Friday, February 25, 2011

Is Near Enough Good Enough?

Have you ever grown so frustrated or bored of the revision stage you’ve thought, ‘That will do’? I know I have – and then I sent it to someone to read and they came back with comments on sections I knew deep down I should have fixed.

Have you ever caught yourself asking, ‘Why bother with all this work when an editor will change it anyway’? It’s true an editor will likely change your text for the better, but what if they don’t? And worse: what if you don’t even make it to the editing stage at a publishing house because your manuscript didn’t shine with a glossy polish? I’ve seen it happen all too often.

Leave out an essential ingredient from a cake and the cake will fall flat. The same goes with writing. One essential ingredient of writing a good book is the sweat of hard work. We can’t expect a first draft to be the last draft. We have to work hard to order our thoughts so our readers don’t have to order them for us.

Let’s strive to do our best. Let’s always work towards improvement. Let’s sign up for those workshops and conferences. Let’s find quality critique partners and helpful beta readers. Let’s not give up, but keep going until we get it right.

Would you pay a professional editor to go over your work before you started querying?

47 comments:

  1. Great advice. I've definitely had those thoughts, but I have to remind myself not to take that route. When it comes to your dreams, don't sell yourself short.

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  2. I hear you loud and clear. But it's blood I think I'm sweating.

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  3. Maybe instead of calling it revision, we should call it product enhancement. Uh, then again, considering how product enhancement can also describe plastic surgery, maybe it's best to leave it as is.

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  4. or instead of editing consider it putting some whipped cream on your cake :)

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  5. Sure have been there and lately. I'm on revision# ... lost count. But will continue to revise until it's right. How will I know? When it sells.

    Thank goodness for Crit Partners who catch our flaws. I think it's pretty much impossible to catch everything ourselves.

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  6. I have no idea how many revisions I've done to the ms I'm trying to sell! But it's still not perfect. I'm not sure if it'll ever be, but at least now I'm working toward making it as good as it can be. I think previous versions I just said "it's good enough," but after a first round of submission to editors left me with lots of rejections, I knew I was running out of chances.

    Why not make your work the best it can possibly be? It makes you look awesome, and thinner, and tan, and less wrinkled... Kidding, but it may save you some heartbreak if you're ever in a position like mine.

    Great post. Now I want an overdecorated cupcake!

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  7. I'm a perfectionist - my problem is it's never done!

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  8. I always think I'm a perfectionist, then I hand out my work and it comes back with necessary improvements.

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  9. Lori, yes exactly. It would be selling youself short.

    Bish, lol, yes, blood is right.

    Jeffrey, lol, we conduct plastic surgery on our novels... a nip here, a tuck there... ;)

    Dezzy, hmmm, whipped cream. And a cherry?

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  10. I know I've done that: read over a bumpy sentence and said, oh -- it's okay. Or eyed a tiny plot hole and said to myself: probably no one else will notice.

    But that IS what the critique partners are for -- to point you at errors you knew were there and ignored as well as ones you never noticed.

    The trick is finding good crit partners who are clever enough to spot those things and outspoken enough to tell you!

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  11. M Pax, I believe that's true: we can't catch everything ourselves, that's why we need extra pairs of eyes.

    Tere, revisions DO make us thinner (from the stress lol). Oh, and there is no such thing as an over-decorated cupcake ;)

    Alex, yep, I know that feel too.

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  12. Charmaine, haha yep, I've done that too lol.

    Dianne, a good crit partner is a real treasure.

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  13. Definitely need to put in the work, no matter how difficult it can sometimes seem, because when have you ever put in the work and thought - well it's no better than before? Hardly ever happens for a reason.

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  14. I so agree!!! I'm so paranoid that my writing is rubbish that I must re-do and re-do - then have it critiqued - and then re-done again and even at that point, I'm never sure. But at some point too I have to stop too and say, enough - it's revised enough - but hopefully my gut instinct with agree 95%!!!! Any less and it's staying firmly in my flash drive!!!

    Take care
    x

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  15. Ah yes, getting sick of the ms, been there yes yes. And that's when I set it aside for days, weeks or however long it takes. Then that first look back is torture, like weighing yourself after the holidays, expecting to see horrors.

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  16. I'm struggling with this now. I think KarenG is right, I need to set it aside for a little bit. My judgement is becoming a bit clouded!

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  17. Right now I rely a lot on my writers group and a two faithful beta readers. Sometimes I have to remember they aren't trying to be harsh and nine times out of ten whatever we go over comes out so much better on the final draft. So it all pays off in the long run!!!

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  18. This is so true. If our Writer's Intuition is telling us there's something still needing to be fixed, we have to stay at it!

    Angela @ The Bookshelf Muse

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  19. LOVE that cupcake pic! No shortage of toppings...

    Near enough might not be good enough, but good enough HAS to be good enough. Finishing a book and querying immediately may be very premature, but taking several years to polish one book for submission is also potentially unhealthy. I think aiming for actual perfection can be paralysing.

    Having a number of trusted friends/critique partners give comments is a very important part of the process I think. And knowing one's own strengths and weaknesses is essential; some people may benefit from a professional editor's services though I didn't use one before querying.

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  20. I'm is revisions now, and I wish it were as easy for me as eating a delicious cupcake. But, alas, it isn't, and almost-good doesn't impress agents. They want our polished, best work. Great post!

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  21. It just gets so hard to look at a wip on the hundredth time!
    but you are so right :)

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  22. So true Lynda! Editing and revisions, lets face it, they kinda suck. But they're so important and so necessary.

