Monday, June 7, 2010
Know When to Stop Editing
But eventually you want to send it out into the world. You want to blog it. Post it. Submit it. Sell it.
And to do that, you must stop writing!
My fellow writers, recall this piece of advice: Write a book, give it a revision, send it off, begin the next.
See how succinct that advice is? Send it off! It isn't perfect, nor will it be perfect with another revision. Begin the next! Keep writing. Don't get bogged down on one piece.
This is common advice, especially to unpublished authors. In fact, this is the advice I prefer myself. It will never be perfect, stop trying. On to the next. Make it better.
On the other hand, we have what seems to be conflicting advice: Your work -- and especially your submittal excerpt -- must be well-polished to make it beyond the agent/editor's slush pile.
This means more than a quick revision and send it off! It may mean lengthy beta reads and critiques and back-to-front rewrites.
So which one is the correct answer? One revision? Two? Six? Revise until you believe it is polished?
Both have their merits, but let me bring up an interesting addendum: Prior to publication, no matter the amount of revision you put into the work, your piece will go through editing and revision. Again. And possibly will face major rewrites. Or, worse still, regardless of the time spent editing, your piece will still never make it beyond the slush pile.
As writers we should find a happy medium between under- and over-editing prior to submittal.
Certainly the piece needs to be polished -- a shoddy piece will absolutely NOT make it beyond the slush pile -- but can you really expect a single writer, or even a group of freelance critics, to edit a piece to the same level as a large publishing house?
And don't forget the energy consumed editing a piece. It is time you could have spent working on a new piece, and we all have a limited amount of writing capital with which to spend on our work. Is it really wise to polish that old book, only to send it out to be rejected? Again.
Or is one more revision what it takes to make that old book hit the bookshelf in stores near you?
What are your thoughts? Do you over-revise? Under-polish? At what point do you stop and begin the next piece?
Me, I get going, write it, give it a revision (which can be significant), and send it out.
We'll see where that gets me. Which reminds me... I need to send some stuff out. My last submittals were back in October of 2009. Knowing when to stop submitting and give up writing is a whole nuther topic.