Knowing You’re Good Enough

I had the pleasure of attending Fyrecon this week.

It’s a smaller speculative fiction convention, catering to writers, artists, and game makers (and less toward consumers). And for this conference I have a remarkable advantage, since I live within the same small town (Layton, Utah) where it is held. Attending is not a great difficulty for me.

But I wasn’t entirely on board with attending until just this past week. Ultimately, I’m glad I went, but the reasons I hesitated are valid even now.

Because there’s only so much that conventions and conferences can do for me anymore.

Preaching to the Choir

Back when I was starting out, conventions like these were particularly useful to me, since I had never interacted with professional writers, editors, or agents and had no idea what the established practices of the industry are.

But now that I have learned the profession, and am aware of what is required, I find these kinds of conferences to be useful as refreshers, at best. The book I’m currently shopping around was written with a knowledge of what professional work looks like.

So when the presenters talk about structure (which they do a lot of), I find that I am already a structurist, and have already implemented the principles being taught.

And when they say make your reader cry, my book has already done that. One of my alpha readers had their manuscript stolen by a friend who was curious, and she cried when she saw what I did with my ending, despite not knowing who I was.

And when they say build the tension and raise the stakes, make everything worse and worse until the end, when it gets better, I’ve already done that.

(Coincidentally, during the conference, I got feedback from an editor I had submitted to, and the most positive thing he said about my book is that I should teach a master class in tension. It made my day.)

So my book’s at the point where it’s already doing what great books do. And though it will still have to be edited before it lands on the market, I feel comfortable making this bold assessment.

I Know I’m Ready

I know everyone is sick and tired of hearing me say this, but the book I’m selling has a guarantee: if you read it, you will publish it. The only challenge I have is getting a publisher to read it.

Because plenty of people will read the first line, or the first page, or even the first chapter. But that’s not reading a book. I wouldn’t claim to have read War and Peace after I’d only skimmed the opening paragraph. Would you?

But that first one to finish the book will agree to publish it. That’s my promise. And I’m stubborn enough to keep repeating it.

And the reason I can be so confident of this is because I keep getting confirmation, from readers who have never met me, from industry professionals who claim to be looking for exactly what I’m selling, and from the book itself, which stands as its own testament of its value.

Applying It to YOU

But more importantly, this gives me a bit of insight that can help other writers who are staring out. One question often asked by budding authors, including quite a few at Fyrecon last week, was “How do I know when the book is ready to send out?”

And while it would be a mistake to say the answer is simple (there is no foolproof algorithm that will give you an up-or-down approval here), I now have enough of a degree of expertise to answer that question.

The book is ready to send out once you have confirmation that it is sellable. These confirmations can come from readers, from technique, and from the lessons set forth by professional authors.

Readers can tell you up front whether they would purchase such a book, and that is a data point.

Learning actual writing technique, and comparing your own work against established rules and guidelines, is another data point.

Measuring yourself against already published authors is another data point.

If you have at least two data points, and both are positive, then you have two witnesses to the quality and viability of your work. If you have three or more data points, then you have confirmation that you’ve struct something big.

And once you have confirmation, you should start submitting. Too much time spent polishing your manuscript can send it off the rails. No matter how perfect you make it, it will still need editing. If you have confirmation, then you know that somewhere underneath all the flaws is something golden.

Take a deep breath, and let your arrow fly. It can’t stay nocked forever.

I am deeply grateful for conventions like Fyrecon, which, if nothing else, can make this lesson apparent. I also may have found, there, a few extra avenues to help my book get published. I’m going to be try a few things in the coming weeks.

If they work, I’ll be sure to let you know.