Sometimes the worst thing that can happen is to be published

(Says the unpublished writer…)

I was thinking about this yesterday as I was hiking.  I have a short story I started about a month ago that I’ve put away for now because I can’t do it justice yet.  It’s based on an idea that I’ve had for a few years now and the first draft I wrote is…adequate.  But it’s not as good as the story can be.

It’s even possible that if I sent this story to my betas that they might really like it.  It could even appeal to someone enough to get published.

But what if it does?  What if this mediocre execution of a great idea gets published?  And then I grow as a writer to the point where I can write an amazing version of this story, but it’s too late because I already published the so-so version?

I think that may be why some authors return to certain themes over and over in their writing.  They’re trying to express something that early in their careers they aren’t able to express to their satisfaction, so they keep working at it.  (Sometimes they just like certain ideas…)

I had a poem published in college.  The editor insisted on removing the last line of the poem and to this day I kick myself for letting her.  That last line meant something in the poem and removing it changed it in a way I hadn’t intended.  But I was so eager to see the poem published that I agreed to it.  Now the only person who knows what that poem really said is me.  I still regret publishing that poem in that form to this day.

Which is not to say that editing isn’t an important part of the process.  As someone who wants to write novels, I realize that accepting critiques and feedback on my stories will make them stronger.  But I think it’s important to be careful about who you allow to change your work.

I was reading Jennifer Weiner’s blog yesterday and she tells a story about finding her first agent and she talks about how she turned down an offer for representation from someone who didn’t get her writing.  The prospective agent wanted to change the title to something offensive and voiced a concern that the idea of the novel wouldn’t sell.  She said no and found someone who loved the title and the idea.  It was probably the best decision she made for her entire writing career.

When you’ve struggled to create something and someone offers to publish it, it’s hard to say no.  But I think sometimes it may be the best decision.  Better to save an idea until you can do it justice.  And better to pass on an offer of representation or publication that doesn’t feel right.

About M. H. Lee

M.H. Lee is a speculative fiction writer currently residing in Colorado whose stories are sometimes dark, sometimes funny, sometimes darkly funny, but hopefully always thought-provoking and entertaining.
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