The Danger of Peaking Too Soon!

Do you ever ask people to look at your work when it’s not yet finished? Or query an agent/publisher with an ‘almost there’ manuscript? A manuscript you’re so excited about, you just can’t wait to share it with everyone. I do this; in all aspects of my life.

Two weeks ago, I asked my local friends to take a look at my new website and let me know their thoughts. It wasn’t complete but I was so pleased with it, I wanted to share my excitement as quickly as possible. Bit shortsighted really. The site is still not finished as there are several pages of content to write and upload.

However, I’ve never been very good at waiting. I usually open my birthday cards two weeks before the day (to check for spends) and I always knew what Christmas presents were hiding beneath their wrapping. It troubles my husband that I refuse to save Christmas themed films until December and that I empty my advent calendar on 2nd December; 23 indecipherable chocolate shapes taste much better when devoured in one sitting, especially whilst simultaneously enjoying one of the previously wrapped Christmas DVDs.

But peaking too soon inevitably leads to disappointment and exposes you as an impatient and incompetent fool. No one will reward your enthusiasm; there are no marks for earnestness.

Fortunately, I am now working with an agent who is acting as my story funnel. I can send him my ideas, along with their synopses and he will tell me they’re either worth developing or worth dumping. So far, he has probably saved me at least 12 months of work.

Without his help, I would surely still be querying agents and publishers with my Spider Gobbler picture book. A story he told me is far too hideous and sinister to ever be granted an audience with the under 8s. Although the macabre side of me still hopes that one day the story of an unpopular girl who pretends to gobble up all the unwanted spiders in her school just to be cool, will find its space on a bookshelf (probably alongside Stephen King’s Pet Cemetery).

Luckily, I value greatly his feedback. At least, I’m putting my faith in his expertise as I really haven’t a clue. I’m still writing books that I find funny even though their contents may disturb small children irreparably. How I wish I could find a home for the Sausage Children – a story about the misfortunate outcome for a class of naughty children. Yes, they are turned into herby sausages! Not really. Although it would be funny, don’t you think?

Who to ask for feedback should be a considered decision and not one influenced by ego. Whilst your nan may adore your latest story idea, she may not be your target market for your new S&M novel. Unless you’re writing about whip wielding OAPs.

And it should go without saying, but whether your kids love your work or not is totally irrelevant. I’m certain I could make my two smile by reading the Yellow Pages enthusiastically. It’s not the best story though is it?

To further complicate things for us fledging writers, is how to receive feedback, especially as we need to decipher what the feedback really means. Yesterday, I had an rejection email from an agent I queried months ago which read, ‘…although there is much to admire in your work….blah blah…not quite right for me blah blah.’ My husband thought it was a lovely positive rejection; I knew it was standard reply sent to prevent any highly sensitive author from feeling too despondent.

Feedback will always be subjective. I hate jazz. Really, really hate jazz. It’s trumpety farty jazz-flute sounds go right through me and bizarrely remind me of Rumpelstiltskin. Yet I’m sure Miles Davies and Charlie Parker knew they could bang out a good tune.

And isn’t that the whole point? If you’re producing authentic work that you’ve polished and perfected (and not shown the world before it’s ready), you should be confident in its worth. Not everyone is going to love your work and that’s ok.

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