4 Signs That Your Manuscript Isn’t Ready

Photo credit: Arnett Gill on Flickr
We all know that writing a book is hard, and in many ways, deciding whether or not your MS is ready for publication or submission can be even harder. It’s never easy to look at our work critically, and sometimes our own eagerness can cause us to overlook issues and release our work prematurely—or on the flip side, hold on to it for too long. 

While there isn’t a foolproof way of determining whether or not your manuscript is ready to release to the world, there are signs that your manuscript isn’t ready that are important to pay attention to.  
  1. It’s a first draft. I don’t care how incredible your first draft is, every book needs editing. Some WIPs need more editing then others, and if you happen to be among the lucky few who write very clean, polished first drafts, then it’s not unlikely that you won’t need a huge amount of editing. But every WIP can be improved, and if you release your first draft to the world, you’re doing yourself a great disservice. 

  2. You haven’t utilized critique partners. Confession: I queried my first three manuscripts before showing them to experienced critique partners. I did have some feedback, but as it wasn’t from experienced writers, it wasn’t as intensive as I needed—I just didn’t realize it yet. Unsurprisingly, those WIPs didn’t garner much interest because they weren’t ready. And I would have known that, had I utilized the power of the writing community.

    I’m telling you this, because I know how easy it is to edit your own work and think this is good. It’s ready. I know how easy it is to give your MS to a couple close non-writer friends and family and think that their feedback is all that you need.

    It’s not. If you’re serious about your writing career and want to make your manuscripts the very best that they can be, then you need critique partners. Learn from my mistakes: you don’t want a publishing professional to be the first person outside of your inner circle of family and friends to look at your manuscript. 

  3. Your CPs recommend major or widespread changes. It’s not fun to hear from CPs that you need intensive changes in your WIP, but if you have more than one CP suggesting widespread changes, it’s probably a good sign that your WIP needs more work before sending it out. 

  4. You suspect it’s not ready. We writers have pretty decent instincts when it comes to our work—we just tend to ignore them at times. If you’re fighting the nagging sensation that your MS still needs work, and you also fit into one or some of the other signs, you may want to seriously consider holding on to your WIP for a little longer. 

What signs do you look for when determining whether or not your WIP is ready? 

Twitter-sized bites: 
Think your MS is ready for querying? Here are four signs that it might not be. (Click to tweet)
Four signs to look for when deciding whether or not to start querying your latest MS. (Click to tweet)


Ciara Ballintyne said...

If it's a first draft, it's not even ready for editing yet. Revisions come before editing. As a minimum I think there is a first draft, a second draft (after author's own revisions for problems they can spot), third draft (after feedback from critique partners), and then it goes to the editor. There may be one or more iterations after editing as well. Some published authors I know of do 8 - 12 drafts (for very large books) before it's finalised.

Ava Jae said...

Well yes, when I say "editing" I didn't mean line editing. It's not technically correct, but I tend to group editing and revisions in the same step in my head, but you're right—first drafts are definitely not ready for line-editing. And I agree with your minimum. Thanks for sharing, Ciara!

Robin Red said...

Wait, line-editing? Group editing? Another post please.

Ava Jae said...

I'll have to add "different kinds of editing" to my list of blog post ideas. Although I didn't mean "group editing" I meant that I "group editing and revisions" together. :)

Jen Donohue said...

A good, short list!

And I especially agree with #3: I do need critique partners. Have to work on that!

Ava Jae said...

Thanks Jen! And yes, critique partners are ridiculously helpful.

M Kinnel said...

I recently joined CritiqueCircle.com and posted two short stories on there. I got some really good insight on what needed work as well as what could stay. Because eight or more people can review your work, you get a wide array of opinions. That can be a little challenging. The next step in my journey is to join a local critique group that I've been "stalking". My hopes are to find two to three people who can be my go-to partners as well as vice versa.

Ava Jae said...

That's great! I haven't heard of Critique Circle, but the few times I've had an opportunity to have many people critique something, I've found it very helpful. Sometimes it can be a little confusing (particularly when people contradict each other), but it's helpful nonetheless.

Local critique groups sound like fun. I wish you all the best with your search!

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