How do you know when you're ready?

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MoiraYoung
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How do you know when you're ready?

Post by MoiraYoung » January 26th, 2010, 4:11 pm

I seem to fall into the trap of realizing the flaws in my writing only after I receive feedback. I'm a highly self-analytical person, which is great, because when I find a flaw, I try to improve. What's not-so-great (but probably good for me, even if I don't like it) is the fact that every time I think I'm there, i.e. finally at a level to be published, I find these flaws and realize that I have so much farther to go.

But when do I stop? There has to be a point where I'm "done" or "good enough" to be published. This wouldn't stop me from striving after that, I'd just be striving with the assurance that I am, in fact, good enough.

Yes, the quality has improved. I've watched myself grow by leaps and bounds. But there's a mathematical term for a graphical curve that always gets closer and closer to the Y axis but never meets it. I can't remember the term, but the concept terrifies me. I don't want to be that curve; I want to cross the threshold.

I'm simply worried that if I start querying too soon, I'll be rejected. Yet neither do I want to delay it when I'm finally at that point.

So, how do you know when you're ready?

Nick
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Re: How do you know when you're ready?

Post by Nick » January 26th, 2010, 4:49 pm

Ordinarily I would say it's when you think it's ready. And maybe in a few weeks, or months, or years you'll decide "Okay, this is ready". But there's always the chance you'll turn into Dickens and never be satisfied with it and just do revision after revision after revision (I did much the same thing with my very first MS; 36 drafts (several of them incomplete) by the time writer's block hit and I locked it away and eventually abandoned it in its box). So in light of this possibility, I say have others read it. Find impartial readers to give it a go, and yes, of course, have them look for the usual sort of errors and things; always good to have a fairly polished MS. Just tell them to focus more on whether or not they think it's publishable in its current state.

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JustineDell
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Re: How do you know when you're ready?

Post by JustineDell » January 26th, 2010, 5:38 pm

I often find myself asking the same question. I've had my first ms done for a year and I'm still making changes (and writing more!!). I'll put it down, work on something else, have a crit partner read it, enter it into a contest for judge feedback, etc, etc. Then I'll pick it back up and re-work, re-work, re-work. Everytime I pick it up, I find something else I can change to make it beter (at least that's what I think!) Who knows though? "Polished" generally means free of errors (typos, mechanical things, blah blah) and it needs to be the best story it can be.

Truthfully, I think ANYONE could change a story each time they pick it up (or maybe it's just me because I find myself doing that with each of my three comlpleted ms's) So when is it finally time to stop and put it out there? When you decide that changes aren't really going to make it better, basically when your just starting to nit-pick the small stuff; not doing total character changes and scene re-writes. When it flows and everything comes together in a wonderful and powerful story. Maybe when you read it and alittle voice inside your head says "Yeah...that's it." I personally haven't heard that voice, but I'm hoping it's there. Good luck!

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Krista G.
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Re: How do you know when you're ready?

Post by Krista G. » January 26th, 2010, 7:10 pm

Here's a couple of great blog posts on that topic from one of Nathan's clients: http://betweenfactandfiction.blogspot.c ... -know.html (That post, and then the one it links to in the second paragraph)

And here's another blog post from agent Jessica Faust of BookEnds Literary: http://bookendslitagency.blogspot.com/2 ... nough.html

Of course, this was just the advice I needed, since I definitely tend to be of the well-I've-gone-through-a-whole-six-drafts-now-so-that-should-just-about-do-it mentality. But I found them informative.

Hope that helps!
Author of THE REGENERATED MAN (G.P. Putnam's Sons Books for Young Readers, Winter 2015)
Represented by Kate Schafer Testerman of kt literary
www.motherwrite.blogspot.com

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MoiraYoung
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Re: How do you know when you're ready?

Post by MoiraYoung » January 26th, 2010, 7:52 pm

Thanks, Krista!

Natalie Whipple's post is exactly what I was thinking of. I'm in the place where I know I'm not ready, but having been through this for a decade and a half so far, it's impossible not to feel just a tiny bit frustrated.

