Heather asked: "How do you know when a book is 'done' enough to start sending it out on submission?"
And C. Lee McKenzie asked: "How do you know when a story just isn't going to work, give up and move on to a new project? "
At first glance these questions seem quite different, but the answers are remarkably similar. The thing is the manuscript is never ready. There is always more you can do, and you can drive yourself nuts doing it! We really need to ask ourselves if we've done our best and then what our time is best spent on. Here's checklist:
- Have you given the manuscript time to rest between revisions? It's essential for fresh perspective.
- Have you had critique partners and beta readers go through it? Have you revised sufficiently based on their notes?
- Have you done a pass for grammar, word choice, superfluous words (e.g., I could hear the bang), and general polish?
- Have you written a solid query letter and researched agents/editors?
- Are you at the point where you keep changing the same sentence back and forth? That's a good sign it's time to let go.
At this point you send it out. Test the waters. I recommend sending around five queries to start. Make sure each is personalized. Why do you want that agent? Hopefully not because you picked her out of a hat! See what your response is. If you don't get anything consider taking another look at your opening pages or query letter and try again. Rinse and repeat. He he. Then comes either the offer you've hoped for, or the realization that you aren't getting anywhere. How do you know it's time for the drawer?
My honest advice is to work on a new manuscript right away. To start something WHILE you are querying. It keeps your mind off things and helps keep your confidence up. With each thing we write, we get stronger. But if not, here's another checklist:
- Have you tried a hundred agents? That's a good number. No really. It's true. I'd say if you haven't hit sixty, you haven't done enough. But that's my opinion mind you.
- Have you made your query and manuscript as strong as you can?
- Are you going cross-eyed trying to figure out what else you can do?
- Have you written only one book?
Now this last one is very important. I believe it gets easier with each manuscript to distance yourself enough to be objective. Plus it looks good when you have more than one project. Keep writing. Perseverance is the key.