Friday, November 04, 2016

Writing: Don't Be In A Rush

I still remember the thrill of finishing the very first novel I wrote. I was ready to send it out immediately, and had visions of immediate acceptance by an agent, followed by a "rich and famous" contract from a publisher. But the advice I received--good advice, but very hard to follow--was "not so fast."

"But I've written a book," I said.

"Yes, and that's a good start. Now let it sit for bit. Edit it. Polish and smooth it. Finally, when it's as good as it can be, submit it. You only have one chance."

That was good advice then, but I'll admit I found it hard to follow...then. Now I do. Over a period of four years,  I wrote or revised four novels, submitted them and received forty rejections. Finally, when I had written a novel that reflected my true voice it was submitted by just the right agent at the proper time to the correct editor--and I became an overnight success.

Actually that's not true, since I still consider myself a mid-list author, but it was nice to look at my bookshelf the other day and see my name on the spine of ten novels, two novellas, and a non-fiction book. And it all took place because I didn't pat myself on the back and expect what turned out to be the first draft of my successful novel to be the best work I could turn out. Which brings me back to my advice for someone who has written a book.

"That's great. But you've just started your work."

Have you read books that an author could have improved had he or she taken the time and effort for one more editing pass at them? Do you think the advice I received and have passed on is good, or do you think it's unnecessary? I'd like to hear.

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Carol Garvin said...

It's definitely good advice! Unfortunately, during our earliest writing endeavours we really don't know what we don't know. It's only in retrospect that we see how 'rough around the edges' our first attempts were. That's when a knowledgeable mentor is invaluable -- someone to offer kindly advice and encouragement to keep us writing and learning. Despite the years I spent revising and rewriting my first novel, I look at it from today's perspective and am embarrassed.

Richard Mabry said...

Carol, well-put. We don't know what we don't know. Because I had some time, I thought I'd turn my first (unaccepted, unpublished) novel into a novella for self-publication--had to give up, because it was embarrassing. Thanks for your comment.