Chased By Ghosts: The 24-hour Rule

Have you ever submitted work and then were chased by the Ghost of Hasty Submissions? Continuing with our cute Halloween Week theme, today’s topic is the standard advice for writers to let new drafts gestate, age, sit on the back burner or whatever you like to call it. I’ve been writing a while now, but I sometimes must remind myself not to jump the gun in submitting.
Writing Tip for Today: This kind of ghost is more like Scrooge’s “Christmas Past” than Casper the Friendly Ghost, and with the advent of email and online submission forms, the problem is probably worse. It may occur like this: You draft something that has you in the zone in seconds. You don’t come out of your world until dawn, when you’re seized by the idea that an editor, contest or agent will easily spot your brilliant prose and want to snatch it up. In that spirit, you hit send. You’re pumped!
But in the ensuing hours, days, you begin to rue your itchy mouse finger. A day or month later, you work up the courage to read your so-called brilliant work. Oh no! Not only are there typos, the piece is riddled with flabby language, faulty logic and frivolous digressions. The Ghost is on your heels.
This has actually happened to me and other writers I know. (OK, now you know I occasionally have visions of grandeur and think my work is brilliant. Don’t worry–this megalomania never lasts long.) I’ve adopted a 24-hour rule for short essays and stories and a two-week rule for queries, fiction proposals and other long works. In the two-week window, I seek out lots of feedback from the best sources I can get. How about you? Are there any Ghosts of Hasty Submissions chasing you?

Try This! What’s your rule for allowing your manuscripts time to gestate before you submit? A simple low-tech management technique is to log the life of a writing idea (including drafts, rewrites, etc) in a cheap notebook. Otherwise, you may want to submit only material that has been drafted and rewritten 3x, and critiqued at least 2x.

About Linda S. Clare

I'm an author, speaker, writing coach and mentor. I teach both fiction and nonfiction writing at Lane Community College and in the doctoral program as expert writing advisor for George Fox University. I love helping writers improve their craft and I'm both an avid reader and writer of stories about those with wounded hearts.

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