Sunday, January 29, 2012

How Do You Know When Your Work Is Good Enough????

I was writing an article for the March edition of VIVA magazine listing my tips for getting published. One of the things I mentioned was don't send the work out too soon. So how soon is too soon and how do you know????

Lying in the bath yesterday, I was planning the day which included a trip to Waterstones. I wanted to buy Shelley Harris' debut book JUBILEE. I'm really looking forward to reading this...because back when I went to the York Festival of Writing in 2010 she was there. Now that in it's self is not enough to 'sell' me a book, a book I paid the full £12.99 price for....

Now regular readers of this blog will know that this conference was a break through for me in many ways and I only realized yesterday in the bath that Shelley provided one of the most important parts...how do you know when your book is good enough????

One the first night about ten unpublished writers read some of their work...what an insight. I have forgotten all the other writers except Shelley. The passage she read held the audience spellbound. The imagery is still with me. When she finished every agent in the room approached her. Yes, it was that good. It had that undefinable quality...and I knew in that moment that I wasn't there...yet.

Now I'd been writing and submitting for five years at that point, but that was the moment when I stopped. It was crystal clear what was good, no not just good but superb. I wanted that, well, not that exactly but I wanted that for my writing. I knew I had to dig deep to find it...

Now, seeing your own work with such clarity is hard, but if you imagine standing in front of a couple hundred people and holding them spellbound with the images you have created then you begin to get the idea....Shelley's work stood so far above everyone else who was brave enough to read that evening...I was deeply grateful I wasn't one of them.

So when you are wondering if it's ready, if it's good enough...think of reading it to a large audience who are judging you....can you capture them? Does you work have the spark? If you have the opportunity to listen to writers reading their work out - go...develop your inner critic then apply it to yourself

I know that when I began I was desperate for feedback, for validation that i could write... but it was only when I was in York listening to Shelley that I knew I had jumped too soon before. I knew that I needed to push myself further and in that moment I began to see my writing more clearly...

But the funny thing is...i still don't think it's good enough. But that's a good thing. It makes me keep trying harder...

5 comments:

Susan Bergen said...

I think that self-doubt is probably vital to keep a writer striving for something better, all the time. The trick is, I suppose, not to let it cripple you into not trying anymore. You, Liz, have nothing to worry about. Me, on the other hand...

Kate Hardy said...

I'm with Susan. Self-doubt goes with the territory and they can be positive in that they make you push yourself to be better. My advice is to keep a file of nice comments from your editor and agent - particularly things they point out as your strengths - so you have something to bolster you when the doubts are threatening to freeze you :) (Or you could do what I do - LOL, there is a purpose to my Pandora bracelet!)

liz fenwick said...

Susan, thanks for your confidence in me but....the key as you say is not to let it cripple you.

Kate - that's a really good suggestion Kate. I know during the edits with TCH I highlighted all the good stuff in the editorial letter to keep me going through the 'work' :-) Love the bracelet!

lx

Emma Lee-Potter said...

I agree that no writer ever thinks their work is good enough - but eventually we all have to say "it's as good as I can make it." Thanks so much for the Jubilee recommendation, by the way. Definitely going to buy it.

liz fenwick said...

Hi Emma. I really enjoyed the book and for me it lived up to that promise I heard. Look forward to hearing your thoughts.
lx