Elaine Kiely Kearns, Children’s Writer
That is a really good question and I think that it may be a little different for everyone you ask. For me, though, I feel that my manuscript is complete when it has gone through the following stages:
1.) I have written and rewritten my draft at least three times by myself.
2.) I have had the manuscript critiqued by the members of my group.
3.) Based on that feedback, I have revised the manuscript again.
4.) Then, I send the manuscript off to my freelance editor for critiquing and general feedback based on its strength and marketability.
5.) I revise again based on her feedback.
6.) After another pass to the freelance editor, I send it back again to my critique group.
7.) Usually by then the suggestions from the group are minor. Only then do I feel it is ready to be subbed around to agents and editors.
This procedure is lengthy, and it requires lots of revision hours and patience! It has worked for me so far though, I have received great feedback from agents, and a few have even requested additional manuscripts. I also recommend reading Ann Whitford Paul’s book, Writing Picture Books: A Hands-On Guide from Story Creation to Publication. I use that book to get me through the drafting process and initial revisions. If you’re a picture book author, that book is a MUST!
Thanks for having me visit your blog today, Alayne!
Cindy Williams Schrauben, Children’s Writer
This is one of the hardest question of all – for me, anyway. It is one that has taken me quite some time to reconcile. In fact, I still struggle with it at times. Feeling comfortable with the answer has required some self-imposed rules and “tough love.” I marvel when I look back at some of my early stories – stories that I loved. YUCK! Not only has my writing improved, but I can see that they simply weren’t ready. It is extremely difficult to be objective with your own work unless you are diligent. If you have a story that you have worked on over a long period of time, take a look back at an early draft – you’ll see what I mean.
So, here are a few simple, common sense guidelines that I have set for myself.
#1 – Write – follow all the rules for first drafts, revising, editing, etc.
#2 – Let it sit for at least a week, preferably longer – you’re too close to your story to see it clearly. You need distance to develop a fresh, objective eye.
#3 – Revise
#4 – Share – recruit new eyes
Share your work with other writers – ALWAYS. Relatives, friends, your kids? Sorry, they don’t count. Remember you should be true to your own work, but critiques almost always have some merit. If you get a critique that is tough to digest, read it over quickly – swear, cry, whatever you need to do – and then let it sit for a couple days. If you are anything like me, you will realize when you revisit it that there is wisdom there after all.
#5 – Revise, using the critique and your own best judgment. Be true to yourself while weighing the opinions of others.
#6 – When you can’t stand to look at it another minute – STOP – don’t submit – let it sit, again.
#7 – Start all Over
Revise, print, read aloud 100 times, evaluate title, share, let it sit.
This step might be repeated many times over a period of weeks, months or even years – give it as long as it takes. If you just can’t stand to look at it anymore, let it rest for a while – a long while. Never send off a story just because you are sick of looking at it. Chances are, it’s not ready.
#8 – When you LOVE it again and feel confident – DO IT! Congratulate yourself and don’t look back.
Alayne Kay Christian, Award Winning Children’s Author
Represented by Erzsi Deak, Hen&ink Literary Studio
Most of what I would have shared has been shared by the other team members. One thing I would like to mention doesn’t exactly have to do with how to know when your manuscript is ready to submit. But it is about when you know “you” are ready to submit. If you only have one polished manuscript, it would be smart to wait to submit. It is common for agents and editors to request more work if they like the manuscript you have submitted. Therefore, it is wise to have at least three (preferably more) polished manuscripts before you begin submitting.
Since the team did such a great job of answering this question, I spent my time researching what other people have to say on the subject. Following are some links for more excellent tips regarding being ready to submit.
Is Your Manuscript Ready for Submission?
8 Essential Steps Before Submitting Your Manuscript, by Karen Cioffi
10 Tests to Prove Your Manuscript is Ready for Submission, by Ingrid Sundberg
Ready or Not, Here I Sub, by Tara Lazar
Is Your Manuscript Ready to be Submitted to a Children’s Book Publisher? from Write4Kids
Is Your Manuscript Ready to Submit, by Mary Keeley