Sunday, February 15, 2009

One of Those Posts Where Murph Talks About Three Different Things

Let's get the important stuff out of the way first--I have two new followers. Ben, who has always been a rabid devotee, has gone ahead and made it official. (And I envy the California weather on obvious display in his Hollywood Square.) And Sarah J. Clark, who I do not know, has also signed on. Welcome, Sarah J. Clark. I hope you will be entertained enough to refrain from clicking the "Stop following" option above the Squares.

Frequent Murphblog contributor, Anita, has an opportunity that would cause me to drool all over my Chewbacca T-shirt. In truth, I'm a little nervous even typing about it. She will be interviewing the inimitable (and yeah, I googled it to double-check the meaning) John Green. But that's not all! You, yes you, have the chance to ask John a question. Well, you can't actually ask John a question, but you can ask Anita to ask John a question and she might ask it. And considering I've asked John a question before, but didn't get an answer because he's probably too busy to answer questions posed over email by mere mortals, I'd say this is an opportunity that cannot be passed up.

In other news, Tracy tipped me off to Linda Sue Park's Web site and it is full of spendidness. However, there was one thing I read that I had a hard time with.

A critique group or partner should help you answer this question: Is a piece ready to submit? Here is my rule of thumb: A piece is ready to submit when it's one of the BEST things I've ever read.

I don't know about that. Sure, ideally, you would want your own story or that of a critique partner to meet this high standard. But if you read a lot (and Linda Sue states elsewhere on her site that you should, a LOT) then the likelihood of this happening, especially for your first novel, is nearly nil. I know as I sit here that I will never be able to write as beautifully as Gary D. Schmidt or plot as intricately as Jo Rowling. I am often in awe when reading great books because I know how hard it is to write an average one. And I suspect that if Linda Sue Park had followed her own advice when she finished her first novel, she would never have submitted it. I haven't read it. No doubt it's good. But only an extremely arrogant or hopelessly ignorant person could honestly believe her debut novel was better than the more than 1,000 books she claimed to have read in the years prior to writing her first novel, and I doubt Linda is either of those things.

Books are subjective. What rocks your world leaves mine barely spinning. We would have all missed out on some great stories if first time writers sat on manuscripts they thought might not measure up to the greatest books they'd read. So I say, "Go forth, and submit!"


Anonymous said...

By her guideline, only one book would ever be submitted - the best one ever read. And no one would ever be able to agree on which one that was. :)

I think it would have been better said: "A book should be submitted only when it's the best it can be."

Unknown said...

I second that! There are about 3 books I've ever read that would make me say, "That's the best book I've ever read." While I'd like to think I could someday write a novel of that quality, it's a long-shot.

However, as writers we shoot for the moon and write what we think is out of this world. It's not like we spend months/years to write a crappy book. We write a story that needs to be told and we tell it the best we can and then we write another story and the process starts from the beginning.

I wrote the first line of my only completed middle grade novel about six years ago. I completed it about a year ago and have been revising ever since. I've learned a ton along the way and matured into the writer I am today. I will keep revising and sending it out and keep getting rejected in the hopes of one day finding someone who is as passionate about my work as I am. Why am I saying all this? Because if I worked and worked until this novel was the best thing I've ever read, I'd never send it out. I'd take the manuscript to the grave with me. Even writers who are published often wish they could go back and redo something in their novels.

Anyway, Paul, I agree. And thanks for the mention in your post.

Carrie Harris said...

Yeah, that's a hard call. Because on one hand, if it's not one of the BEST manuscripts you've ever read, then the chances of it getting picked up aren't so hot. (I mean really, consider the odds.) But I think there's one essential distinction there: the best MANUSCRIPT. The books we see on the shelves have been worked over by umpteen talented editors, and the author has taken them apart and put them back together again lord knows how many times. So my benchmark is putting it against other mannies that I know have gotten picked up rather than ones that are published.

I dunno. It sounded good in my head.

Anita said...

Thanks for posting info about the John Green interview.

I read a lot of fabulous books and I'm not sure I will ever write as well as the authors who wrote those fabulous books...I think if I had developed my love for writing at an earlier age and had practiced, practiced, practiced, maybe I could have gotten to the almost-fabuolus stage.

Ray Veen said...

I subbed when I figured my MS's were as good as I could make them. Simple as that.

Have fun with Sarah. She's a nut.

Anita said...

Hey! John Green answered your question on my blog, FYI.