Quick Tip Tuesday: A Challenge to All — Time to Take the Plunge!


David B. Coe/D.B. JacksonHow many of you have complete manuscripts that you have yet to send out for publication? A lot of you, I’d wager. For some of you it might be a novel that you’ve finished but want to revise one more time. Or maybe two more times . . . For others it might be a short story, or several. All of them are finished, but none of them feels quite ready. You can’t imagine showing them to an editor, at least not yet. One more pass. Just a little more revising and polishing.

And you may be right. The works in question might need a bit more work. Or they might not. For all you know, they’re ready now. For all you know, the only thing standing between you and that first sale, is your reluctance to let go of your work.

I see this a lot with aspiring writers. So many of us are paralyzed by the fear of rejection, by the conviction that our work isn’t — can’t be — ready yet. It will be soon, but not yet. Certainly not yet. Thing is, we can’t know this for certain until we actually take the plunge and submit something. Maybe it will turn out that the piece in question isn’t ready for prime time. But maybe, just maybe, it is.

Here’s something I know for certain: There is no such thing as a perfect manuscript. All manuscripts have flaws. That’s why there are editors. Too often, for young writers and more experienced writers alike, the pursuit of perfection becomes an obstacle to success.

I once had a friend — this person and I fell out of touch long ago — who was so afraid of being rejected, and so convinced that her work wasn’t ready, that she almost never sent out anything. She was — probably still is — a wonderful writer. But aside from a short story publication here and there, she never had the career she should have had, because she refused to take that first big chance.

Professional golfers almost never leave their putts short. They might miss lots of putts, but almost always their balls roll past the hole. Amateurs — weekend duffers — on the other hand, leave putts short all the time. Because they have not taken to heart what those pros know to be true: A putt that’s too aggressive might miss the hole or it might drop, but a putt that’s too soft to reach the hole can never, ever go in.

Writing is the same way. Quite often, what separates the professionals from those who only aspire to the profession is not talent or even luck, but rather the willingness to risk rejection. If you send out a story it might be sent back, or it might be published. But you will never, ever publish anything that you don’t submit.

So here’s a proposition for you: I will believe you when you tell me that your story or novel needs ONE more tweak before it’s ready. And you, in turn, will promise me that you’ll give yourself until October 1 to make that tweak and then you’re going to send the thing out, no matter what.

Who’s game? Any takers? Let me know in the comments.


14 comments to Quick Tip Tuesday: A Challenge to All — Time to Take the Plunge!

  • I didn’t have an issue knowing my first two books were ready, but I’d planned on publishing on Kindle so there was no gate-keeper to think about. With my third book I planned on submitting to the Kindle Scout program so I was a little more hesitant. I had a couple editors / beta readers and I’d done my re-writes so I knew the story was well vetted but I still had the urge to go through it “just one more time”. Instead, I went a head and submitted it on Sunday. It was accepted yesterday and my campaign will go live tomorrow. Having a “willingness to risk rejection”, as you called it, is probably my biggest asset.

  • That’s great, Kevin. Well done, and congratulations.

  • […] Today’s Quick-tip post is up at Magical Words. In it I issue a challenge to the aspiring writers who visit the site. Don’t allow the pursuit of perfection be the enemy of your success. Finish polishing your manuscripts and send them out, sooner rather than later. You can read the post here. […]

  • […] Today’s Quick-tip post is up at Magical Words. In it I issue a challenge to the aspiring writers who visit the site. Don’t allow the pursuit of perfection be the enemy of your success. Finish polishing your manuscripts and send them out, sooner rather than later. You can read the post here. […]

  • NikkoLee88

    Stumbling on a novel in a genre that’s new to me. But I’ve got to get it done. Challenge accepted.

  • It’s not the novel I’m struggling with at this point, it’s the synopsis. I’m a super wordy writer and this thing is tough! Will definitely have it out on the road by October 1st though 🙂

  • Hepseba ALHH

    Oh man. My issue isn’t fear of rejection, but fear of success. Cart-before-the-horse probably, but there it is (though I’m sure if I ever get over fear of success *then* I’ll have fear of rejection).

    I’m a very slow writer (with a full-time job I love and a young family, so that’s not changing any time soon) and the book I have done (yes, it *does* need *one* more edit pass) is the first of a darned trilogy, and who knows when I’ll finish the other two books. Definitely not on a one-book-a-year timeline. Then the thought of all the work writers put into promotion makes me shudder…

    Right now I’m trying to get book 2 started, with the goal of finding out how long it takes me to write a book now that I actually know how. If I’m halfway done drafting book2 by October 1 I’ll be very happy.

  • Challenge accepted … or rather, thank you for the reminder that regardless of everything else going on in my life, I can’t keep putting my writing career second.

    I’ve been rejected on the full a few times before, and I’m up to 50+ rejections total, so I’ve got the necessary thicker skin. And yet, I find myself hesitating, even though I have to get this done. Because this time it’s not just a matter of sending it out again. Not only am I making vital, fundamental changes to the magic system, but I’ve had some realizations about my MC’s motivations that I may have unintentionally skimped on.

    At the end of October, at SIWC I pitched to agents based on the “It’s done but the magic system has to be fixed.” One asked for 30 pages and gave me six months. The second didn’t give me a deadline, but asked for 100. (And I would really love to have her as an agent, all things considered.) Then a few weeks ago, I was gifted with a 100-page critique from a certain author/publisher who likes to put out unique themed short story anthologies. But recent life events have been a challenge, to say the least, and I haven’t been as dedicated to making the changes as I’d like.

    The six month deadline works out to “end of April”. It is now pretty much the end of February. I want to send my 100 pages for critique soon, so that I can incorporate it into what I send to Agent #2, and ideally for the April deadline as well. As my roommate said to me last night, “The only one keeping you from your art is yourself.” So for me, it’s time to stop hesitating and get back to work. And then, finally, start sending it out again.

  • Sneakybea

    I am up for it! I am on draft 3 of my young adult novel and there’s a pitch party hosted by YARWA in October anyway, plus I have a few publishers in mind to send to so this would be a good goal for me.

  • Dianna, I HATE writing synopses. Really hate it. So I feel your pain. But good for you for accepting the goal!

    Hep, I get that, and I also understand the working slowly thing. But you don not have to have book 2 fully drafted in order to send out book I. Think about it. And best of luck.

    Laura, yay! Yes, I know you’ve been through so much, and I’m sorry for that. But as you say, you need to forge ahead with your writing. And it’s great that you have all these nibbles from agents.

    Sneakybea, that’s great. Best of luck!

  • Realistically Oct 1 might be a stretch, but I know I need to get this book “finished” and out there. I’ll take the challenge.

  • Alea

    I’m mid-way through the last round of edits to a portal worlds tale, so Oct. 1 is more than do-able. I’ll take the challenge! Especially, because then I can start on the next story which is one I’ve been wanting to write for ages.

  • SiSi, best of luck meeting that deadline. Let me know if you need an extension . . . 😉

    Alea, that’s great. And yes, the lure of the new shiny is a great motivator!