Discussion: How Do You Know When Your MS is Query-Ready?

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Entering the query wars, is, by and large, somewhat terrifying. It’s when you release the book you’ve been slaving over for several months (or even years!) to be reviewed by publishing pros. It’s when your first rejections will inevitably come in and you’ll hop onto the emotional roller coaster that’s the life of a writer trying to get published.

I’ve often talked about being careful not to submit your manuscript too soon—something that can lead to rejections that could’ve been otherwise avoided. But trying to determine whether or not your manuscript is ready for submitting can be tough—after all, it’s extremely difficult (maybe impossible?) to be completely objective about our work.

So how do you know when your manuscript is query-ready?

  1. It’s been through several drafts. When I say “draft” I don’t mean you’ve gone through it and fixed spelling errors. When you revise your work, you need to really revise—that means making plot, scene, character, world building, pacing, and voice changes. That means writing new scenes and deleting unnecessary ones and rewriting and rewriting and rewriting until you get it right. How many drafts that’ll take depends on you and your manuscript, but it will MOST LIKELY be more than one. 

  2. Your critique partners think it’s good to go. I encourage writers to have several rounds of critiques with their critique partners and beta readers, with edits in between. That way, you can see if the changes you’ve made based off previous feedback was effective, or if it needs more work, etc. If you do the multiple-round method with your partners, eventually you will likely start to get comments along the lines of “if you make x and x changes, you’ll probably be set!” and that’s when you know you’re THIS close. Make the changes. Then you might be ready. 

  3. The only changes you can (honestly) think of are sentence-level tweaks. At some point, you’ll be staring at your manuscript after many many edits and you’ll catch yourself moving commas around and changing that word back and forth and obsessing over tweaks that quite frankly? Aren’t going to be a deal breaker. When you hit this point, you either need more beta/CP feedback (if you haven’t had some already) or you’re likely ready to submit. 

All of that said, you might go through those steps then years later look back and say, “yeah, it wasn’t ready.” It happens to all of us (including me, several times over). But I do think if you pass those three stages, you’ll be much closer to being query-ready than you were before.

Also, here are four signs that your manuscript absolutely isn’t ready.

How do YOU know when your MS is query-ready?

Twitter-sized bites: 
Is your MS query-ready? Writer @Ava_Jae shares three signs to look for when deciding.  #writetip (Click to tweet)  
How do you know when your MS is query-ready? @Ava_Jae shares three signs to look out for. (Click to tweet

2 comments:

Darth Lolita said...

I'm still fixing my novel--going on one more revision/rewrite round--but it won't be long before I have to seek out critique partners. And something I'm worried about is that I won't have anyone who's willing to read the whole thing and help me out with it.


I know some writers swap their stuff to make it more fair, but I guess I'm still a little worried about beta readers. I do hope I'll have some luck in that.

Ava Jae said...

Swapping is the most common beta/CP "currency" best I can tell. If you'd like some resources as to where to find CPs, I actually have a post on exactly that. You may also find this post on determining a good CP match helpful, too.


Good luck!

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