Thursday, February 21, 2013

How Soon Should You Publish?

I ran into a writer friend at the conference last week.
As I always do, I asked her about the book she wrote--the one that I love and can't wait to read from front to back.
She finished it, and tried to edit and re-write. Now it is tucked away. She refuses to look at it.
I know it's good--because I got to read some of it, and she's a good writer.
She hasn't sent it to any editors or agents and she refuses to do so anytime soon.

I know she could get an agent. She could get her book published.
But, when I ask why she didn't submit to the agent that asked for her full manuscript, she said that she didn't want to publish something that was okay or good. She wants to know that her book is the best work she can do; this book doesn't feel like her best work.

But, does your first book ever really have to be the absolute best thing in the world? Do you really have to work on it until you're 80 years old and you finally know it's PERFECT before you can get it published?

Or is it okay to write the best you can do for now and publish and continue to learn and grow and improve as a writer with every new book you write?

I know some authors who published and as they've continued writing and publishing they have truly honed their craft--they've made incredible improvements in their writing.

After reading the Boyfriends With Girlfriends book I understood the idea of wanting to wait until you know you have the very best piece of writing you could ever produce. Because I read that book, I have no desire to read more of that author's writing. Maybe that's not fair to him as a learning, progressing writer--but that's my immediate response as a reader.

I don't want someone to read my first book and think, "Wow that sucked. I'm never reading a book by TA Demings again." I want someone to pick it up and read the first page and get sucked in until they get to the last page and then think, "Wow, that was awesome. Where can I get more books by TA Demings?"

So where is the line? Is it okay to publish now and improve later? How far do you drag out the wait-until-this-story-is-perfect-before-I-subimit process? How much room do you allow yourself as a writer to publish and then improve? Could it hurt your writing career to publish something that has great characters and no plot if someone is going to read it and not want to read any more of your books? Does any of this matter?

Maybe there is no definitive answer, but I'd love to know your opinions on this.
Leave me a comment below.

Write on!


  1. A lot of published authors have talked about this too. They say they always see ways they want to improve their work after its published, but it's out of their hands by then. I graduated in Technical and Professional Communication from USU. I was talking with one of my professors about my perfectionist mentality and how I had a tough time finishing projects that were 'okay.' His advice was, "You can't have perfection, you can only have excellence." Even though I have a hard time letting a project out of my hands, his advice has often helped me 'finish' projects even when I want to keep working on them.

    I imagine getting a manuscript to an agent/editor helps with that process too. It's their job to find the stories weak spots and move it ahead, so it takes the 'is it good enough' argument out of my hands.

    Great post!

  2. I see myself stuck in the it isn't good enough spot too. The friends that have read it love it. Once you put it down, it does get dusty, and it hard to get that dust out of the way. I finally got the last book in the wheel of time series. I love the stories, and have had to wait for the last 5 or 6 books. I loved reading when it was Robert Jordan, and I love it even more by Brandon Sanderson. I really envy/adore/enjoy his work. I got the book yesterday, I am only on page 58. It is hard to put down. I know I have a 2 week window cause it is a library book. There are 909 pager. Not a small text, but I do love them more that way. It is harder for me to pick up a little hundred pager cause it is over too fast, and it kinda makes me sad it is already over. This is the last in the series, #14 with a prequel for 15 total. I have read one through 9 twice. I admit I am having a hard time remembering some of the last book, which was about 2 years ago. I do hate to see an end to this book, but I know Brandon has others in the works, so I do look forward to his books. I am not much for paying a lot of money for books, I think that makes it harder to think of making money selling them if I won't pay out, but Brandon is one of the ones I am willing to pay to read. I think that first book is the hardest one to send to publishers, because it is the one that has taken the longest, it never feels all the way right. It has to be good enough for the publisher to want it, even if it does need tweeking, and that is the hard part, is it good enough to be accepted?