All new writers send out work too soon. I’ve read thousands of interviews with well established writers, and most all of them cop to having done it. We are so anxious to have something fly that we shove it out of the nest before it has wings. Even now, I have a hard time holding on to a story long enough to make sure it’s really really ready. I get tired of it. But when I get that feeling, I try to walk away from it for a while. I sure don’t want a story that’s not good enough accidentally making it to print, where forever and ever people can read my less than worthy publication.
How do you know when something’s ready? Well, revise and revise and then when you’re finished, revise some more. Then put it away and a month or two later go read it again and revise one more time. During this process you might want to get constructive criticism from unbiased sources, like from members of your writing group. (Your mother and boyfriend are not unbiased sources) I will swear by the difference a good writing group can make to your writing.
There are some stories out there that I’ve had published before they were ready. At the time, I certainly thought they were ready. Or at least wanted them to be, and convinced myself they were. I’m not thrilled people can still find them and read them and judge me as a writer based on those pieces.
I know one writer who has had a public and critically acclaimed book published, and when she’s doing readings from it she constantly revises her copy with a pencil. That’s carrying it a little too far, I think. Once it’s out there, I kind of feel like it belongs to the readers, not to me any longer. Or not who I am now, but rather who I was back when I wrote it. So I really don’t feel the need to change it. I want to move on.
Which brings up a terrific book I read recently. The Nobodies Album, by Carolyn Parkhurst. About an author who revises the endings to all of her published books. There’s a reason behind this, and a great story line, but part of the great fun of the book is that she includes the old endings and the revised ones. Fun to read the difference.
But back to the point, this is a reminder to all those new writers out there. Really, once it’s out there, it’s hard to take it back. Make sure it’s the best it can be before it sees print.