The one question every writer has is whether their manuscript is ready for submission. If not, when will it be? How much self-editing does one need? Should other people read the manuscript first, or should the writer just send everything in and hope for the best?
Here are a few thoughts on what to consider before submitting.
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When is a manuscript ready to be sent in?
Many would say never.
There’s always that one sentence you’re just not sure about. That one scene that just won’t come out right. All those ifs, buts, and maybes. And yes, they’re part of the process, but there are gages. There are scales to help you find out when your manuscript is probably ready to be submitted.
This is where it helps to think of white rice.
White rice, without husks, steaming.
Ask yourself: if my manuscript were rice, would it be ready for consumption?
You may say rice is a bland example, it is part of a dish, not the whole meal (though for many people a bowl of rice is the whole meal, but I digress).
Bear with me.
Think of white rice, without husks, steaming not as part of a meal, but rather as the food itself. Imagine the rice, maybe even the bowl it’s in – a smooth porcelain bowl in my case, medium-sized and leafy green with a tint of blue; and in this bowl there’s a mound of white rice, steaming gently, smelling great, ready to be, yes, eaten.
This white rice, without husks, steaming, is the result of a line of production: you have already harvested the rice and gotten rid of the worst, i.e. you have many pages that amount to a genuine story. The next step is to turn those pages into a manuscript. In white rice terms, the next step is making the food, from picking out the husks to cooking the rice, to the presentation of the rice before it is consumed.
Consumed? Why consumed?
Well, reading is a kind of consumption.
Loving to read is a bit like having a continuous appetite for stories. There is a genuine hunger for more. One can, after all, read voraciously. Some have admitted to “gobbling up” a book in one sitting. Others inhale whole series without pausing to stop and digest what they read – it’s just one glorious rush, leaving them saturated with words, scenes, characters, and worlds, pleasantly exhausted (or enraged; some series do have that effect, but again, I digress).
Work with it
Work with your script.
In white rice terms, to actually get the rice to be food people are happy to eat, you need to work with the rice until it is ready for consumption – for how many enjoy eating rice with husks and other kinds of strangeness in it? How many like to eat under-cooked or overcooked rice? Very few, I would say.
So, get rid of the husks and rinse: re-draft, re-write, and re-draft again. Then start cooking. This entails getting your story out there to people you can trust to be honest. Once you have their feedback, and if they’re honest there will be feedback, use that feedback. It might hurt at times, there will be misunderstandings, but listen first and see if you can utilise their feedback.
Make your manuscript a story that will be read with enjoyment and finished with a craving for more.
Consider your expectations.
When presented with a bowl of rice you ordered, you expect it to, at the very least, taste good. Same thing with the people reading your book: their expectation is, at the very least, a good read. And, yes, ‘a good read’ is a difficult thing to pin down, but pleasure (joy, thrill, excitement, you name it) is definitely a part of every definition, whether the story itself is lovely, sad, funny, thought-provoking, or plain disturbing.
So, when you picture your manuscript – what kind of read do you expect it to be?
A good read, a quick read, a fascinating read? Terrifying maybe, or a mind-blowing one? What reading-taste are you after? And does your manuscript ‘taste’ like that, and not just for you, for others as well?
Hence why it is so important to have others read your manuscript first before sending it to editors. Those close to you can tell you – if you trust their judgement and let them be honest – whether your ‘reading-taste’ is accurate. Let them read what you wrote. Expose yourself. Let them taste your cooking. Give them practice meals.
More than one kind
There are all kinds of rice. There are all kinds of writing.
Basmati or Bomba rice, Jasmine or Japanese, not to mention the variations of brown, black and red rice – there are all kinds of rice. The type of rice you have of course influences how you work with it. Same with the genre you’re writing in: literary, commercial, mystery, sci-fi, fantasy, niche etc. Don’t fall into the trap of forcing your story into one genre when it is clearly another. If you have brown rice, it’s brown rice. Cook it accordingly and find those who love brown rice, they will be happy to get a fresh and tasty bowl. There are always those who are interested in branching out, yes, but go for the brown-rice-lovers first, the black-rice aficionados, the red-rice fanatics. They’re the ones who will appreciate what you’re doing with your rice. Same with your writing
Each genre has its respective staple
recipes perspectives, plot-structures, narrative arcs etc.
That doesn’t mean you can’t experiment. Please, do! Experimentation is absolutely part of it, you just have to be aware of the prevalent expectations as well.
No matter the rice, though, the result should be something tasty, a genuine food to eat.
No matter the manuscript, though, the result should be something entertaining, a genuine book to read.
So, before you click that send-button or mail that hard-copy, ask yourself: is my
rice manuscript ready for consumption? If it is then send it out.
Don’t give up.
Keep on writing.