Writers are constantly advised, “Make sure your manuscript is ready before you submit”. But how can you really know?
You’ve edited, revised, spell checked, and incorporated feedback from your critique group. (If you don’t have a critique group yet, make this your goal for 2015.) You’ve let it sit, so you can have some space from your words, and then you’ve come back multiple times for more revising, found that typo that spell check missed and still you wonder, “Is this ready?”.
I suggest you channel your inner rock star and take your manuscript on an imaginary World Concert Tour. Pretend you are reading your manuscript out loud to massive audiences as many times as Taylor Swift has performed “Shake It Off”. Could you share your story over and over again and still love it? Give your manuscript the World Tour Litmus Test.
I recently spent a week reading a published story to preschool and kindergarten classes. The nerves subsided by the fifth reading in the same week, and I learned to pause for giggles or to build tension, but the excitement stayed high. I wondered, could I keep that level of enthusiasm if I had to read my story 50 more times or a hundred? Then I thought about my unpublished manuscripts and did a mental test run of readings. What would it feel like to read and reread those unpublished manuscripts? If your manuscript is ready for submission, be certain you would be thrilled to share it thousands of times.
After all, once you sell your manuscript, dozens of folks will be spending months and years working to illustrate, edit, publish and market your story. Make sure you have a piece that will continue to excite you, your team, and your audience.
Get back on your imaginary tour bus and when you hit your next venue, put real people in your pretend audience. Would you be proud to share the story with your friends, your co-workers, the folks at the gym? What if you booked a gig to read it aloud at the next SCBWI conference? Would you be thrilled or embarrassed if you looked out into the audience and saw Kevin Henkes or Jane Yolen taking a seat?
If you are dreaming of the concert t-shirts, the multiple city tour stops, and packed venues of screaming fans and you feel emboldened by the strength of your manuscript, then your story just might be ready for its world tour - I mean ready for submission.