Quick Reminder

In case you forgot, writing takes a long, LONG time. Or at least writing something worth publishing does.

If you’re on the Highlights Foundation’s e-mail list, you’ve already seen the following quote. Seeing this advice pop into my inbox this morning made me smile because it felt like a message from the universe assuring me that, yes, I’m doing the right thing by continuing to work on my first novel this morning. You know, the one I’ve pronounced “done” at least three times already.

Editor Stephen Roxburgh said:

The most common problem with submissions I’ve received over the years is that the manuscript is not good enough to warrant general publication. The second most common problem is that the project is not ready to be submitted. This is truly sad because many of those projects have the potential to warrant publication but never get developed because they are submitted prematurely and rejected. So, how do you determine when a project is ready to go? There are ways, not easy or always reliable, but there are ways. As mother used to say, you only get one chance to make a good first impression, so get it right.

But wait—what are these said “ways”?! Well, Highlights isn’t going to tell us this tantalizing information because they want us to sign up for Mr. Roxburgh’s workshop, which I’m sure will be informative, beneficial, and abounding in delicious, gourmet food. But I cannot afford anything beneficial and delicious until I increase my publishing revenue. Or perhaps my bagging groceries and waiting tables and writing-cheesy-plaque-sayings-for-the-craft-fair revenue. (Heh, kidding.)

Expensive hobbies are my favorite kind. Either that or quaint, unprofitable, homeĀ businesses are my favorite—I’m not sure yet which writing is. But I digress.

What are the ways YOU know when a work is truly “done”—or at least as finished as it’ll be without an editor’s help?

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2 Comments

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2 responses to “Quick Reminder

  1. I want to know, too, how to tell when a project’s done. I still fret about the one on submission, and still think it needs some more changes.

  2. Daniel

    Done is an illusion. Ripe may be a better way to think about it.

    I don’t know the answer, but I do know that if you can write something, put it into a drawer for a year, and not wince once when you next read it, you’ve probably done nearly as well as you can.

    Also, I wouldn’t discount hiring a real life editor. Not someone who will chance “less” to “fewer,” but someone who can see things in broad thematic terms–someone with novel (not original-type) experience.

    I had someone do this for a piece I wrote back in 2004. It was edited in 2006. I have still not finished incorporating (tapping the full potential of) all the notes and changes.