Wednesday, October 3, 2012

IWSG: Polished

It's that time again. The first Wednesday of every month is dedicated to Captain Ninja Alex's Insecure Writers Support Group. To join in on the support, sign up here.



This month I want to talk about getting that MS all shiny and ready to send out into the world. Three months ago I was working with some beta readers and proof-reading my MS. I had a few people look over the first half, I read it about ten times, then I printed some copies and had a few people proof the whole thing.

I thought it was ready to send out into the world, so I sent it. I actually got an offer with a small press which I turned down. But I'm having a harder time getting an agent to take notice of my little novel which has lead me to one conclusion, it needs more polishing.

I wish there was a magic time when a book is really done, but I feel like I'll be editing this book for the rest of my life and it still won't get published. So here's my questions:

How much polishing do you do before you consider your MS done? And how much polishing do you do before you've decide it isn't worth it and put it away forever?

P. S. - A story I co-authored is being featured by Jolly Fish Press. It's entitled The Wheresquirrel: Hold onto Your Nuts. It's horror meets comedy in the best possible way. Come vote for me and you can win a $25 gift card!

31 comments:

Louise Bates said...

No book is ever polished to its writer's satisfaction, I think - we keep looking at it and knowing how far it is from our original vision, and we think "just a little bit more and it'll be there!" Which it never will, of course. I think it comes at a different point for everyone, but after a while, you just know in your gut that this story is as good as you can write it. And then you force yourself to put your red pen away, no matter how tempting it is to make "just one more change!"

M.J. Fifield said...

I'm doing the polishing/ proofreading thing with my manuscript too. And I'm not sure it'll ever be done to my satisfaction. I'm just hoping I can get to 'good enough' before I decide to hop back in and do another round of proofreading.

Annalisa Crawford said...

I'm curious - why did you turn down the small press?

Donna K. Weaver said...

Ooooo . . . heading over. And congrats.

L.G.Smith said...

It really can feel like it will never be perfect. I'm guilty of compulsively polishing. It gets pretty ridiculous when I change a word one day and then change it back the next. At that point I pretty much give up.

And I love the Weresquirrel story title. LOL.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Good question, J.A. I think that's where a good writer's critique group comes in. I generally write 7-10 drafts before I submit the ms for critiquing. In the old days I'd put it through 3 clinics before I was satisfied. I'm feeling a bit more confident these days. It's important to rely on your instincts. Before you send the ms off read Donald Maass' workbook The Fire In Fiction. I guarantee it'll help.

David P. King said...

You co-authored Wheresquirrel? No way! I loved that!

We're completely in the same boat, J. I also had to turn down a small press and took the MS through a heavy round of revisions after some agent feedback, but there is a time when you have to say, "it's done," because no novel can ever be finished or have enough polish. What matters is is it good enough for you? If yes, keep shopping and keep writing. I know your story will go places. I have no doubt. :)

Rena said...

Yeah, I'm definitely a jump the gun kind of writer. It's something I'm working on now, but I've queried novels way before they were ready. So yeah, I can't tell when a manuscript is ready. I'm trying a new approach this time around, but we'll see.

Anonymous said...

Ahhh-- how wonderful to read your post. I'm just steps behind you in the process and it's so good to not feel alone! I read that the author of The Help was turned down 29 times, made constant revisions over a three year period before the 30th agent accepted her book. (Ha-- bet those other 29 wish they would have!). And so we keep chuggin' along.

Morgan said...

It's tough... really tough.

You have to know what you want and go for it. It really is luck, timing, insane hard work, etc... and I seriously think it comes down to finding the right CP's... making sure they all have different strengths. If your betas all have the same "type" of eye, it's not going to do any good. I know it's why I've tried to align myself with people who are more talented than me, lol... so they can rip me to shreds and teach me!

And yay on the co-authoring gig. Awesome! :D

Shah Wharton said...

I'm polishing to within an inch of my life at the moment. *Sigh*. Good luck for the rest of the month. X

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

When I start changing sentences back to the way they were in the first draft, I know I'm done!

Suzanne Furness said...

