How to Keep from Submitting Too Soon

Harry, the Hasty Hare

Hurry up!

How many of us heard our moms say those words throughout our childhoods as they waited for us?

I certainly did.

Being the oldest child who was eager to please, I complied, rushing when called so I didn’t keep Mom waiting.

Her lessons were reinforced by teachers waiting for assignments, employers waiting for projects to be completed, and merchants with time-limited offers waiting for my business.

Haste is one of Twelve Troublemakers that plague me as a writer. I’m exploring one a week. This is the eleventh in the series.

Speed has become one of the operating principles of our society. We want everything in a hurry. Food. Internet Service. Answers. We have drive-through windows for almost everything, including church and weddings.

Is it any wonder we writers take our expectations of fast solutions with us as we enter the publishing world?

While self-publishing enables a writer to get a book to readers rapidly, traditional publishing takes time. Many embarking on their journeys don’t understand this and tend to rush things.

I was hasty.

I sent out some queries when my writing was sophomorish and received well-deserved rejections. This led me to ask:

How will I know when my work is ready for submission?

My answer came as a result of answering another question.

Have I received feedback from trusted sources?

Like many, I asked friends to read my first story. Although I look at it now and cringe, those brave souls gushed about it—and still do, bless them. However, friends and family members aren’t the best sources of feedback, unless they’re writers themselves, have degrees in English, or have worked as fiction editors. They lack the knowledge of craft and the objectivity needed. In their defense, they can be great beta readers, giving us their impressions of the story as a whole.

For more in-depth feedback, though, we need to go to those who understand the structure of a story. Early in our journeys, the best place to begin is with critique partners. I’ve written a series of helpful posts about critique partnerships on my other blog, Romance Writers on the Journey.

Contests can be a good next step. When we’ve pushed ourselves to produce the best work we can and have incorporated the suggestions of our CPs, we can enter our stories in contests with a goal of receiving feedback from preliminary round contest judges.

My counsel, based on personal experience, is to start with smaller chapter-run contests. While a final in the Golden Heart® is prestigious, an entrant receives no feedback. The American Christian Fiction Writer’s Genesis does offer feedback, but due to the large number of entries, it can be hard to make it to the semi-finals, which can discourage new writers. Earning a final in a smaller contest can boost our confidence. This is the course I’m encouraging my real-life, romance-writing sister to take.

Those with the financial means can hire professional freelance editors. Unfettered by emotional ties, they will give unbiased feedback. I wouldn’t recommend this step until a story has begun to final in contests, indicating the work is approaching junior or senior level. However, if you’ve chosen not to enter the Contest Circuit, a professional editor could give you the same type of feedback as contest judges—and even more of it.

I work with two talented CPs who give me great feedback. I was a contest junkie and received a plethora of helpful suggestions from my judges. Since I’ve worked as an assistant editor for a small publishing company, I didn’t need to hire a freelance editor, but had I not possessed the skills, I would have eagerly sought the expertise of a trained editor. In fact, I think I could have benefitted in spite of my experience because of the blindness we writers have when reading our work.

Your Thoughts . . . and a Drawing

Do you think there’s a tendency for us to send out our work too soon?

Where have you turned for objective feedback on your stories?

Have you submitted work that wasn’t ready?

One person who leaves a comment by Sunday, April 24th will win the hare Folkmanis finger puppet pictured above, along with a small surprise. I’ll include the winner’s name in my April 25th post, when I introduce the last of the Twelve Troublemakers.

Wally, the Woeful Walrus from last Monday’s post goes to Marsha Young.

Odds of winning vary based on number of entrants.
I’ll ship to U.S. and Canadian addresses only.
Offer void where prohibited.

About Keli Gwyn

I'm an award-winning author of inspirational historical romance smitten with the Victorian Era. I'm currently writing for Harlequin's Love Inspired Historical line of wholesome, faith-filled romances. My debut novel, A Bride Opens Shop in El Dorado, California, was released July 1, 2012. I'm represented by Rachelle Gardner of Book & Such Literary. I live in a Gold Rush-era town at the foot of the majestic Sierras. My favorite places to visit are my fictional worlds, other Gold Country towns and historical museums. When I'm not writing I enjoy taking walks, working out at Curves™ and reading.
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13 Responses to How to Keep from Submitting Too Soon

  1. Sherrinda says:

    I have sent my work out to a few contests and have success and failure. I just got back scores on a speculative work that I entered in the Genesis. Abysmal scores, but I got some great feedback and learned I probably should have entered it into the contemporary category instead. It also made me realize I probably have a better historical voice. 🙂

    I still haven’t started sending out queries. I still don’t feel ready. I don’t know when I will, but maybe someday this year.

