friend of mine, who is quite familiar with editors and the kinds of comments they make. She made a suggestion, which when acted on, improved the story immensely. Only now, is it possibly submission ready. Problem is I’ve already submitted it…. to a number of people. D’oh!
So can I submit the same story twice? Well, I could argue there is a very good chance it was vetoed before it even got to the agent or editor it was intended for, so therefore they may have never seen it in the first place. But, unless you’ve been specifically asked to resubmit, this is generally a very big no-no.
I absolutely believe a critique group is an invaluable source of feedback, and crucial to development as a writer. But I’m starting to see that a critique group made up of your peers can only get you so far. This past week I was fortunate enough to have had both an experienced editor and a very successful children’s author, give me feedback on two of what I had considered to be my ‘stronger’ stories. Both stories had received very positive feedback from people who already read them, and little had been offered in the way of suggestions for their improvement, so I was feeling confident they were in good shape. However, both the editor and the author indicated these stories needed a lot of work on their structure. The comments made were very different from comments I’d had previously – clearly a professional eye is going to notice issues that a non-professional won’t see. But this has thrown me – now I feel like I don’t know anything! Are any of my stories actually good enough? And how can I find out?
I’ll keep you posted….