the washerwoman

Recently, I was chatting to a friend about our goals in relation to our writing, and we touched upon the subject of knowing when it’s ready.

It’s important to have the ability to gauge your progress as a writer. Part of that comes down to knowing when your work has reached a sufficient level of quality that it can be shopped around.

Perhaps my standards are too high, but “sufficient level of quality” for me means that even if the work doesn’t sell that it will leave a positive and memorable impression with the reader.

Often, there is a burning desire on the completion of a piece of writing to send it out, enter it into competitions, and apply for grants, etc. You have to be realistic about this urge, and you need to be able to answer the following question objectively: “Is it ready?”

My aim is that my writing should impress the reader on a number of levels: professionalism, craft, story, and originality. The last thing I want is for my name to be remembered for the wrong reasons.

I can improve the first impression an editor/producer/agent will have of my writing by working on it until it is ready. It is entirely within my control.

Thus I need a pragmatic attitude towards my work. Usually, I have to go away from a project for a number of days/weeks/months in order to get some perspective on it. If it’s a script I need about 4-6 weeks. With a short story it might be only a couple of days, or a week or two. During that period I seek feedback from my peers. Afterwards, I need a period of time to consider and incorporate the suggestions before I can tackle the piece again.

Normally I have a number of projects so that when I finish one I can roll on to another without any gap in my output.

Write, write, write.

It’s the only mantra worth repeating.

Unless it’s:

Write, re-write, write, re-write, write, re-write… lather, rinse, repeat.

It’s time to get back to the washing.