Thursday, May 01, 2008

Only Your Best Work

By Lynne Griffin

Last year around this time, LIFE WITHOUT SUMMER was almost finished; I felt only picayune edits still needed to be completed. My wonderful agent had planned to submit the manuscript widely, when I was sure the manuscript was as clean and perfect as I could possibly make it. At the Muse and the Marketplace conference, an editor who reviewed twenty manuscript pages during the manuscript mart requested a full.

Suddenly there was a real reason to be finished, really finished. Meandering through the Omni Parker lobby with the likes of Michael Lowenthal, Gregory Maguire, Charles Baxter and Suzanne Berne, I wanted so badly to be among them--I wondered if this editor's request was my fast tract toward becoming a published novelist. An editor from a large house wanted to read my novel.

Perhaps I could push my manuscript out the door, after all it was really close. The editor who'd requested my full seemed to like me, surely she would see my novel's potential. Wouldn't my prose conceal any chinks in the plot, couldn't my fierce protagonist carry her weaker counterpart?

When I returned from the conference I visited New York and had a lovely meeting with my agent. Sitting at an outdoor cafe, she reached out to me and said, "I'm excited too, but don't rush. She'll read it whenever it's ready. You only have one shot with her. Take your time."

Wise words spoken, reassurance offered, I took a deep breath and got back to work. I spent more time than I thought I would getting every detail just so. In late summer, the manuscript did go out to the editor who'd requested the full. She didn't comment on why it had taken my agent so long to send it; she remembered she'd asked to see it, so she read it. And her feedback to me was invaluable.

While this was not the editor who ultimately acquired my novel, the experience taught me something so valuable, I'd like to pass it on. Don't hurry. Take your time. Network, build contacts and take agents and editors up on offers to submit to them. But don't rush the work to do so. Adopt the mantra: I will only submit my best work.

I'm incredibly grateful to my agent for centering me, for advising me to write the best novel I could and then to edit it all the way to clean. I'm certain my swift sale, once she submitted widely, was in large part due to this. As hard as it is to resist getting caught up in the desire to be published like those writers you admire, or to quell the longing to be on the other side of the table, it won't happen if you submit work that isn't there yet.

Trust the process. Embrace the timeline. Recite the mantra, if you like.

I will only submit my best work.

5 comments:

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Thanks, Lynne, I needed this mantra this morning. It can be so hard to wait, to polish, to not rush it. But your agent knew the importance of doing all of that.

kristenspina said...

True words of wisdom, Lynne. Thank you.

Joanne said...

Love this. "Trust the process. Embrace the timeline." Such simple, true suggestions, but sometimes oh so difficult to follow.

Suzanne said...

What great advice this is...after I finished what I thought was the final draft of my novel and sent it out to agents...it came back with a series of rejections.

Now I am taking the time to go back and re-work it yet again to create a better work.

I'm happy I found this blog (via Allison Winn Scotch's)

-suzanne

five said...

Lynne,
Thanks for the sound advice. The temptation to send early is very hard to resist, but as usual, your suggestion makes so much sense. Thanks again for sharing your knowledge and experiences. It was great to see you all at the Muse.
best,
Mo