I have finished reviewing a novel for a friend, and one of the questions she asked me is whether I thought she should work on her novel before sending it out, or if she should send it out anyway. That’s a really good question. It is, in fact, a question I’ve been pondering for myself.
Back when I was a baby writer my first draft was the coup-de-grace. It had taken me all that time to write a book, and of course I wanted to get it out into the world. Yes, I would have others look at my work. Generally, these were folks at the same baby writer level as me, or interested readers. I would also proof my work, and off it would go.
Now that I’m a toddler writer, I send out my books after multiple drafts and multiple viewings. They get rejected, I revise them substantially, if I decide they are salvageable. Eventually they’ll go out again. This is the strategy I wonder about. It seems a reasonable strategy from the perspective that while I am getting rejected, I am also getting asked for partials and fulls. I am also learning about rejection and developing a thicker skin. Some writers of my acquaintance tell me that this phase is vital. You have to begin sending work out and getting rejected. It’s an important part of writing.
That said, I never send out a work when I think that I could do better. Perhaps as I am sending out the work and I begin to get the feedback, I think I can do better. However, I never send out a work with the idea that it’s not the best I can do with the time and resources I have. The scenario I really want to avoid is that of the person who works on one work over and over, trying to turn it into a masterpiece in a vacuum.
There is one other piece of the puzzle. What if someone publishes something of mine that isn’t very good? You may scoff at this, but publishing is not the vanguard some propose it to be. Writers who are fortunate to work with good editors, agents, and publishers can put together a great book, but writers aren’t always well-edited. I know the difference between a book that I don’t like which is well-crafted, and a book that has issues with technique. I think it terribly natural that writers may be underwhelmed by their early works when they look at them through a later lens. I am already experiencing this.
I guess the short answer is this: I do think there is some value in sending your work out sooner rather than later. It gives you a chance to build your skills and get feedback about what is successful. I do think that as you progress as a writer, sooner doesn’t mean right now. It might mean after your second or third draft that has been read by several friends. I am also a fan of re-tooling, and I think that if you’re going to be successful, you can’t write in a vacuum, whether you are pre-famous or are currently published.
I think I might actually be learning patience. I plan to take a long time to work on the Klarion books and let lots of eyes see them. I have a different concept of what a manuscript can and should be when I started out.
Expect this to change. Change is the only constant as we learn more about the game.