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January 12, 2011

You Only Get One Read

(or, in Zack Kaplan's words: "Save The Read.")

In the acknowledgments section of Steve Martin's amazing autobiography, 'Born Standing Up,' Martin thanks all the people who helped him--especially those who read his early drafts:


It's an important rule  you learn really quickly, in a very painful way. You show someone something, and then realize how bad it is. And there's no going back.

The implications for this on a career level are massive. You never want to show anyone in the industry something you aren't absolutely sure is ready. Because of this, it's very hard to justify partial submissions these days (ie sending an editor/publisher the first 100 pages of your manuscript). This used to work--especially for writers who had already published--but it's a bad idea these days. The industry responds to good material, but it has to be complete and it has to be ready. This month, when my agent told me it would be a  bad idea to submit a partial, I realized I had wanted to do it out of impatience--why else would I be breaking this sacred rule? It's gotta be perfect.

Save The Show
Jason Latimer
Steve Martin started out as a magician, so I think it's worth mentioning that "Save The Read" has a direct crossover with magic. When working on a new effect, you cannot bring it out until you are very, very confident performing it. When you first show it to a trusted friend before anonymous audience members, he or she watches your new material in the same way a trusted friend might read a new manuscript--you only get one shot, because next time they know what to expect. Ultimately, every audience member you encounter can only experience an effect once before it changes for them. As Jason Latimer says, "The first time you see it, it's magic. The second time you see it, it's education."

So Save It.

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