As more than 99% of manuscripts sent to agents and publishers are rejected, the theory is that more than 99% of them are not ready to be sent when they are.
Which is probably right.
The question of when to send a manuscript out is one of the hardest to answer because the truth is; it can always be better.
I got it wrong a few times but its literally trial and error. In Part 2 of this blog post, I’ll cover those occasions in detail but they share a common thread and that was that I thought I was ready – and the literary world did not share that view.
There are factors that get in the way too. Time being the biggest.
You’ve been writing for what seems like a long time – just to get to the end of the first draft, which for me took nine months – and there is a tendency to want to stop writing and find out if it’s any good. The problem with this, I found, was that at this stage you have absolutely no idea what good is and even if you did, the publishers and agents aren’t looking for good. Or great for that matter.
They need more than that. The best analogy I read – one that stuck with me – compared the person you’re sending it to with someone looking for gold. They are sifting through a hell of a lot of crap looking for a tiny nugget. The book I read asked ‘which piece of gold are they going to choose?’ and the instinctive answer is the shiniest.
‘No’ the author continued. They are going to choose the piece of gold that has been – and I’m paraphrasing here – made into a beautiful bracelet with a diamond set into it.
In other words, almost the finished article. Perfect, with virtually no need to do much with it. Do such manuscripts even exist? I’m not sure, but you quickly learn that having something 95% complete, 99% or even 99.9% isn’t going to cut it unless you are incredibly lucky.
But you don’t know what 100% ready looks like and sometimes, you can’t know until you begin to send it out and discover the hard way.
I know now, the hard way, that my initial attempts to send Child Taken out were woefully over-ambitious. If you’re going through this stage of the process now, you have my complete admiration and empathy. It’s tough. Not just tough but demoralising and with a lack of control that even the freest spirits would find hard to handle.
It’s also character building and helping you to acquire the thick skin that’ll come in useful later, but it doesn’t feel like that.
Instead you are always waiting, worrying, wondering; trying to second guess what other people are thinking and doing (it will almost certainly be not worrying about you) and it doesn’t go you a great deal of good.
The guide books say just send it out and get on with writing your next book.
If only it was as easy as that!
Next Time….Week Seven: Here I Come, Ready Or Not – Part 2