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Is it Really Ready?

In yesterday's comments, PJ Hoover mentioned that's it's hard to know when a manuscript is ready for querying.  "Is it ever ready?" she asked.  As I responded there, no, it's never going to be 100% ready.  You could revise and rewrite something your entire life.  Truly, you could.  But I think we often know in our gut if we're jumping the gun, if we're skimping on revisions or edits or passes we know we should do. 

I honestly believe there's a point you get to, when you've done everything you can with the help and resources you have available, where you can be reasonably confident it's ready.  You've revised, you've had the MS read and critiqued, you've revised again, you've line edited, you've set it aside for awhile and tweaked it yet again, and you can read through it and enjoy it without pause, without wanting to stop and adjust.  If you're not feeling pretty darn confident it's ready to go, it's probably not ready to go. 

I was pleasantly surprised when I opened up my Google Reader and found a new post by Darcy Patterson of Fiction Notes (previously Revision Notes) called "How Many Times Do You Revise?"  She shares some of the same sentiments and puts it better than I ever could - check it out!  Actually, check out the entire Fiction Notes site.  There is post after post of golden advice on revision.  I could post a linkfest of favorites.

I feel I have to add a disclaimer here, I've never queried - none of my projects have been ready (I can say that with certainty).  So I'd like to elicit the opinion of those who have experience on both sides, do you agree or disagree with my feelings on this?   How did you know (or not know) your manuscript was ready for querying?


Fran Caldwell said...

Because, like most writers, I'm a perfectionist, the work is never quite ready. Perhaps just one look, one more reading...

But there comes a point where you have to turn of your editing switch, your critic's eye, and just go with it.

If we don't do that, we may never get that baby to bed.

Casey Something said...

Very true, Fran.

And you're another great example. You did everything you could and got your baby out there. Congrats again on your agent!

Suzanne Young said...

I can't wait for you to query! yay!

For me, more than anything, I felt I was ready to query when my idea was complete. I always knew I'd need to edit more, that never ends. But does the heart of the story come through?

But that was just me. I queried like 6 books. haha

Casey Something said...

You crack me up, Suz.

I can't wait to query either but boy does it feel a long way off still.

And gee, if only we all had six books+ waiting around to be queried, not to mention four-book contracts!

(I'm totally sticking my tongue out at you right now.)

: )

PJ Hoover said...

I think as we evolve as writers we get a better feel for this. So a beginning writer may truly feel something is ready, and I don't see anything with querying at this point. It's all part of the learning process. And the right rejection may be just what is needed to take the writer to the next step. An agent may say "way too much backstory" and a lightbulb may go on inside the writer's head.

Casey Something said...

I can see what you're saying, PJ. Great point.

I've noticed, lately, that certain nuances in writing come to me like nuances in grammar. It's a sometimes subtle understanding that takes practice.

Compound adjectives for example. A person may read and learn the rules but it takes exposure through reading and practice to immediately know when they're needed.

Does that make any sense? LOL.

Anyway, I can definitely see that understanding and skill taking a lot of time and practice to evolve.

Matt said...

I agree with Fran that there comes a time to go with it, but I never think my work is ready. I tend to look something over even after I sent it out and cringe about things I should've changed, or cut, or put in.

I'm generally talking about shorter works here, of course. Even when I see my work accepted and printed in magazines or on sites, I rarely read them (beyond the proofs I'm initially sent) just because I always think I could've done better!

Its so hard to turn that editing switch off sometimes!

Casey Something said...

Thank you for commenting Matt! It's good to hear from you.

I agree. It is hard to turn off that internal editor. I've been thinking more on this subject, and I think it's a combination of several things.

Suz has a particularly good point. Part of what frustrates me about my current WIP is that I know my idea - what I want the story to be - isn't there yet.

I still feel like I'll know when it's ready in the sense that I'll have had people read it and critique it and be able to gauge if I think it's ready and they think it's ready, but you, Fran, and PJ also bring up a good point that you have to turn that editor off eventually and just let it go. Then, as we practice this little submission dance, we'll slowly be better able to gauge if the story is really there.

Great conversation everyone!