Submit your best work
“How you do one thing is how you do everything.” I can’t remember who originally said this but I’ve heard it many times.
Learning to write or do any art is like peeling an onion. A concept or craft technique I learned two years ago will continue to unfold and grow to a deeper level in my understanding.
One of many of these moments came to me last weekend at the Surrey Writers Conference. I heard over and over that, as writers, we should only send out our best work.
I know this, of course, but it resonated at a deeper level of understanding for me this weekend.
Unless you have a deadline, writing is not about rushing. It’s important to give your art room to breathe, to come into its own. It’s important to know when to show it to others and when not to. It’s important to set it aside when we think we’re done, then come back to it.
An agent I met at the conference liked the idea behind my fantasy novel and said to query her when it was done. She said she didn’t want to ask for a specific number of pages yet because she didn’t want me to feel rushed. She wanted me to take my time and make sure it was really finished before contacting her again. I appreciate and respect her response. Another agent said she also wanted to see my work but to send it to her next year because she was busy until then—again, letting me know not to rush.
When I do send out my novel, I want to make sure it’s the best it can be. I learned the hard way, by writing smaller pieces and sending them out too soon, that sending out work before it’s ready is a big waste of my time.
How do you know when something you’ve written, or painted, or photographed is ready to be seen by others? Besides taking a break and getting some distance from your art, you can ask a trusted friend or mentor. If you don’t have somebody in your life that fulfills that role, then start developing one now. I’m fortunate that my friend and blog partner is a wonderful artist on all levels and can look at my work objectively when I might not be able to.
For the Surrey contest, I sent her five short pieces and asked her to pick her three favorites. I had chosen my top three but didn’t tell her what they were. She chose two of the three I did but then chose a different one, “Assisted Living Questionnaire,” for the third piece. I didn’t choose it because I felt it was too odd and not my strongest piece.
But, on her insistence, I submitted it. And, guess what? It won Honorable Mention in the creative nonfiction category! Another of my works had also made it as a finalist but didn’t win a top spot.
Which just goes to show that all art and all contests are incredibly subjective. So, when you think your work is ready to send out, consider getting another opinion.
Congratulations to all the Surrey contest winners and everybody who submitted. It takes courage to put yourself and your work out there. Keep submitting!
The 2012 Surrey International Writers Contest Winners: http://www.siwc.ca/contest/winners2012. The deadline for their next contest is next September. Start writing now.