    It’s interesting, but the entry I got the worst scores on was the entry I had gotten in-depth critiques on and had changed a bunch of it. Maybe it just needed more eyes.

  2. Wendy says:

    I plan to share this someday on my blog. Yes, I sent out my first novel years ago. To only six agents…I’m just not one of those who sprays the entire field of agents at a time…and I’m thankful only six. I even got a bite on it. But that first novel was ALL characters and what I mean is…it really didn’t have a plot or building conflict so it was all characters. 😉

    Here’s where it gets tough. I feel like I’m so stinking close. Crit partners-check. Even others who’ve read it-check. Finaled in contest-check. Multiple requests of full-check. And now there’s nothing left to do but keep writing and wait. I just keep trying to trick myself into thinking I’m not really waiting. 😀

    Throwing it up to God once again.
    ~ Wendy

  3. candidkerry says:

    Keli, what great aim you have with that hammer of yours!

    Yes, this is definitely the situation I’m in, and have been in, for a couple years. I submitted a horrid version of Born to the CWG contest last year. It makes me cringe thinking I’d only had two other people read it – family members, of course. Talk about sophomoric. It was freshman-oric, I’m sure.

    I didn’t semi-final in this year’s Genesis, but I’m very much looking forward to seeing the scores and the judge feedback. I did have another writer/editor friend read my ms recently, and she offered much helpful advice as well as a thorough critique.

    So I will continue writing, praying for guidance for this exciting, tedious journey, and I’ll take in those Genesis scores and the feedback I’ll recieve.

    Thank you for this helpful Monday post! 🙂

  4. Beth Vogt says:

    As someone who once went through 12 revisions of one magazine article, I don’t think I send things out too soon. Sometimes, the challenge for me is letting things go–pushing “send.”
    I want my articles and my chapters to sing and sometimes I can edit the music right out of them. So while you have to be wary of not sending things out too soon, you also have to be careful not to be an overprotective writer who never lets her writing leave home.

  5. I submitted too early as well. I’m glad you picked this topic! Sometimes, Providence may step in when we submit too early, as was the case for me. My agent was willing to overlook some roughness because she was early in her agenting career and needed my genre, plus she believed in the potential of my work. But most of the time, we’ll get rejected if we’re not ready for primetime. 🙂 Publishers did not pick up my first novel, and quite rightly waited until the more polished second novel to offer me a contract.

  6. I submitted too early, not having full understanding of the craft of fiction writing. Now that I get it, I need to go back in make necessary corrections. I’m reluctant to begin. I am enjoying blogging. I will have to stop blogging for a while to spend any time on my MS.

    Even though I have read much fiction and have heard all the stuff about back-story and show-it-don’t-tell-it, I had to hear from a reader of my MS, specifically, before I knew where my own errors were. Now I can spot them myself. It won’t be difficult to fix, but it will take time. More time than I have while blogging. Great post, Keli. Blessings to you…

  7. Tana Adams says:

    I’m a hasty girl myself! And because of that…. I’ve had to learn from my mistakes. Lord knows that’s how I learn best. Sad but true…

  8. Way back in my naivity I submitted. Still get red from embarrassment when I recall that.
    Never again will I submit before I’m truly ready.

    Critique partners help me see I’m not there yet.

  9. I can definitely relate to sending out a story before it’s ready *blushing* – – and I do cringe now when I think about it. However, I look at it as a learning experience. 😉 And the well-known editor I submitted to was super kind – – she gently explained my story “wasn’t quite ready” and then gave me a list of excellent suggestions/examples to strengthen my story! I am so appreciative for that. ~ What’s that old saying? “Live and Learn”? Yep, that’s definitely me! 🙂 Thanks for ALL these timely, wonderful posts Keli!

  10. Renee C. says:

    That is the CUTEST bunny ever!!!!!!! 😛

  11. Julie Musil says:

    These are such great questions to ask ourselves. I think I might be on the opposite spectrum, holding on to the work out of fear it’ll never be ready.

  12. Did I ever! I went way too fast. I nipped it in the bud though and I stopped and took a breath and now I am ready to go through the contest circuit and see what comes of it. I think, for me at least, the idea was if I wait until I make it perfect knowing me I will never send it out. It will never be perfect but I hope to get it really close, which takes time. I kind of think of it as a pregnancy now. The baby figures out when it’s ready to be born, you can’t schedule it. Well actually you can…I thought that was a good analogy 😉

  13. PW Creighton says:

    Absolutely. When a writer is just diving into the industry and understanding the dynamics of agents, editors and publishers we’re too immature to see our writing is actually cringe-worthy by industry standards. Once we hit critique partners, beta readers and merciless editors we’re doing a far bit better but it doesn’t stop us from trying to nab an agent or publisher with unpolished work. We all do it. It’s part of the learning process in this industry.

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