Now, now, before you go gettin' all quivery...
Last year, after an extensive round of edits with my agent that whipped my manuscript into the best shape it had been at that point (and during which time several editors asked to read it *gulp*) I wrote a post on how to know if your book is cooked.
Except, the problem was, my book wasn't. So editors who were 'very excited about the premise', turned it down.
It just wasn't ready.
(If you want to see why I'm eating humble-pie, check out this post, then come back here. I'll wait....)
Now, from what I gather, I'm not the first author to have experienced this. But it taught me something really important:
I'll probably never be finished until the book is on the shelf. (And, based on listening to a bunch of published authors out there, I'll probably wish I could change it later).
BUT that's kind of the beauty of this industry. We're always growing, always improving, always learning new skills (or should be).
I think the question you, me and everyone else who's writing should ask is: Have I got the right recipe? Whether the next step is revision, querying agents, submission to editors or self-publishing - your book might be as "cooked" as you're capable of getting it right now. If you find yourself reading through, changing sentences, then reading through and changing them back... you've probably reached your limit.
So, what next? How do you know it's ready to move along?
- Find a critique group (especially with someone more experienced than yourself) and listen to what they have to say, even if it hurts.
- Read a Really Good Fiction Craft Book.
- Put the manuscript aside for a couple of months and write something else, then come back to read with fresh eyes.
- Read another Really Good Fiction Craft Book.
- *CAUTION: USE WITH CARE*: Approach any professional contacts you might have and ask their advice.
The point is, even published authors haven't 'finished' a book until it's been through several rounds of editing. We-The-Aspiring's can't really expect to reach that level without professional help. The trick is to recognize when you've taken it as far as you can for now, then employ one of these techniques (or any others you can come up with). And the key to making any of these actually useful is a willingness to consider criticism as a springboard for improvement, rather than a failure of epic proportions.
Your Turn: Is your manuscript ready to move on? What helped you feel confident of that?