It’s Perfect. Almost.

I sent 25 pages of my just-finished manuscript to a contest last week, but not before I’d gone over it carefully. My critique group had reviewed it. My beta reader had gone through it. I went over it a couple more times before I sent it - damn, it looked good. Yeah!

Then it was time to get the first 10 pages of the same manuscript ready for the critique roundtable I’d signed up for at Gold. Another several rounds of edits. A few punctuation changes. Better, more descriptive words here and there. I liked it! So it got packaged up and shipped off to the coordinator.

Then, because I’m on a roll, I decided to enter another contest. It’s 25 pages again, so there were more edits to the extra 15 pages. Then another hard re-read of the whole thing. Suddenly, out of the blue, I realized that pages 2 and 3 were important, but not important enough to be there. Arrgghhhh! I cut those pages out, and put them at the end with my story notes so I can go back and work those pieces of information back in where they REALLY needed to be. Then I read the story again without the pages and, yep, it’s better.

perfectionSo where am I going with this blog? I thought the submission was ready. Then I really thought it was ready. Now I really hope it was ready because I couldn’t see anything else that bothered me. But perfect? No. I don’t think such a thing exists, in books or elsewhere. Even if the mechanics are perfect with no typos or grammatical errors, I'd be willing to bet there was more than one word or scene choice the author wishes had been different before it went to print. Something. You can bet I’ll be going through the entire manuscript several more times, as well as having beta/critique reads, before I make the mistake of submitting the whole thing to an agent or editor.

No story should be submitted until the writer feels it is as close to perfect as it possibly can be. That means critique groups, beta readers, contests, workshops, conferences, and edits, edits, and more edits. When all those others seem to agree with you that it’s a great story and no one, including you, has any idea on how it can be improved (as in, not just rearranged to death), then you need to find the right person or place to send it to. Because it’s easy to get into a rut by convincing yourself that it needs more—more or different words, more time, more pages, more something that you’re sure you’ll know what it is tomorrow. And so that book, which could be the next best seller, never sees the light of day.

So polish the heck out of it, make sure others who know what they’re looking at—and for—think it’s ready, then submit the sucker. And….Write On!

Terri Benson
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As a life-long writer, Terri Benson has one published novel, award winning short stories, and over a hundred articles – many award winning - in local and regional magazines and on-line e-zines. She is a multi-year member of RMFW (Western Slope Liaison & Board Education Chair, and W/S events are hosted at her employer); she is also a long-time member of RWA. Benson is a regular blogger for RMFW, and frequently pelts them with articles for the newsletter.
Her historical romance, An Unsinkable Love, a truly Titanic love story with plenty of suspense, is available from Amazon in both e-book and paperback. More about Terri on her website.

7 thoughts on “It’s Perfect. Almost.

  1. I’m one of those very weird people who like edits, up to a point. I wish I had my ah-ha moments a little sooner this time, but at least it was before I got it in front of an agent or editor I’m submitting the whole thing to!

  2. Polish and keep polishing ! Read backwards. By that I mean, read each sentence by itself starting at the end of the book. Sounds weird but you catch new things. Also, read it aloud! You won’t believe what your ears hear. Yes, stand in a room and read it aloud. Aloud. No faking. Like you were performing on a stage. It really works. Great post.

  3. This process can be the most frustrating as well as the most fun part of writing. I always find something else, which is why I can’t make myself read one of my books again once it’s published.

  4. When An Unsinkable Love was first published I thought it was great, then when I got my contract back and had to self-publish it, I found that 3 sets of edits with the editor plus the line editor, and all my reads/beta reads had missed a HUGE mistake where the wrong character’s name was used! I was able to fix it before I uploaded it, but that goes to show that even the “experts” miss things. I’m glad I read it in that case, but I agree, if I hadn’t had the option to fix things then, it would just have depressed the heck out of me.

  5. I submitted 10 pages to a critique group at Gold, too, that have been critiqued and rewritten ad infinitum. Then last week I decided to change the opening premise, which will require throwing out most of those pages. So frustrating! I despise inefficiency but am finding that I’m an iterative writer after all.. hopefully all the editing/re-writing experience is just making us better writers?

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