Tricky one. I think I'm done, take another look and start to think maybe it would work better if... I'm sort of at that point now with a project.

Lauren said...

I don't really have an answer to when a story is finished. I think it's different for each story and for each author. Don't give up! :)

VikLit said...

I think the question of when to query is a hard one. When you feel you've done all you can I guess, and that you are just shuffling the goal posts around. When your CPs say 'enough already - SEND'. When you feel like you simply cannot change anything else. Any of the above. It is so hard. Good luck with it!

Livia said...

I do a tons of editing and revising on my movie reviews. I don't publish them unless that's how I like them to be.

Great IWSG post, too!

Faith E. Hough said...

Yes, tricky question, one I think we all ask sometimes!
I know for me I would go crazy polishing if I didn't have great critique partners who told me when I needed to let go.
Cheryl Klein shared an excellent quote at a conference I attended: Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good!

Cynthia said...

I think this is where CPs come in handy because a good reader will tell you when they think you're just about done.

The Golden Eagle said...

I try looking at the overall story to decide whether it's worth spending more time on--whether it's in a workable condition, or I'd have to write a completely new novel to tell the same or similar story in a better way.

Congratulations on your story being featured! I'm off to check it out.

Cassie Mae said...

This is such a tough question to answer because I honestly think it's different for everyone. I polished the snot out of one of my novels and still go zero response. Whereas I had a very different experience with the one that got me my agent. Sometimes, we have to look beyond editing, and get down to what's not working. is it who we're querying? Or what we're querying? Is our concept original enough? Things like that.

If you keep going back to change things, thinking it'll never be polished enough, it never will be. I'm sure even authors of published books want to take out the red pen and mark the crap out of it. We just have to be happy, confident, and patient enough with it.

Tammy Theriault said...

It's good to hear there is interest in it at all...so maybe you are on the right path when you know you are almost there.

Shannon Lawrence said...

I pitched my current WIP, which is in editing...again, way too early. I have no idea how you know, but I say edit it until it seems good enough and query it. If nothing comes of it after awhile, it needs more work. I hate the thought of giving up on it for good, and can't give advice on that one. Don't give up!

Shannon at The Warrior Muse

Kelley Lynn said...

This is such a good question. For me, I edit the crap out of it, send it to my CPs, edit the crap out of it again and then its ready to go. There's not much else you can do after that.

Then I write the next one while the rejections roll in ;)

Carol Kilgore said...

Stopping in to say hi after my blog break. I took a peek at your new little boy - so cute and sweet :)

Everyone gave great responses to your question. I don't think there is a one-size-fits-all answer. More, it's a constant learning and assessing process.

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

This week took a weird (sick) turn. I'm starting it soon!

Samantha May said...

I think it's really tough because on the one hand, you could probably edit forever and still not be completely happy with it. On the other hand, there has to be a point when we take a step back and realize that that's the best it can be.

A tough situation indeed. Keep your head up! We're here for support :)

Tara Tyler said...

i have the same feeling. my fear is that my story might be considered cliche and that means rewriting or scrapping!

edit til you cant stand it, send it away, then after a while, if you still have good vibes about it, edit more. a fresh look after a break may give you the answer and write a new shiny in the meantime... i'm planning to revisit mine in dec when i send my first round of queries on my current wip

Tara Tyler said...

and i voted!
weresquirrel! ha!

Carrie-Anne said...

I've had that feeling with my superlong Russian novel. Since it's so long, it takes awhile to go through completely with edits, revisions, rewrites, and polishings. A number of times I thought I was finally done, only to realize there were still some things that could be rewritten, removed, or improved. Most recently, I did a little more tinkering with the first ten pages, and still have to fix one error in Chapter 7, where one of the child characters somehow is two places at once.

Lauren said...

If I can read it all the way through and still like it, it's ready. Mostly.

I judge my books a little differently. I can read an average novel in a few hours. If it takes longer to read my own, it's not ready yet.

Michael Pierce said...

It's tough because we as writers could polish forever. I stop when I notice I'm changing words and phrases only to change them back. And I voted. :)