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Wednesday, October 5, 2016

IWSG - Ready or Not



It's IWSG Day.  The goal of this blog hop is to share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds. The brainchild of Alex Cavanaugh, our brilliant ninja leader.  To read other posts, click here.

This month's IWSG question: When do you know your story is ready?

This is a tough one.  I guess it depends on the story. If I’m writing a fifteen-hundred word feature for a magazine and my deadlines are tight, I come home after an interview and spend a few hours pounding out a draft.  After a day or two, I look at it again with fresh eyes, find flaws in the writing and whip it into shape. Then I walk away one more time.  A few days later, the edit is usually for minor details.  Each time I work on the piece, my goal is to make the story the best I can at that particular moment.  That said, when my stories appear in print, usually a few months later, I almost always find something I’d change, on which I could improve.

For a novel, well, I’m still learning the answer to the question.  I’m on my fourth try now, and I write a lot of drafts.  For my last “completed” work, the magic number was seventeen.  After three or four, I get someone to read it, and it usually comes back to me requiring a major overhaul.  I put it away between drafts, to give myself enough time to clear out my infatuation with my own writing, so I can see all the warts.

So, when did I “know” the last novel was “ready?”  Well, I answered my critique partner’s questions, changed what I could, put it aside, read it and found more flaws and then edited it some more, had it read again and made more changes still.  Finally it felt like it was the best story I could write.  That’s when I started working on a query letter.  

I received a few full requests for that book and a couple of partials too.  Getting those nibbles, but no bites made me understand that while the book may have potential, it’s not ready yet.  In between drafts of book #4, I’m pondering picking up #3 again, after a year-and-a-half.  Perhaps, with “new eyes” I’ll find a way to improve upon it.  To find a way to make sure this time it really is ready. 

I'm not sure I've said anything scintillating here, but I'd sure love to know when you know your story is ready.

19 comments:

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

I bet writing for newspapers and magazines could really teach a lot of authors when to know a story is ready.
The more distance you place, the more you learn and the more you see to change. You might want to visit that old manuscript again soon. You never know...

mshatch said...

That's a lot like what I do. Revise, revise, revise...

C.D. Gallant-King said...

I think your magazine article approach is correct, and having deadlines certainly helps. Nothing is ever perfect, but "the best you can in that moment" is a great place to be.

I don't have any answers for that question myself, I'm still working on it.

IWSG October

Nicola said...

A thought provoking post, which I can totally relate to. Hope the novels go well. Wishing you continued success.

Beverly Stowe McClure said...

Sometimes I put aside a story and work on other things. Then I can go back and see what it needs. Usually a lot. :)
Good luck with your writing.

Madeline Mora-Summonte said...

This - "Finally it felt like it was the best story I could write." - is so important. Recognizing our best, that we did our best, is not always easy, but we need to do it in order to let our art go. :)

Chrys Fey said...

It really does depend on what you're working on. Some projects take a lot longer than others.

Good luck with your drafts!

Bish Denham said...

I wish writing was like baking a cake, where I could stick a toothpick in the center and see if it's done! But alas... I fear nothing I/we ever write will ever be completely finished.

James Pailly said...

I think it's good that you take a little breather between drafts. A little time away to clear your head is probably healthier for you and results in a better manuscript in the end.

Connie said...

Putting it away for a while and then looking at it again with fresh eyes seems like a good idea to me. Although, sometimes when I go back to something I've written that I've been away from for a while, I wonder how I could have ever written it and liked it in the first place! :)

cleemckenzie said...

Those nibbles are always exciting. And they do mean you've got something good. It just may need a tweak or two.

SM Blooding said...

I used to do that. I had to stop, though, because I never moved on to the next project. I was stuck on the one. It's a battle.

Jenni Enzor said...

I think writing for magazines is easier in that way. I also used to write nonfiction, so then I just needed to make sure I covered the topic thoroughly.

Novel writing is a whole different thing! I think the fact that you got some requests is good and may not mean that you need to revise, but need to find the right person to love it.

Novel Metamorphosis (Darcy Pattison) is my favorite book for revising novels. It helped me learn how to form a revision plan for novels.

Susan Flett Swiderski said...

When you're writing an article or story under deadline, you already have preconceived knowledge of when you've gotta be "done." When you're writing a novel in the hopes of snagging an agent and/or a publishing contract, you don't have a pre-set "end date" in mind. With an open end like that and all the time in the world to finish it, do you think maybe it's more difficult for you to consider a project finished? Just a thought.

Lynda R Young said...

Yep, new eyes will improve it. But also remember a rejection doesn't necessarily mean it wasn't good enough. It might just mean it wasn't what the agent/publisher was looking for at the time.

Pat Garcia said...

Hello Liza,
You have helped me today. I am about to begin to work on a piece of 800 to 3000 words and wondered how I should begin. From what I understand you write out the entire piece and then step away and a day later you begin to edit and revise. It makes sense to do this for a magazine piece and I will definitely try it. Thanks.
Shalom aleichem,
Patricia

Diane Burton said...

Do your best. Like others have said, it's easier to know when a cake is done than a story. Trust your instincts.

Hilary Melton-Butcher said...

Hi Liza - the magazine or newspaper articles will give you your basis ... and I'm sure have taught you loads. Good luck with the novel ... something I've never tried ... cheers Hilary

Nick Wilford said...

A lot of drafts is sometimes the only way to improve it, so sounds like you've got the right approach! I also think magazine articles are a great way of learning to put the most important elements to the fore.