So, the age old question of wannabe authors (of which I am one, of course, so take this post with a hefty grain of salt): When is my manuscript ready to send to agents?
Here’s what I’ve learned (a reminder about that grain of salt, since I’m sure I’ll continue learning). Growing your writing skills is essential and an ongoing process. I’ve found my beta readers to be essential to bettering my manuscript, but for me they weren’t enough, by themselves. Reading quality books in the same genre was also essential. The same issues in style and structure that I’ve faced in my writing, other authors have also faced, and reading their published works lets me glean a little of how they solved those issues. I have found that reading at the same level gave better results: reading Middle Grade books is entertaining, but didn’t grow my skills as much as reading Adult books.
I have learned that just because a book is published doesn’t mean I can learn from it. I used to be the kind of person that finished every book I started, but I no longer have time for that. If I find too many plot holes and inconsistencies, I’m done. I need to read books with storytelling far beyond my own current ability (and sometimes more than once, because usually I can’t pay enough attention to structure, etc on the first read on account of the overwhelming amount of awesome). However, I’ve found that I don’t need to stick too tightly to my own chosen genre. While I write epic fantasy, I’ve also found that urban fantasy can give me some good tips and tricks on how to show the world to the reader.
What I’ve noticed is that I go through stages. I write, and I think it’s good, and then I send it away or let it sit and read, and then when I look at it again, I’m like, “Wait, I thought this was good?” So I button it up again and feel pretty proud of myself, and the cycle repeats. But through this, my skill grows, and my first drafts of other projects are significantly better than the first draft of the previous project, and I can see a lot of errors or problems that I didn’t see before. All of this is good.
I’ve read from agents that the right time to send your manuscript is when you can think of nothing else to do to it. This is what I’ve done, and will continue doing, even though it sucks. I know that my writing skill will continue to improve, and I worry that I’m burning bridges by sending off a work that in a few years I will be disgusted by the pride I felt in it. But if I wait to be at the pinnacle of skill, I will always be waiting, and what then is the point of this journey? So I send my manuscript to a few agents at a time, revising in between until there’s nothing else I can think to do to it, and knowing that I’m getting better, even if my journey is slower than it could potentially be. I’m not in a hurry. I can bide my time.
If you’re on this journey with me, good luck, and I hope this post helps.