It can be difficult for writers to determine when their work is ready for publication or submission. On the one hand, writers are sometimes unable to see flaws in their own work and might publish too soon. On the other, writers might be overly critical of their own work and unable to let go of it. So how do you strike the right balance? How do you know when your manuscript is ready?
The truth is, there’s no one way to know for sure. There isn’t a foolproof method of determining when your manuscript is ready. But there are several signs you can watch for to help determine its readiness. Here are a few:
- You haven’t revised
This one should go without saying, but it’s important enough that I’m going to say it anyway: you have to revise your work. A first draft isn’t ready. Every book needs some form of editing. Granted, some need more revision than others, and some writers produce fairly clean first drafts. But no manuscript is perfect the very first time; there’s always room for improvement. If you haven’t given your manuscript a substantial revision, it isn’t ready yet.
- You haven’t gotten feedback
It’s important to get feedback on your work before pursuing publication. Critique partners and beta readers are an invaluable resource who can identify problem areas and help you see past your own blind spots. Good feedback is crucial in helping you see the problems you wouldn’t be aware of otherwise.
- You haven’t gotten the right feedback
When seeking feedback, it’s important that you find fellow writers or editors to read your work, because they can identify issues that most other readers would miss. Your average reader won’t be familiar with craft or market issues and won’t be able to tell you how to improve your work. So while it might be fun to get good feedback from your circle of family and friends, don’t think that that’s all the feedback you need.
- Your readers recommend intensive changes
If feedback from your critique partners or other early readers suggests intensive or widespread changes, that can be discouraging, but it’s definitely a sign that your work could be improved. Even if you disagree with your critique partner or reader about the changes, it’s still a good indicator that something is amiss. And if more than one person is telling you the same thing, there’s almost definitely a problem there.
- You suspect it’s not ready
Writers often have good instincts, even if we sometimes ignore them. Case in point: When I was working on a middle grade project, I had a nagging feeling that the worldbuilding wasn’t deep enough—it wasn’t doing what it needed to be doing. But at the time, I wasn’t sure how to fix it, so I ignored the problem. But when my agent read the manuscript, one of the first revisions she suggested involved improving the worldbuilding. She was right, and if I’d listened to my instincts, I would have known it from the start. So pay close attention to what your gut is telling you. If you’ve been revising for ages and are only changing a word or two here or there, it’s time to let the manuscript go; but if you have that nagging feeling that there’s something wrong, pay attention to it. Dig deeper. Find ways to improve. Your manuscript—and your readers—will thank you for it.
What do you think? Do you struggle with evaluating your work? How do you judge when your work is ready? Let me know in the comments!
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