I'm grateful to know that I have more to learn, because I *do* want to put the best darn manuscript out there. I'm not afraid to keep learning, even if it takes me another ten years. But self-gauging can be hard sometimes, and I'm just coming out of having finished a manuscript a few months ago that I knew wasn't done, but that I thought I was a lot closer to *being* done than it actually is. The beta feedback made me stop and wonder. If anything, this was an Am-I-Crazies-induced moment of self-doubt. If I'm not ready, fine, then I will do what I need to do to learn, but eventually one does wonder at exactly what point one is ready. I will be there some day.

Well, back to work for me.

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Nathan Bransford
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Re: How do you know when you're ready?

Post by Nathan Bransford » January 26th, 2010, 8:58 pm

My own feeling is that you just don't know. I mean, you can have confidence, you can hear people say you're ready, but that "moment" when you really get there passes silently, without confetti and balloons. It just happens while you're working and trying and wondering if you're there. But the only way it can happen is to keep working.

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Bryan Russell/Ink
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Re: How do you know when you're ready?

Post by Bryan Russell/Ink » January 26th, 2010, 10:15 pm

No confetti? Damn.
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linguista
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Re: How do you know when you're ready?

Post by linguista » January 27th, 2010, 1:30 am

Moira, the mathematical term is called an asymptote.

Me, I'm miles from being that good. But some day, I will get there.

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Re: How do you know when you're ready?

Post by Kaitlyne » January 27th, 2010, 11:44 pm

I have no idea. I've got a book that personally I think is as good as other published books I've read out there (particularly the last half, which I'd be willing to say is probably better than a lot of books out there), and I've had others agree with me, and I still have no idea if it's publishable. My guess is the answer will probably turn out to be no, which is really disappointing considering the work I've put into it and the number of rewrites and edits (and the fact that it's the first thing I've written that I actually DO feel is good enough). How did I know when to start submitting it, though? I'd done everything I could to improve it and all the edits I was making were piddly little things that didn't really influence the overall quality. I knew that short of someone coming along and giving me some brilliant outside-the-box sort of idea that I haven't thought of myself, there wasn't going to be any way to improve it significantly over what I've done. Essentially--it's as good as my current skill set will allow me to make it.

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MoiraYoung
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Re: How do you know when you're ready?

Post by MoiraYoung » January 28th, 2010, 1:35 am

I should hope there's no confetti. Do you have any idea how hard that stuff is to clean up? ;)

The more I think about this, the more I've come to the conclusion that if I have to ask whether or not I'm ready, I'm probably not. In my case, I know I'm not. Getting feedback gave me a reality check, and I'm okay with it. I just needed a little bit of time to get over it before I could take a deep breath, accept that fact, and then get back to work. (Nathan, here's an idea for a You Tell Me: How do you deal with rejection?) The hard part is not making a stink during the "getting over it" process.

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Simpatico
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Re: How do you know when you're ready?

Post by Simpatico » February 18th, 2010, 2:46 am

So, how do you know when you're ready?

That’s a tough one and one that each person will probably answer differently. As for me, I know I’m not ready yet.

One thing I often do is read excerpts of newly published books and popular books in my genre. And contest winners sometimes. There’s just a quality there that’s unquantifiable. When you begin a story, you can tell when you’re in the hands of a good writer. I can’t really explain it.

You don’t feel, “No, no, that’s wrong.” or “Oh, how could they do that?” or “Please...”

You’re lulled in and you wind up letting your guard down. You buckle in for the ride, without further thought or reservation. You read and suddenly you’re intrigued and you smile and you become comfortable and you enter the dream.

That’s the only way I can describe it.

It also requires some good and honest self-analysis skills. If you can go back to your work a month or six months later and feel the same way reading it that you do reading a published book you enjoyed (and this is assuming you’ve already gotten feedback from objective outsiders) than I’d say you might as well go for it.

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RebeccaKnight
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Re: How do you know when you're ready?

Post by RebeccaKnight » February 22nd, 2010, 6:48 pm

Wow, good question. I think there comes a point where you're sick to death of your manuscript and keep changing "John said" to "said John" and back again... you may just be ready :).

I think Nathan's right. It just comes through trial, error, and hard work.
"The chief cause of failure and unhappiness is trading what you want the most for what you want now."

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