Thursday, August 19, 2010

A Word Of Warning For New Writers - Quit Tweaking Your Story

I hate to break this to you, but your story will never be perfect. I know you may want it to be, and certainly, after all the talking I do about making sure you send out amazing work to editors and agents, you want it to be. Still, at some point, you have to look at your story and finally put fire that little bad boy out to the editors and agents (and for some of you, that first contest for feedback).

Unfortunately, there are many of you out there that are constantly "tweaking" your stories. You have a finished product and were all ready to send it out (I know of several who have had the manuscript in the envelope), and then you either think of something or read something on a blog posting. Now you start second guessing. "I think my manuscript might have done that." The panic sets in and now you take off revising yet again.

We see the same thing with contest entries. A writer sends his or her project out to a contest for feedback. They get comments back and then send it off to a new contest with new comments. Then they change it and send it off again, and again, and again.... You get the idea.

I think you understand what I am saying here. There is a point that you will just have to suck it up and send out the project. Now I know you are all saying, "but I could make it better," and yes, you might be able to - but, you might also be ruining the project.

You need to understand that editors and agents will work with you on your story. If we see that the story has potential, that the story is marketable, and we like it, then we will work with you. If you have done your research and you know what we are looking for, and your story is 90% of the way there (not in terms of being complete) we will work with you on that last 10%. We just want to make sure you have a product that is really pretty well ready to go.

If you want to be a published author, I am sorry to say it, but you will have to send it out to someone. Sure, check it for the grammar and punctuation. Make sure the holes have been filled in your plot line. Make sure the length is right. Make sure it is meeting the criteria the agent or editor is asking for and then go for it. Will you get a rejection? Maybe. But you may not.

You have to simply learn to trust yourself on this. Yes, this business if scary at times, but it is also very rewarding if you have the nerve (as Nora said in her keynote speech in Orlando) to jump in the water and swim.



  1. Best advice ever. I was part of a writing group once and this lady had been working on her novel for 8 years. How many could she have written if she had finished the one, set it aside, done some revisions & submitted. She could have done that 8 times and learned lots even with 8 rejections. Instead she was still working on the same one.

  2. yeah but, many of the great and lasting stories were not rattled off on the way to the Pottery Barn. "Cold Mounain," for instance, was in the works more than ten years, and it reads like a polished & professional piece of work. I agree with your point, but have really noticed the last five years that more and more books read as if the author couldn't get in and out fast enough. Part of this is due to the growing tendency of authors to fill white space with endless narrative that sounds as if it was recorded on the nearest downtown street. On & on, anything to get through the page. As long as readers are willing to pay for this kind of laziness, it will be written.

  3. I definitely could have been in danger of this. Every time I read my MS, I find something I want to change. I suppose I should call it done when I'm mostly happy with it and there are no major glaring tweaks pointed out by the critics. Thank you for the advice.

  4. Just call me "Second Guessing Jessy" because that seems to be all I do. I've taken 'What If' way too far.

    I'm very inspired by good books. They make me want to sit down and write. I'm totally depressed by bad books and bad editing. I always think... THAT COULD BE ME! I know it's just as difficult to write a bad book as it is a good book, and I have the utmost respect for anyone who actually finishes one. I've been told I think entirely too much.

    Thanks, Scott. This post really helps me identify some of my problems.

  5. Hi Scott,thanks for sharing your thoughts with us.

    Unfortunately, the problem most writers have seems to be the fact that there are so many conflicting opinions between agents, one never quite knows who to listen to. What one agent loves, anther may think is not polished enough for submission. Trust your gut? I do, but taste is so subjective its only second nature in this business to question oneself. I'd like to say this post helped, but I'm afraid it simply adds to the confusion rolling around in my head.

    With that, I'd like to know, if one trusts oneself, which agents advice does he/she trust?

  6. This was a great post, Scott. Love your blog!

  7. I don't know. I've never enjoyed fast food as much as a gourmet meal.