Wednesday, October 5, 2016

ISWG: Is it Ready?

When I saw the question for this month, I felt an extreme bout of writer’s insecurity coming on. I’m not sure if I’m the best person to write about this. You see, I don’t have a great track record with figuring out when my work is done. Chalk it up to the lack of objectivity about my own work at times.  And then I’ve often rushed.

Also, there’s picture perfect hindsight.  I can look back at manuscripts I submitted and always see something that needs to be fixed. It’s just that I didn’t know it then.

I always sent what I thought was my best work at the time. It’s only now that I realize it wasn’t as good as it could’ve been.

So, I guess the question isn’t for me, how do I know it’s ready, but how do I know I’ve done my best work?

Here are the clues I look for:

1.  I don’t have any nagging doubts. I don’t know how else to describe it, but with some of my previous manuscripts, I’ve always had parts that I was insecure about. So with this book, when I didn’t have those doubts, I knew it was close.

2.  I’ve crossed almost everything off my revision to-do list. Yes, I make one of these, from big picture (plot, character) to small stuff (narrative patterning, grammar issues). It’s beyond satisfying to x them off one by one.

3.  Beta readers aren’t giving me big picture things to fix anymore. More than once I’ve had betas suggest I totally rewrite a manuscript, so I’m used to that kind of feedback. It’s when their notes are about minor stuff that I start to think it might be ready.

4.  The story in my head made it to the page. I’ve learned recently the importance of this. I used to run in circles revising because I didn’t know what I was trying to achieve, and I was hoping someone else would tell me when my work was “good enough.” Now I figure out what my vision is and use others’ comments to gauge whether I achieved it. No one can tell you if you’re writing is good enough anyways. Darcy Pattison had a great post about this:

P.S. Thank you so much to everyone who commented last month on finding time to write. Publishing my plan for writing and hearing from you was what I needed to keep accountable for September. I am now at 15,000 words on a brand new manuscript—and this is from generally writing about ½ hour a day from 500-1,000 words. Baby steps do work!

How about you? How do you know when your work is ready?

What is Insecure Writer's Group?

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!
Looking for more insecure writer's posts? Check out the links here: 


  1. Sounds like you have a really good way of determining when you're done. These are great tips on what to think about to decide this difficult question.

  2. Not so much if it's ready, but if it's the best work we can achieve at the time - what an excellent way of looking at it! And I love the idea of asking if our vision of the story has made it onto the page.

  3. If your story made it to the page, then that's a big one.
    We can all look back and see things we would change. All comes from growth as a writer.

  4. That's a GREAT checklist!!
    I'm not sure a manuscript is ever really "done". I think we get to a point where we "settle" for done--thanks to deadlines, agent/editor/peer encouragement, a need to let go and move on . . . :)

  5. Awesome check list. I agree with that last one especially. There is a point at which you dictate the story, rather than the story dictating you. That's a magic moment when you know you're succeeding as a writer.

  6. All of the above, with one caveat: "Ready" means ready to submit to publishing professionals. I know it doesn't mean "no revision needed." To paraphrase the Yogi Berra saying, "it ain't done until it's done and even then..."

  7. Some say that a creative endeavor is never really finished, only abandoned. But I try to abandon it when reading it doesn't make me cringe :-)

    @mirymom1 from
    Balancing Act

  8. Love that last one! That's the key when our stories in our heads are on paper/screen. :)

  9. Congrats on getting 15,000 words in- That's terrific! I've sent enough stuff in way too early and hope I've finally learned my lesson. Now, I think I over edit. Finding the balance is hard.

  10. I think we all struggle with this one. I love your tips, though. And congrats on your progress too!

  11. I like your checklist, especially number three. That's always a good indicator that you're close!

    And congrats on the new ms! It's always so exciting to start a new work, and it sounds like you're making great strides!

  12. It's funny how we are always growing (getting better:) as writers. What we thought was our best years ago, seems silly to me now. At least we recognize this!

  13. I often feel like I have to test the waters in subbing to really know if something's done. I have my critique group and (obviously) my own judgement (which, like you, feels like it's lost all objectivity once I've drafted and revised), but I find it so hard to tell when something is ready ready. I hope the words keep flowing for you!

  14. This is a challenging question for all of us!

  15. Way to go with that word count!!! That's awesome!

    I don't always get to #5 because sometimes my vision has changed a bit. However, I do try to write it to please myself. I don't bring back characters from the dead if I want them to stay down, etc.

  16. Great work on your word count last month. Listening to feedback is a good idea and can really help with knowing when a manuscript is ready to be sent out.

  17. I make a checklist, too!
    Completely necessary!
    Great post.

  18. Your word count of 15,000 words is great! I do listen to my critique partners but the ultimate decision lies with me.

  19. I could be nagged to death with doubts if I let those voices overpower my inner sense of how I should logically proceed. If I keep listening to my voices of doubts then I'd never make any progress in life.

    Arlee Bird
    Tossing It Out