The third leg of the Holy Trinity of Doom Signs is the phrase "I don't believe in revision."
Robert Heinlein offered some wonderful advice to writers, and created some brilliant books and some unforgettable characters, but he also offered this one piece of advice that simply leaves me open-mouthed with disbelief. He said, in his list of rules for writers, "Rule Three: You Must Refrain From Rewriting, Except to Editorial Order."
This is a great rule if you're already writing publishable prose. But I've had this rule quoted back to me with a sanctimonious little sniff by people whose sentences didn't parse, whose grammar indicated that the story had been written in one language and translated into a second by someone who only spoke a third and unrelated tongue, whose characters were dead on page one and who wouldn't have known a plot if one reached up out of the open grave of their manuscripts and strangled them to get their attention.
If you are not writing professionally publishable prose, the only thing that will get you an editorial order for revision is a whole lot of un-ordered revision while you learn what you're doing. And the best way to find out if you're writing professionally publishable prose is to ask yourself this one easy question. "Have I ever had a professional editor (or reputable agent) send me a personal response, telling me that if I fixed something specific in my story, he would buy it (or represent me)?"
If the answer to that question is "no," you have two choices. You can assume that your work does not yet meet professional standards, or else you can hope that it simply has not yet found its market.
While it would be nice to believe the second, repeated submissions will either confirm this for you (someone will buy it or tell you it's great and with a few changes, she'll buy it) or deny it in pretty short order. If you never get any feedback that indicates that you're close, assume that the work is not yet of professional caliber and get busy revising.
Was this article helpful?