How Do You Know When Your Manuscript is Ready?

You have a story with a great hook. It’s unique and you think it can stand up in today’s marketplace. You want to send it out for consideration and of course you want your submission to be its very best! But how do you know when it’s ready? That seems to be one of the biggest questions writers have because let’s face it, it’s hard to judge your own work! Of course you must go through rounds of critiques and revisions. It also helps to have a checklist to go over so you can make sure your manuscript has all those elements it needs to make sure you have created a manuscript worthy of consideration. Of course, there are genre specific elements but some things to put on your list are:

  • Arc
  • Character growth
  • Problem that the main character resolves himself
  • Great descriptive words
  • Active verbs
  • Definite beginning, middle, and end
  • A great twist or surprise ending, or at least a satisfying one
  • Emotional depth
  • Dialogue flow and believability
  • Unique voice for each character, and the story as a whole
  • Pace that will keep readers engaged
  • Overall story flow

What other things can you do?

Read out loud. Yes, read your manuscript out loud. Perhaps numerous times. Yes, this can take a long time with a novel but it sure makes it easier to pinpoint places that drag, dialogue that needs to be pumped up, and even typos.

Take time off. It is amazing the new perspective with which you can see your manuscript if you put it away for a month and don’t think about it. (It helps to work on other things, of course.) Even a couple days or a week can do wonders.

Trusted readers. Having one or more people (whether they are your critique partners or others) who can read your work a number of times and tell you if it’s getting better…or worse…or can help you figure out which way to go when you are stuck…or can tell you that something is ready to go isn’t a luxury that we all have, but with the internet there are more possibilities than ever to find beta readers for your work.

After working through these elements many times, it seems to me that I decide something is ready to go when I start noticing that I’m just changing the same things back and forth.

So, revise, revise, revise! Take care of the technicalities (spelling, grammar, point of view, etc.) Double check that formatting to make sure it’s good to go. Write that query letter and synopsis (if you need one). Make that manuscript the very best you can make it. And when you think it is ready, send it out on submission and give it a chance. You’ll never know what might happen if you don’t give it a shot.

Want to know how other writers know their manuscript is ready? Read some author insights in How Do Authors Know When Their Manuscripts Are Ready?

Need more to think on? Check out:

10 Tests to Prove Your Manuscript is Ready from Ingrid Sundberg

Knowing When Your Manuscript is Ready to Submit by agent Lara Perkins

Is Your Manuscript Ready to Submit at Books & Such Literary

So tell us, how do you decide when your manuscript is ready for submission?

15 thoughts on “How Do You Know When Your Manuscript is Ready?

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    1. Hi Catherine, you are certainly welcome. 🙂 Having someone else read your work out loud is an excellent thing to do because they won’t emphasise things the way you would when reading your own work. But you do have to be brave! Way to go!

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  1. Alwaysa tricky question. I guess, for me, I’m never really READY but when the manuscript is as good adi Cab possibly get it with my skills at that time, then it’s go time.
    No doubt I’ll look at it in later years and think ‘oh no!’ but that, hopefully, will be because my skills have improved from where I used to be.

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    1. It is so tricky! And I think you’re right. There is a point where we just have to give it a try. The response we get can also be a helpful assessment tool and help us improve, especially when we get those personal notes. And improvement definitely happens with hard work. I know my writing and even my cover letters have improved tremendously over the years!

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  2. Great post and links. I was at the LA conference and the session, 10 Tests a Novel Must Pass to Prove It’s Really Ready for Submission to Editors, that Ingrid speaks about in that blog link. That presentation is one of the best sessions on the craft that I have ever attended . Very useful and valuable information. And not just for novels. Deborah Halverson is amazing!

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