For the last two months I’ve been positively burning to start querying. It seems like all around me my writer friends are getting requests for fulls, partials, or offers from amazing agents. Then pitmad came…and went. I badly wanted to enter, but I knew my manuscript wasn’t ready yet. I’d polished it to a dull gleam, but it wasn’t shiny.
The next step: beta readers. I needed a fresh pair of eyes, since I’d reached the stage where my own eyes were glazing over like donuts every time I read the stupid thing.
But now…now I’m ready. Well, almost ready. As soon as my beta readers are finished weighing in, I get to put in the last changes, polish it up one more time and then send the pretty, shiny manuscript out into the world.
Okay, so it may take awhile, but I can always do other stuff in the meantime: write a new story, network with other writers, write this blog entry. The list goes on.
So how do you know when your manuscript is ready to go?
I’m still slowly figuring this out, but below are a few indications that you might be ready to query literary agents.
1) You’ve read over it a kajillian times.
Is kajillian even a real number? You don’t know. All you know is that you’ve read your manuscript at least that many times. In fact, you’d rather stick a rusty fork in both eyes than read it again. Okay, that’s an exaggeration, but you’re pretty tempted to set the manuscript on fire and scatter the ashes on the highway for the cars to run over.
2) Two or more beta readers have seen it.
You’ve seen your manuscript too many times to be objective anymore, but that’s okay, your beta readers will find things for you! The best ones click so perfectly that you agree with sixty percent of what they say, and they find things that make you say, “Oooooh”. Occasionally they say something like, “You should rewrite half this book” and you want to shoot yourself, because you know it’s true.
Remember to make sure your manuscript has been read by more than one beta, and I don’t mean your beta and your mom. You need someone who is going to be merciless on your mistakes, and your mom isn’t going to tear you and your manuscript to ribbons. Or…maybe she is. In which case, go mom!
3) Gut Instinct
I know, big fat help that is. But you’ll know when it’s really done. You’ll have this feeling in your gut about it. Just make sure you can tell the difference between that feeling, and the bad taco meat you had last night.
Most importantly, when you don’t have that feeling, and you know it needs more work, listen to your instincts. Don’t send it to literary agents if it isn’t as perfect as it can possibly be.
4) Line edits
You’ve got that feeeeeling! You want to sing it to the mountain tops! Your manuscript is finally ready! But wait, it isn’t. First you need to do one last round of edits. Something you’ve saved to the very end, if you’re smart. This means the nitty gritty, not so fun part. Going over your manuscript to make sure there are no spelling or grammar mistakes, and that everything sounds the way you want it to. Tweak awkward lines, too-long paragraphs, punctuation issues. Make it sparkle.
After that, send it out. After that, go eat some chocolate, drink some champagne. You deserve it.
Where are you at right now?
Which stage are you at in your manuscript? Are you just starting? Are you putting the final touch on it? How do you celebrate when your manuscript is finally finished?