So one of my awesome writing mentors gave me advice that totally changed my outlook on submitting for publication:
The scary part is putting it out there. I don’t care how many you write, that’s always the unnerving part. And the goal isn’t perfection–no book is ever turned in with no errors at all. Of course you want to send in your best, cleanest work. That’s taking pride in your work and there’s nothing wrong with it. But your goal should be to get as close to the story that’s in your head and heart as possible. Don’t worry about the editor seeing your imperfections. Just do everything in your power to get her to see the heart of the story and hear your unique voice telling it. The rest is fixed in edits.
— Naima Simone
This was said in response to my valiant effort to procrastinate via proofreading. And her words made a tremendous impact on me. I submitted within the week a story I’d been “editing” for the previous four months.
Submitting is hard.
Putting your work in front of other people is hard each and every time.
Neil Gaiman likens it to shoving a message in a bottle and throwing it into the sea. Then you hope someone reads it and sends back another message in a bottle, expressing appreciation for what you’ve written.
Some writers cram as many messages into bottles as they can, flinging them far from shore, confident in the the odds that one will reach a reader.
Other writers pen one short message and send it floating, trusting destiny or fate that one day someone will find it washed up in the surf.
Still other writers, cork their bottled messages and bury them in the sand, thinking one day to dig them up again, polish that message, and throw it out to sea.
I’ve been that last kind of writer my entire life, writing in secret, hiding my prose, polishing a piece until it falls apart in my hands, unusable. I worry that a scene doesn’t conform to this stylistic idea, this editor said to use these kinds of tags, or this subgenre isn’t hot right now. But really, it’s just another way of procrastinating.
My words will never be perfect enough.
My words will never be so pristine an editor or agent will be blinded by them and fall at my feet begging to charter a private yacht which will take my message from one end of the ocean to the other.
But, Naima’s right–editors and agents aren’t looking for something perfect. They’re looking for a sandy bottle that can be brushed off–the one that’s not quite corked, the words on the message faded, but with the kernel of a great story inside.
So I’m writing. Look for my message bottles. They’re out there and I’m working on more. It wasn’t as hard to throw the bottle as I thought it would be.