Monday, November 3, 2014

IS IT READY TO SEND OUT? by James Mihaley

Is your manuscript ready to send out to agents?  Does everyone in your writing group think it’s great but you keep holding onto it?  Are you convinced that the ending still needs some work?  Do you need to trim some fat off the plot?  Should you add more humor?  Is the dialogue sharp enough?  These are a few of the questions that haunt us as we clutch our manuscripts to our breasts, afraid to put them out into the world. 

Obviously it makes sense not to submit a ragged manuscript but in my opinion writers often hold onto their novels far too long before sending them to agents.  It’s been my experience that if she thinks the work is marketable an agent will be willing to work with you in order to polish the book before passing it on to an editor. 

An effective approach is to submit your ms to three agents.  If all three reject you then by no means have you squandered your chance to get published.  There are dozens of reputable agents in the field of children’s literature.  Those three rejections and the feedback you may receive from the agents could be invaluable in pointing out the areas of your ms that need to be reworked.

If intelligent friends and co-writers keep telling you that your book is remarkable then maybe it is.  Maybe you should believe them.  I say send it out.  Stop trying to make it perfect.  Winston Churchill said, “Another name for perfectionism is paralysis.”

Is the heart of your novel present?  Is your voice unmistakable?  Is the plot solid?  Is your opening powerful?  Does you ending pack a wallop?  Then send it off and move on to your next book! 


  1. I agree that it's so important to work on new projects! But I think that sometimes it's so hard to know whether a manuscript is "ready". There's always something more that can be done to improve it. I am definitely guilty of wanting to make it perfect.

  2. Great advice! Personally, I would never send out anything less than a 4th draft -- but that's a far cry from hanging on to it while you do the 12th round of "tweaking." If the changes you're making amount to fiddling with individual sentences ... it's ready to go!

    On the other hand: DO NOT send out a NaNo manuscript in December. Just don't. :)

  3. I agree with Dianne!

    As for receiving feedback from queried agents/editors--in my experience if they even send back a non-form reply, you've struck some sort of goldish metal. You're much better off finding a trusted critique group who are not afraid to pull punches about your work.

  4. I used to have the opposite problem. No patience, hence sending things out way too early...even after they'd been pulled apart.

  5. Good advice, James. I started querying my third MG novel manuscript in its 7th draft. I got a few form rejections (or worse, the dreaded no response) and one request for a full. So you never know.

  6. I made the mistake many years ago of sending out too early. Now I hold onto my three completed manuscripts and protect them like a father. I agree with Michael - find someone who will be critical of your work. The more eyes the better. It takes time, but eventually the rewrites become less and less. Thanks for the interesting post.

  7. Maybe there's a bit of self-interest at work here, but if you want to make the best impression on those three agents--and with most agents, your manuscript only gets one shot--it often pays to bring in an editor *before* you submit. That way, you have a far more precise understanding of the issues in your manuscript, a clear direction for your revisions, and a much better shot at getting a favorite agent's attention.

    Harrison Demchick
    Self-Serving Developmental Editor, Ambitious Enterprises

  8. Churchhill is absolutely right. Sometimes we hold unto things too tightly. Let it go writers, let your manuscript fly. After you're done editing it of course.


Thanks for adding to the mayhem!