does not describe me fully
it is where to start

Sunday, April 10, 2011

When Is Your Work Ready?

I just received a rejection notice for one of my short stories. The prestigious literary review had held on to the story for so long that I began to hope they were accepting it. Alas, no.

So I reread the story. It was an OMG moment. What had I been thinking when I sent in the story? There was so much wrong with it! Not the least of which was that the story didn’t really begin until page three.

Just so you know, before I sent the story in, I edited it repeatedly. Others also read and commented on the story. How could we all miss something so basic? Do I have to lock something away for a year to avoid fooling myself into thinking it is polished?

I am no stranger to getting rejections for my written work. Anyone who writes fiction knows the drill. That doesn’t make the sting of rejection any easier, but this post is not about the emotional cost of rejections. It is about my disappointment in myself that, as improved a writer as I think I am, I can still make stupid mistakes.

I have now altered my story’s beginning, along with making other editorial changes. I hope this revised version will cause an editor to smile and say, “This is for me.” I can’t shake the feeling, though, that I am missing something that will be obvious to me a year from now.

How do you know when your work is polished enough to send it out? Or does it only get that designation when someone decides to publish it?


Judy Croome | @judy_croome said...

Hmmm. Interesting question. For me, it was more coming to an acceptance that my story would never be perfect but that I had to take a leap of faith at some point. I'm sure when I compare my future books with this one I'll have a cringe-worthy moment, but once I accepted that no amount of tweaking ,no amount of editing could make this particular book any better, that's when I felt the book was ready to go out into the world. How the world of readers feels about it will be the real test for me, and the guiding light of what I need to work on to do better next time.
Judy (South Africa)

Anne R. Allen said...

I've been going through the same experience with an out of print novel that I hope to convert to an e-book. I've found so many clunky phrases, overused words and dialog tags that I'm almost embarrassed it was published. But I have to remember it got good reviews and people liked it. Still, I'm a much better writer now.

I think Judy's right in saying we have to accept that our work will never be perfect. But it's really tough to decide when it's ready to send out into the world.

Judith Mercado said...

Judy, cringe-worthy is right. It is an interesting thing that we spend so much time alone writing something only to then have it, when published, become the other extreme: public, exposed, and subject to judgement.

Anne, I suppose it is a mark of our improvement as writers that things we overlooked before now become glaring errors. We are always, I suspect, a work in progress.

cleemckenzie said...

When I reread some things I sent out early in this process I wanted to hide under a rock. What was I thinking?

I guess this experience just shows that we're growing as writers.

Judith Mercado said...

cleemckenzie, part of the fun of writing is the growth, even if there are moments along the way when one wants to hide from enbarrasment.

Judith Mercado said...

:-) embarrassment. I guess I made my point.

A Cuban In London said...

I don't know whether to commiserate with you and slag the publishers off or disagree with you slightly. I'll go for both.

Rejection is painful, I can only imagine that as I've only sent fiction to competitions. So, not winning doesn't really count.

But at the same time, you, as a writer, have a style, a personality, a way of being. The way you infuse your characters with traits and quirks is yours. Unless your work was turned down on the basis of bad grammar and syntax, I don't see any reasons to go into self-critical mode. I read a story the other day by Alice Munro. It was in The New Yorker. I didn't think much of it at the beginning, but as the days have gone by, the tale's been creeping into my subsconscious mind. That shows quality on the author's part.

Keep writing, and keep your chin up!

Greetings from London.

Judith Mercado said...

Thank you, Cuban. It helps that in the meantime another of my short stories was accepted for publication. Now ... sigh ... I just have to finish my novel.