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  23. Yep. Sometimes I just get TIRED of working on something and want to be done with it. (Yeah, yeah, it's good enough.) ;o) And then I have to change it later, like you said.

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  24. Revisions can get me down too. But I've learned so much in the last few years from writing buddies and online forums I don't think I'd go to a professional editor at this stage. Maybe some day, but not now :)

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  25. Great post. I just finished a huge edit and was so tired of reading my book for the 50th time. BUT, I went through every single page and made it the best I possibly could. Now the waiting begins again. At least I'm confident my book is in better shape now, even if it will probably change again. :)

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  26. In a word, YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Its easy to tell when a book has not been edited. It's painful to read. Any writer needs that set of professional, unbiased eyes to ferret out all the mistakes the writer is too blind to see. A good editor will take a diamond in the rough and turn it into a polished gem!

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  27. Ugh, Lynda- I fell into this trap at the end of my last draft. I was so tired of rewriting that I decided near enough was good enough, and I kind of expected everyone else to agree. But no, my crit partners hammered me, and rightly so. They were not going to let it fly. The importance of good, honest critique partners cannot be overestimated.

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  28. Lisa, I have over-edited a piece and made it worse -- but that's because I didn't take a break between edits ;)

    Old Kitty, hehehe. Go for 98% ;)

    Karen, yep, a break is important. And coming back from a break is scary ;)

    Julie, for sure. The break is a good solution to clear the vision

    Brea, definitely

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  29. Angela, sometimes I want to shut that intuition off. Yay for good crit partners :)

    Adina, so true. Finding that balance is a good thing.

    Roxy, wouldn't it be awesome if it were easy?!

    Michelle, only 100? ;) But yes.

    Nathalie, when I'm in the zone they are great fun. They push me to do better. When I'm not, urgh! ;)

    Carol, hehe yup. I know that feeling.

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  30. Jemi, I love your confidence. Isn't it great when we know we've improved and learned? :)

    Chantele, that's awesome! It's a satisfying feeling isn't it.

    Stephen, yep, I think even seasoned writers need the unbiased eye of a second opinion.

    Claire, yay for honest crit partners!

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  31. The integrity thing... how can we send off something that we don't think is its best? Doesn't an editor want to make the best better rather than the okay okayer?

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  32. Well said - I have those same thoughts way too often and I know they're wrong. I just keep pushing through.

    New follower and fellow crusader! Nice to meet you!

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  33. I would love to hire a professional editor, but I have not yet come across any in India.

    I go through my manuscripts several times before I send them out.

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  34. thank you thank you!! I am in revisions now and in the past, I've let some things slide---not doing that this time! if it causes me to stop in doubt, am slicing it!

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  35. Whenever I feel frustrated or bored I take a break or do something else to rejuvinate my creative juices. Otherwise my frustration would come through in my writing and ruin it.

    Jai

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  36. I get to that point. Then I have to hand it over because it begins to either look like a horrible manuscript or a perfect one and neither is balanced.

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  37. I feel you:) I have had a professional editor go over my work at various stages of the process (including whole manuscripts), and what I found most interesting is that I could learn from them and later prevent many of the problems before they started when I did my rewrites. Nonetheless, it's a ton of work either way:)

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  38. Im in that stage right now. I've been at my WIP for over a year, but just on chapter 14. But I would not send it off because I got tired of it. I can't afford to pay an editor, but I have critter palz I can rely on. :)

    ♥.•*¨ Elizabeth ¨*•.♥

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  39. It's always a challenge to decide when you're just spinning your wheels and anoying the commas. We all plan to make it better.

    Great post, Lynda.

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  40. Thanks for the wise advice, we should always put our best efforts in all we do.

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  41. You are such a sage. The best thing that has happened to me as a writer in the past few years is starting blogging. It has forced me to be more analytical, to use precise language, and fluid imagery. I wouldn't hire someone to do my work for me.
    I love cupcakes. I baked a cake recently, and had to revise all the ingredients. It was like cooking while balancing on one foot.

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  42. I'm always working on my craft and I feel strongly that surrounding yourself with excellent CPs (and a few non-writer-but-well-educated-and-heavy-reader betas) is crucial.

    Also, I totally want to eat that fabulous cupcake! :)
    Happy weekend,
    Lola

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  43. I certainly did pay an editor before I began querying.
    In fact two. One before the final draft for comment and the other to copy-edit.
    The closer you can get to a finished product the better I think.

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  44. great point, Lynda! We do have to work and work, and others' input is so valuable. I've only seen my own MSs get better through revisions. Even when I didn't think more was needed~ :o) <3

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  45. You're very right! I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist though, and usually end up driving myself crazy because I don't know when I think it's done :S...

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  46. Robert, exactly! :)

    Alison, nice to meet you too. And yep, just keep pushing through is the best way to do it.

    Rachna, wow, no available professional editors in India?

    Terri, If I can't fix a bit immediately, then I underline it or highlight it for later. (my ms is quite colourful)

    Jai, breaks are good

    Clarissa, hehe yep

    Mark, yes, we can learn so much from professional editors.

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  47. Elizabeth, getting tired of a ms is a common problem. That's when I recommend a break

    Zan, hehe indeed

    Toyin, exactly

    Susan, haha hope the cake came out delicious.

    Lola, I agree.

    Al, that's great! I hope you got ehaps of benefit from those edits.

    LTM, that's great!

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I'd love to hear your opinion. Thanks for leaving a comment.