Thursday, July 30, 2009

How Do You Know When You're Ready to Submit?

Nathan Bransford did a You Tell Me post in June on How Do You Know When Your Novel is Really Finished? The discussion that ensued was very interesting.

My friend, TS, asks me this all the time about picture books.

TS: How do I know when to submit?

ME: You submit when you think its as good as it can get.

TS: But isn't there always room for improvement?

ME: Yes, I guess. Okay, you submit when you think it's at a point where it is irresistible.

I think submitting too soon is one of the biggest mistakes that new writers make. I know I did it with my first two PB manuscripts.

When I submitted HOP PLOP (my fourth manuscript, but my third submission), it had been through critique groups and it had been revised many times. I couldn't imagine how anyone could read it and not fall in love with it. That's when you know you have a winner.

I read somewhere once a long time ago that if you drop it in the mail and walk away with a huge smile on your face, then it is ready.

I think that pretty much says it all.


Stephanie Faris said...

That definitely says it all. I think we could always fine tune something but I put it in the mail when I feel it is complete. I'm not the type who rakes through my manuscript for six months, agonizing over every word. I write it, set it aside, then come back to it once my mind is fresh and revise it. THEN, once I've gone through it and tweaked everything I saw that needed tweaking, I put it in the mail.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I must be an agonizer. I hope someday I smile and know it's ready. I'd like that. I have great respect for those of you who can let the babies go with a smile in your heart. Maybe you can bottle that?

Unknown said...

Love that line--when you can walk away smiling.

MeganRebekah said...

I'm not sure I will ever *smile* after sending out the MS, but if I don't fall to the ground in a heap of nerves, I'll think I'm ready.

storyqueen said...

Okay, how many of you kiss the envelope before you let it go?

(I saw a video on the JJK blog where he does this and I was like, *squee* I do this, too!)


lisa and laura said...

This is such a good question. We've definitely jumped the gun and sent out manuscripts that weren't ready, but I can't bring myself to regret it because without getting the feedback that we did from agents we'd never have been able to write a manuscript that was ready.

So, it's hard to know, but keep in mind that even if you do make some mistakes along the way if you pay attention and learn how to apply constructive feedback, you'll keep getting better.

Susan R. Mills said...

I submitted too soon. But I agree with Lisa and Laura. The rejections I got because of it are invaluable. I've grown a lot from it, and I think it was a necessary mistake to make, a necessary part of the process.

Tess said...

I think it says a lot if a writer asks "Is it ready?". that means they are in touch with the fact that not everything is publishable. It means they are thoughtful and should trust their instincts.

And, I like your idea of thinking it should be irrestible. perfect thought.

Weronika Janczuk said...

Agreed. :) It does, in fact, say it all.

Hardygirl said...

Hmmm. I'm an anxious submitter . . . I've felt great about some manuscripts that I've submitted, but I still have that fear factor.

I've been thinking about sprinkling my submissions with holy water from now on. Maybe that would help.


Little Ms J said...

This is a huge debate in my house right now. Mr. J doesn't understand the publishing world and can't for the life of him understand why I'm so hesitant to send my MS out. Actual conversation:

"Why haven't you queried more agents?"

"I don't think it's ready."

"You've been working on it forever."

"You don't just scribble something down and send it off. There's a lot of work."

He scowled, "I think I hate your book."

I had to laugh.

Corey Schwartz said...

Well, I think it's very different for those of you who write novels.

My picture books are usually under 500 words!

Sherrie Petersen said...

I think I'm too neurotic to walk away smiling. Ever.

batsick said...

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StaffPicks said...

My is ready after a ceremony of extreme unction. |:~)

Katie Anderson said...

Great question! I have sent mine out too early before, but, in my defense, I TOTALLY thought it was ready?!

I mean, it's hard to know. But now it's better - deliciously better. But I NEEDED those early rejections to show me areas that weren't ready. I couldn't see them on my own. And my critiquers didn't see them either.

So, my point it, that it's all a journey that really does work out in it's own bizarre time.

But I love the smile on your face image. That's great!

Anonymous said...

It's difficult for me to send anything out now because I know I've sent other manuscripts out too early.

I've gotten more picky, which I suppose is a good thing, but at the same time, it shouldn't prevent me from testing the waters. But I confess, I think I've lost all good sense of when my stories are ready. Is it possible to over-revise?

Corey Schwartz said...

Yes, Tara, I think it is possible to over-revise! I've done it and I've seen critique group members do it as well!

Clementine said...

When I first began writing, I used to race to the mailbox. I had to learn to MAKE myself put it aside. Because what really stinks, is when I find a major error, and then it's too late to fix it. After submitting too soon, one too many times, I finally learned my lesson...well, I hope I have! lol!