New Year! Resolutions! You’re going to finish that book and query it, or publish it, or print it out and burn it. Whatever. All good resolutions. New and seasoned writers alike are eager to do something, to get going, to meet self-imposed deadlines.
I am, instead, going to implore you to slow down.
I have seen a lot of good manuscripts that could have been great cut off at the knee because writers rushed. They rushed to publish. They rushed to submit. They decided it would be done in X amount of time and sacrificed craft to get that far.
Please, please. For the sake of your readers. For the sake of the story, that you should want to be its very best, slow the fuck down.
I have finished writing over thirty books, dozens of novellas and short stories. I have dozens more in progress. I know that feeling, the moment I finish a zero draft, of wanting to send it to my poor beta despite the plot holes and random notes that say [maybe put in a fight or kissing here] in place of entire scenes. I’m excited that it’s done! I’m eager to share it.
It takes actual restraint on my part not to send her that POS but at least mold it into something readable first.
I get the pressure on writers to be submitting and publishing constantly. That’s what all the experts say, right? You need to release X number of books a year, preferably something every couple of months. If you’re down to one release a year, you’re dead in the water. Momentum, backlist, etc.
I am dealing with all this too. I need money. More releases = more money.
But rushing out stories isn’t good for the stories, isn’t good for the people reading them, and ultimately isn’t good for you, the writer. You will always benefit from letting the story sit in a drawer for six to eight weeks after you write it. You will always benefit by giving it another once over before submitting it (or definitely publishing). Your editor will thank you if you do another revision before sending it to her. Your readers will thank you if you take the time to do a second and third draft before publishing.
I know all writers are different—I’ve known some writers to take so much time crafting a first draft that it’s damn near perfect; I know others who bang out a rough fast draft and have to revise a couple more times before it resembles the final shape it’ll take. And I also hesitate to say there are any absolute truths in writing or publishing: there’s what works for you and you alone.
I don’t care what kind of writer you are or how long you’ve been writing: your manuscript will always benefit from 1. a cooling off period, and 2. another draft.
Of course, how long that cooling off period is, and how many drafts you should do, will vary. But every writer, with every book, needs both of those things, and I implore you, again, to slow the fuck down.
- That means you don’t bang out a rough draft of a novel and send it straight to your editor before you’ve revised it yourself.
- That means you don’t whip through your beta reader revisions in two days and send it straight to an agent.
- That means you don’t hit “publish” on your manuscript until you’ve taken a few weeks to do revisions based on editorial feedback (and then scrubbed that fucker for typos).
Publishing is not going to collapse in the time it takes you to revise your manuscript (and if you really think it is, maybe it’s not the best industry for you). Readers are not going to revolt and forget about you if you take an extra couple of months to perfect something for them to read.
Practice setting aside one project and writing the next while the first cools off. Have a trusted circle of writer friends who can remind you to take your time. Get a beta reader so you have someone to share your work with and take some of the edge off of “MUST PUBLISH THIS NOW”.
No matter what publishing path you take, learning patience is one of the most useful skills you can acquire (after, I’d say, persistence, and learning to prioritize). Not just to improve the manuscript—which deserves to be the very best you can make it—but in all areas. Don’t make major publishing decisions or whip off that email to an editor/agent/whatever without sleeping on it for at least a night. Don’t decide to give up/pick up your toys and go home because you didn’t hit a bestseller list the first week. Don’t start changing your brand/cover/pen name after one month when you need to be giving readers time to find you. Don’t up and self-publish because you haven’t gotten a positive response after two weeks of querying.
Don’t be in such a hurry to Be A Real Author that you skip the actual experience needed.
If you want a career as a writer, dear grasshopper, remember things take as long as they take—whether it’s writing the book, revising the book, or whatever else in publishing—and you will do well to learn to accept that.
A career means you’re in it for the long haul. Impatience won’t speed up your journey; it’ll just add more roadblocks.