Friday, April 16, 2010

Is It Time?

I started writing Iron Thirst back on 12/31/08. It took me about four months to get the skeleton of the story on paper. Most scenes were complete, but other parts still bare bones.  The remainder of the time has been spent revising and rewriting.  I’ve gone through two different prologues, stripped scenes that don’t either add to the plot or characterization (no matter how fun they were *wah*), added new characters, added a few chapters in a different character’s POV – for a total of seven full drafts (each draft went through at least three sets of revisions). (Dirty math – I reworked the story about 21 times.)
Writers are instilled with enough self-doubt to prevent them from ever believing their story is good enough. Pick up a great book and after reading it, you feel like a hack. Walk into a Borders, see the shelves lined with hundreds of thousands of books – and check your confidence level. We second guess ourselves like politicians should.
I don’t think I will ever believe my story is 100% perfect. How could it be? Every day I learn something that could make it stronger. Another way to say what has already been said – but better.
I have finally learned to accept this. My manuscript is a living, breathing document. I have the right to tinker with it and continue to make it better. But what is happening is my attempt towards perfection is preventing me from moving forward. There is a back log of new stories waiting their turn for me to give them life. There comes a point where enough is enough.
Let’s say I was to get Iron Thirst where I believe that it is perfection. A point where every word is concrete. A point where I believe it could not be enhanced, should not be changed, and will never be better. (Hold on, bwahahaha, ok, let me continue.) How do you think I would respond to an agent, editor, or publisher handing me a red painted manuscript and telling me to get to work. Hmmmm,, hissy fit, maybe?
No, I know that I cannot marry these words. I know that if it was to be printed as is – my story, my voice would be something I was proud of, something I could live with. But I know that professionals will need to touch it in order to turn my art into their product. And I’m ok with that. Hell, look forward to it.
David Fulmer, an author who I have studied under, has said (paraphrasing) that when he is doing readings from books of his that have been published (some even receiving awards), he is still tempted to take a red pen to it. That stuck with me.
So, I have decided that I am going to finish my line edits, I am going to write the (not curse word strong enough) synopsis, and I am going to query Iron Thirst.
I will say this – to anyone who is sitting on the fence on whether or not it is time – this was not a decision that I made lightly. I had to do some soul searching and ask myself some tough questions.
-          Am I confident that the story (not the words) is strong and ready for the world?
-          Is the manuscript free of errors, typos, and plot holes?
-          If an editor did not make a single change, am I at a point where I take pride in my words?
-          Am I ready for a whole bunch of no’s and a possible yes?
This decision is personal, but I hope sharing how I got here can be of some service to you.
So, are you querying? How did you know it was time? Are you still deciding if it is time? What is holding you back?


  1. I understand your struggle. And that's a lot of drafts! I thought I was a perfectionist, lol. I queried my first too soon (but that's cause I KNEW NOTHING.) My second, I queried earlier than I expected (one draft, two revisions) because my crit partners (who are hella tough) told me it was ready for subbing and to stop dragging my feet. That's working out well so far (as I bite my nails waiting on harlequin's response to my full.) So I think it's different for each novel.

    But I'm glad to hear, you've decided to let go and share it. Good luck with the frigging synopsis!

  2. I can't stop editing my manuscripts, but there comes a point when I feel like they're ready to go, then the rejections come and more editing. Got to submit some time though or we'll never get published.

    I've just sent you a Beautiful Blogger Award. You can see it at my blog

  3. Good luck with your querying! Sounds like you're ready. Also, it takes some agents so long to get back, you can still continue to edit while you're waiting for a reply.

  4. I really get this, Alicia. It's hard to be done with anything, i've rewritten my MS so many times - ugh.

    Best of luck with querying!

  5. Like Roni, I queried too early, in part because I had a personal connection who asked to see chapters. In retrospect, I wish I'd had the wisdom to say "I'll get back to you" and had more eyes on the revised manuscript.

    I'm a hedge your bets kind of gal, so I'd say that if you've had CPs tell you it's ready, test market to a dozen agents or so, a few from each tier--the longshots, the look goods, and the okay-ish and see what kind of response you get. If nothing but form rejections, then more revision is probably needed. If you're getting partial requests or personalized rejections, then keep querying to others on your list.

    Good luck, Alicia!

  6. Exciting times! You have to stop tinkering with the ms long enough to query it. I kept count,I reworked page one (large or small changes) on 97 separate occasions. I'd change it again if my agent/editor explained how doing it there way would make the project significantly more saleable!
    Good luck with the querying

  7. Yes, very excellent questions. And one's I think every aspiring author has to ask themselves.

    Knowing when you are changing words and not really making the story better; or that the critique feedback is just rehash of questions you have already asked yourself over and over, is difficult to determine.

    Thanks for posing these questions Aj. I think you've inspired a blog post from me. But, it may take bit to publish on my blog b/c I think I'll give my writers group newsletter the first option to publish it.

    Wow, this really did make me think deep thoughts.


  8. I am querying. And over time, I've learned that trying to make it perfect past the point of my abilities doesn't really do anything. I got it to the best point I could. After crit partners had gone through the whole thing and I had revised. I sent it out. But it's never bad to wait if you're not sure. You only get one host per ms with agents. I've put some manuscripts aside b/c I knew it wasn't ready.

  9. It's a huge step and a bit like stepping off a cliff into thin air, hoping a bridge appears in the mist.

    I'm totally envious that you're ready to leap! Good luck hon!

  10. "We second guess ourselves the way politicians should." Beautiful.

    I am not querying right now because I haven't been able to revise my first draft. (Good reason, in my opinion.) I look at querying as something I have to do but that I also know is nowhere near within my grasp at this point in time.

    Both psyched and terrified for when that time comes, though. Congratulations to you on responding to the alarm!

  11. Thanks to everyone for the well wishes! You guys are awesome! I'll be querying very slowly.