Monday, September 10, 2012

When Is My Manuscript Ready? Part 1

I’m getting ready to submit mt YA LDS historical fiction, The Seventh City. So close I can taste it. Like playing Hide and Seek and announcing “Ready or not, here I come!” Am I as ready as I think I am? Nobody wants to be obsessive, yet we don't want to submit too early. I've already made that mistake.

Revisions are a must and can be overdone, but I’m not talking about revision lists today. I’ve done those, blogged about those. We’re talking content here. Perhaps the most important readiness test comes from letting others read it, someone besides your mother. This takes courage for some, but I've always enjoyed letting others find and point out what may be hard for me to see. It makes my work easier. Through experience we learn to find trouble spots on our own.

Agent Lara Perkins wrote on this subject for the 2012 WriteOn Con. She says, “Have I shown my manuscript to at least 3 people and seriously considered their feedback?” She goes on to highly recommend joining a critique group. Check. My group helped me scene by scene, and I am indebted to them. Since that doesn’t allow for one’s memory to connect all the dots and tie the lose ends, it was important for me to seek beta readers who could read through a fairly polished MS in a short time. Again, I would suggest at least another 3 people. 

I have found a variety of depth in the feedback and am grateful for those who questioned everything they noticed. A writer has more in her head about what is going on than the reader and one reader will notice something different than another. Cherish and consider all feedback. Don't feel locked into it but make sure you have sound reasoning not to follow it. Occasionally you might get negative feedback that is not constructive. Not everyone states it in diplomatic, helpful ways. If one person has made you feel badly, consider the source and compare it against other feedback. We improve with practice and education. For those writers finding multiple layers of problems in their MS, hiring a content editor might be the way to go. 

Ms. Perkins also wants to see a hook, if the story works on a high level, and have her big-picture questions answered. We’ll take a look at what this means next week. For now, I’ll be waiting for what those final readers have to say. 

So how do you know when your MS is ready to submit to an agent or publisher?

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