I’ve learnt from personal experience (and plenty of it bad) that sometimes, when you think your work is pretty awesome, it isn’t. I did it with my first novel, Beyond Tor. Just because I was impressed with myself for finishing a novel, doesn’t mean it isn’t a piece of crap.
But I was naive then. So, with a severe case of enthusiasm-blindness, I sent it to agents. The replies were, as I’m sure you’re expecting, not great. They were also super-fast (never a good sign, as far as I’ve ever seen).
What has this taught me? Patience, mostly. But it’s also taught me the benefits of letting a story/novel/poem simmer after it’s done. Go away, write something else, come back to it. You’ve heard it a hundred times in a hundred different places, but it’s still the best advice I can dish out. And this isn’t just my work I’m talking about, either. Over the last couple of years, I’ve helped other writers to hone their work, too. Not all of them could take constructive criticism and ideas (which is the worst kind of writer to be). I don’t care if you’re J.R.R. Tolkein, J.K. Rowling or J.M. Coetzee, you need to take criticism and see it as a positive. It will only make your work stronger if you bear other people’s opinions in mind. But the people who did listen, improved.
I’m not blowing my own trumpet, because I didn’t do any of the work. They all did it themselves, just bearing in mind what an impartial reader saw of their work. Because there are invariably things you miss. Your characters are alive in your head and so you know them down to their finest nuances. But getting these across to your reader, or at least the ones that are important, isn’t so easy. Let someone else read it, and then shine a light in their eyes and grill them! Does your main character’s tendency to exaggerate come across properly? What about their age, if it’s important? What do they think the subtext might be? Why are they in a private hospital room in their post-apocalyptic setting and there’s the sound of air-conditioning?
While your crazy interogation-eyes might lose you a friend every time you try this, it’ll make your writing better. Totally worth it!
There are far too many e-published stories out there that are seriously sub-par, but will charge you for the privilege of finding that out. Don’t be one of those people. Readers want quality, just like you would. So be what they want and they’ll come back to you every time.
So the question was: Are You Ready?
The answer: Not as much as you’d think.
What to do about it: Patience, my dear. Read, think, edit.