Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Good Enough

A while back, I read a blog about a trend that seems to be happening in the writing community.  (I can't remember where and can't find it right now, so you'll have to trust me on this one.)  There seem to be a profusion of queriers who think their manuscripts aren't great, but they're 'good enough' and they should be published.  Like they can't be bothered to hammer their manuscript into something great. 

Now, I'm not saying everything should be perfect.  Perfect is damn hard, if not impossible.  But shouldn't a writer at least aim for perfect?  Aim for perfection and you'll hit somewhere close.  Right? 

I do understand that sometimes you've looked at a manuscript so many times, you can't stand to look at it anymore.  That's not the time to query.  Really it isn't.  That's the time to put the manuscript aside and let it simmer while you work on something else.  After a while, you'll be able to look at it with fresh eyes.

I also understand that sometimes you've looked at the same words so many times, a manuscript seems like it's as good as you can get.  That's not the time to query either.  That's the time to have someone else look at it, and let them tell you if you can make it better.  After you have people look at it, and you can't improve it any more, then query.

My problem is, I have a tough time feeling like I'm even up to 'good enough'.  I work a manuscript to death, send it to as many people as I can rope into looking at it, work the manuscript some more, and then - if I think it's my best work - I query.  Some manuscripts haven't even made it that far.  I can't send work out if I don't think it's the best I can do.  (And sometimes even when I'm sure it's the best I can do, I wonder whether my best is good enough.)

See how I have a problem understanding those people who query with 'good enough' work? 

Maybe those people have a better self-image than I do.  Maybe theirs is just over-inflated and mine is underinflated.  Maybe I'm just harder on myself. 

What do you think?  When is 'good enough' good enough?


  1. It's good enough after it's been through a crit group, and I've survived the crit and the repairs. ;-) I belong to Forward Motion, an online writer's group started by Holly Lisle and run by Lazette Gifford, and I've learned an amazing amount about writing from them.

  2. I think that most writers would agree that there is always something you wish you could go back and change once the story is in print...

    I merely wish I was at that point - ready t=to look at a completed ms and pick at it and ponder whether or not I was ready to query.

  3. I think by having too many opinions on your work, you run the risk of losing your voice.

    I don't even really use a critique group anymore - just some beta readers to make sure the storylines mesh and everything makes sense.

    Too many cooks really do spoil the broth.

  4. I can not believe it! I can not imagine any writer thinking they should submit a piece when they believe it's just Okay. Seems like suicide to me!
    ps - I referenced this piece on my blog today.

  5. I'm with you. I won't query until I think it is the absolute best I can do.