Thursday, May 13, 2010

When is your writing good enough?

Let me tell you right now, if you just finished writing your story, literally just put your pen down, or took your fingers off the keyboard after typing "The End"... it's not good enough.

Even if you think it's the next Harry Potter, uhuh. Set it aside for a day, a week, a month - the longer you can keep your fingers out of it, the better. Especially if this is the first story you've ever finished and you are just so darn excited and want to get your masterpiece out there - don't do it!

If you proofread it right away, guaranteed, you will not see any of your mistakes. You're too wrapped up in it. The story is still alive in your head, so any gaping holes in the plot are all being filled in with what you already know...and they may not actually be written down.

Yes, folks, this is experience speaking.

So, you've given it some time and you go back and read your story. And you think, it's pretty good - that's not good enough!

If your mother, your sister, your cousin and your best friend have all read it and said "It's good"- it's not good enough.

If no one has said, "Wow, that's great!" and if you can't say that yourself - then it's not good enough.

Okay, so now it's time to get your red pen ready. Find a good critique partner - someone who's not afraid to cross things off and tell you how bad it really is. Cause now it's time to get to work and polish, polish, polish and yes, rewrite if that's what it needs.

So set aside that story you just finished - start another one, or read a few books. Just don't touch that story until your brain can't tell you every detail about what your character was wearing, or saying, or doing, or thinking especially.

Don't touch it. Don't send it anywhere (except maybe a critique partner, but it's not even ready for that at first, probably). Let it lie - unless you're anxious to see your next rejection letter.

If you can't say it's great, then it's not good enough!

Until next time...


  1. Great post!
    It always amazes me what looks so good when you just finish it, makes you grown a month later. :)

  2. Amen! I tell writers this all the time. Impatience can kill ya!

    Kelly Mortimer
    Mortimer Literary Agency

  3. That's right on! There is such a sense of accomplishment when you write the end that it's impossible to realize you are not even close. My very first plummet to earth came when I submitted my first book (without editing) to the Donald Maass Literary Agency. Can you believe that? And, yes, I did receive a rejection. *grin*

  4. Patients is a talent that we must learn. I say 'talent' because while it is a virtue, many (if not all) of us must practice it to achieve the right balance with it. And even then we can mess up by rushing.
    I always say set your work aside for a few months and people look at me like I grew another head. LOL If they insist on an edit from me then they get a realization that it's the little mistakes that can ruin a whole novel and be the reason for the dreaded 'Rejection'.

  5. Good advice, Donna. A writer's work always looks different after some time away from it. I'm convinced that writers, like other artists, can't be objective about their own work. It's helpful to have a trusted critique partner or group to provide feedback, but don't seek advice from your best friend, your English teacher, or Aunt Tilly who loves to read. Seek feedback from people knowledgeable about the publishing industry.

  6. Good advice. And I always print mine off for that first edit. It's far easier to spot extra spaces between words and typos on paper than on a comp screen.

  7. Thank you for all the comments. It's a hard learned lesson for anyone...kind of like letting go of a child when they've grown up and watching how well they've learned what you taught them.

    Thank you for all the comments.

  8. Yes, always take your time, and never be in a rush to send your ms out.


  9. LOL Tempting though it might be...