by R.C. Lewis
A few months ago, I wrote about accomplishment vs. prestige. Basically, lots of things are accomplishments, but some naturally have more prestige than others. It's important not to tear down others' accomplishments, but also not to assert that your own are more prestigious than they actually are.
I've been thinking about it some more and came to a related topic: Validation.
As writers, validation can come in many forms. Individually, we put more value in some forms than others. We aim for different targets. Some want the validation of an agent/editor deeming their work worthy. That makes sense. Others feel validation can only come from readers. Cool. Still others seek only to satisfy themselves, and feel that's the validation that counts. More power to 'em.
I won't say any of the above are the right or wrong way to go about things. But which camp you fall into will largely determine the route you take—the traditional get-an-agent path, submitting to small presses, or going it alone.
Deep down, I think we all want to feel the validation that our work isn't crap that's best left in the darkest recesses of our hard drives. Be warned, however, that no matter your course, you may take some hits on the way.
The validation of an agent taking on your work may never happen.
If you go indie, you may be on the receiving end of scathing reviews that feel a lot more like invalidation.
If you claim you only write for yourself and no one else's opinion matters, you may ignore both of the above and not realize that the work needs work. (Of course, if you really mean it that it's just for you, I suppose it doesn't matter. But in such a case, why bother setting it loose in the world?)
We fear a potential truth: Our work (at the moment) may actually be crap.
The bottom line, then, is not to be in such a hurry for validation that we don't present our best chance for getting that stamp of approval. Take your time. Learn the art of the query letter. Find some critique partners who'll give it to you straight.
In the meantime, find validation on a smaller scale. Compliments from a critique partner. An enthusiastic response from a beta reader. (My favorites are responses from teens involving capital letters representing incoherent sounds.) Your first request for a partial or full from an agent.
And keep working.
What's your take on the need for validation? How do you balance that desire with patience to get your best work done first?