Drink from the cup of mediocrity

I am sure that  like many Authors, and I hate drinking from the cup of mediocrity… but when is it really enough to stop with the reviewing, critiquing, and editing of your own work?!

I finished a manuscript years ago, chucked it out to my beta-readers, and revised, reviewed, revised, reviewed… on and on… a continuous cycle. So now I ask – when is it really ready to let go? After each re-edit, I think that it’s ready to go. So I’m happy with it for a while, chuck it in the mythical drawer, until I eventually re-open it – and see that it can have more plastic surgery done to it. Give it some more face-lifting… A nip here, a tuck there, and a little more Botox in ‘that’ spot… Then all over again, I am happy. Until I pick it up again. This is my own vicious cycle that I am trapped in. (Argh! I feel like the literary version of Joan Rivers!)

Maybe this is because I hate sipping from the cup of mediocrity, and deep down inside, I’m not prepared to release it to the professionals until I’m totally happy about it. A friend said to me the other night, “Leigh, you need a Critique Partner.” She thinks that a Crit Partner will kick my ass into gear. Maybe they will, maybe they wont… but I’ll never know unless I try. Now let me quickly clarify something… This MS is not ‘my baby’. I’m happy for the wolves to chew it up, and spit it out – as long as they give me some decent reasoning or feedback on how I can make it better.

I’m starting to wonder if using Critique Partners is the answer to my vicious cycle problem?

What do you think? Do you have Critique Partners? Do they give you the ‘critical’ feedback that your MS needs? Do they shove their foot up your rear end and tell you to stop editing? (Because unless my MS needs further work – this is what I need. A serious ass-kicking.)

To put it into the words of Stella Artois: I’d rather die of thirst than drink from the cup of mediocrity.

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14 Comments

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  1. I have some amazing writing buddies who give me awesome critique – and yes, I think it’s ESSENTIAL to get an outside point of view, and someone to tell you when YES you have done all you can and need to send it out the door.

    There is always going to be something that could be improved. The nature of writing is that you keep getting better at it, therefore you will always be able to see things in a few months time that you couldn’t the last time you looked. Get it to the best standard you can, then send it out. If you receive a bunch of rejections, look at it again and see where you could strengthen it and so on.

    At the moment, it sounds like you are avoiding taking risks. While you keep that MS safely in your drawer, you can’t be told that it’s not good enough, you can’t be told that it is. Without that critical feedback/interaction with someone else, you’re stifling your own growth. Books are made to be read, so you have to let them out into the world in some form or another.

    Get off your butt. Write that query, get your synopsis looking sharp. Research agents/publishers, whichever approach you are planning to take, and GO FOR IT.

    And if you want someone to read it and give you a butt kicking. I am here and willing 🙂

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  2. Leigh, I found my critique partners invaluable. Why? They saw what my blind eye couldn’t see. They gave fresh perspective. And they cheered me on, too. But only you can decide when you feel ready to push it out into the world. Let me remind you, no matter how polished you may think it is, the editors are going to go through it with a fine tooth comb. You will be making more changes. So don’t sweat it too much. Put your best out there, and then breathe. 🙂

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    1. You are totally right Deena. They are always going to want more out of the manuscript anyway. It’s a different perspective that they put on it… I mean, I guess that every reader has a different perspective anyway – so there will always be something to work on and improve. Xoxo

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  3. This is a really interesting topic, Leigh.

    While I agree it’s good to sit on a manuscript and look at it again before you send it out, just sitting on it won’t help you to see things that a good crit buddy might.

    I think the success of a writer is helped by three things – a good crit buddy, trusting their own instincts and having the confidence to send stuff out.

    I recently sent out something I’d had professionally assessed by two reputable editors. They said it was a powerful ms – ready to go. The first publisher I sent it to, totally disagreed. That’s when I realised I should have listened to the nagging voice in the back of my head saying, “You don’t love this manuscript. Why don’t you love it? If you don’t love it how can you expect someone else to?

    It wasn’t until I was reading a totally unrelated book by someone else that I realised that my character’s “voice” was all wrong and I should have listened to the “voice” in my head.

    Thanks to time, perseverance, a great crit buddy and trusting my own instincts, I now have a much better manuscript.

    So I guess what I’m saying is that it’s a combination of lots of things but my advice would be get a good crit buddy, be bold and trust your instincts.

    Good luck:)

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    1. Thank you Dee! Yes… I think you are spot on when you say that it’s a combination of things. I have been mainly just using beta-readers over the years, and I have never ever felt ready to actually send anything out. I had no idea why… but maybe it was because no one had ever really cast a critiquing eye over it? How on earth was I to know that it was time to stop with the editing and rewrites? Thank you for your feedback – I really appreciate it.

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  4. Critique Partners are definitely invaluable. Sometimes you are too close to your MS to be able to stop editing, stop trying to perfect it….I speak from experience, I am a complete Grammar Gremlin in that I nit pick and nit pick but still battle to say something is good enough…Critique Partners are great encouragement too when you are battling for inspiration…I have a Fantastic critique partner who I skype with almost daily.
    Highly recommend having a critique patrtner!
    🙂
    KK

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    1. Thank you Kim! Yes, I am like you – and try and battle spelling and grammar. Sometimes I miss it. Whenever I have a ‘first edition’ manuscript – it has glaring mistakes through it because I can’t be bothered fixing anything while I am so focussed on creating at the time.
      Good feedback! I guess I never really thought about the whole inspiration thing… Thank you 🙂

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  5. I think critique partners are definitely the way to go. Sometimes, it isn’t the manuscript that needs the kick, it’s the author. My partners have gotten me to go a step farther than the writing, itself. I am enrolled in a conference and will be attending many workshops. I even signed up for a pitch session with an agent. I was perfectly content to attend as a bystander watching everyone else sweat. My writing partners kicked me in the tush and now I’ve got to hustle and get my stuff ready for an open critique forum and feedback from a panel of agents and editors.

    I intend to take an Ipod with me so I can hold on to my support line throughout the conference.

    🙂

    Laurel Wilczek

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    1. Good on you Laurel! I have always been quite happy to stand aside and let everyone else sweat as well… and over the years I have watched a lot of blood, sweat, and tears from my writing buddies… but never have I really engaged in it myself. Thank you for your feedback – it’s great to see you around Parchment Place!

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  6. Hey, good post! I am in a longstanding writer’s group of people I really trust. Make sure that anyone you get to read your mss is someone whose writing you love, and who will give you honest yet respectful feedback. There is a point where you can actually have too many readers! I’d say three is probably plenty.
    Ultimately, you need to trust your instincts. I heard a very funny comment once, in answer to “How do you know it’s done?”
    The person replied, “I know it’s done when I change a line, only to change it back.” In other words, when the lines you have on the page are superior to anything you can possibly wrack your brain to replace them with.
    BTW, following you now!

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    1. Welcome to the little world of Parchment Place, Catherine!
      Really good advice too! Thank you! I think that’s a really good answer to ‘How do you know it’s done.’ And guess what!? After a number of people reading my call out on here, I now have Critique Partners! Amazing what sort of response a little rambling will get you! I’m very chuffed!
      So, thank you for your response, and your subscription. I hope that you enjoy your stay 🙂
      BTW – I love your blog 🙂

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