Submitting Your Shitty First Draft? Watch out, It May Backfire on You.
How my submission of a polished manuscript opened doors and helped the process.
“Just keep writing”, you may hear from many writers, who are proponents of filling up the pages and submitting their “shitty first drafts” to be edited. Taking the pressure off ourselves of writing pages of great quality may help us overcome our obsession over perfection. Anne Lamott in Bird by Bird says:
“Perfectionism is the voice of the oppressor, the enemy of the people. It will keep you cramped and insane your whole life, and it is the main obstacle between you and a shitty first draft.”
OK, I get it, the soul of a writer is fragile and the pressure we put on ourselves is crippling so accepting that we can submit imperfect work may liberate our pens and make us want to keep writing. But what if we found another way to keep going?
When I was writing Your Creative Career, I didn’t want to settle and accept that I won’t be submitting a draft of greatness. Even though I knew that my publisher Career Press would make sure my work goes though numerous edits, I decided to write with care. I had a luxury of working on my manuscript full time from January to July and yet I only set my daily writing goal at 500 words, 500 perfect words.
Here is how submitting a polished manuscript helped the process:
- I was able to secure endorsements based on the manuscript. Depending on your publisher and the publishing schedule, there may not be enough time to submit a fully edited work to the endorsers. I don’t think I would have been brave enough to send them my “shitty first draft.” I’m glad I was able to share my polished manuscript, which secured three endorsements.
- The polished manuscript made the developmental and line editing easier. I was excited to get an email from one of the editors stating that my work flows nicely and is coherent. I have only got a few queries regarding the manuscript so I’m able to focus on getting the book landing page done and completing other book marketing tasks.
Every publisher and publishing process is different, every author works differently as well. If worrying about the quality cripples us to the extend that we will keep editing and won’t finish our work, there may be some advantages of accepting the imperfect or reaching a happy medium somewhere between the imperfect and polished.
Every writer works differently and knows what keeps them going. For me, having a submission deadline was motivating enough to be able to keep taking the small daily steps of 500 words each and reach my 60,000 word goal by late July. There were days when I wrote 1,000 words or 2,000 words, which was helpful when my challenging to focus days arrived.
These words were not shitty however. My author ego and the drive to deliver my best draft wouldn’t have let me submit something I wasn’t proud of.
Newly minted speakers show up on stage apologizing for their incompetence or worse yet admit that they’re surprised for being chosen to speak. They are not being humble, they’re showing disrespect of our time.
This is my thought:
Submitting your “shitty first draft” is disrespectful to the editor.
It’s as unacceptable as when an entrepreneur submits a huge pile of expense receipts to their accountant. Mine said he would charge me $10,000 to add them up and put them neatly in excel.
If you feel liberated by the thought of submitting imperfect, consider shifting your motivation target and working on creating and following a writing routine.
Represent, show your best self without counting on edits. The world rewards greatness.
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