Saturday, September 29, 2007

Knowing When To Stop

I would be really grateful if you would answer my question. I have been working on a book for the past ten years or so (I'm a slow writer). I would like to finish the manuscript before another ten years of my life go flying by and I've been in the fine polishing stage for the past year. My question is, how polished should the final manuscript be before submitting to an agent? I know this is a silly question because obviously the cleaner everything is grammar, spelling, continuity wise, the better my chances of being accepted are, but at the same time, I don't trust myself to pick up on all the little mistakes that might be lurking in there. Should I hire someone to edit and proof read the manuscript for me? Or should I find guinea pigs to sit and read the book and give me feedback? If the later is the correct answer, where can I find such people?

Wow, you have been at it for a while. I'd suggest getting a critique group to read it for little grammatical / punctuation issues and big-picture problems. And then stop worrying the manuscript and get it out there.
I try to look past the little stuff that a copyeditor will end up fixing, but there are a few mistakes (eg its/it's) that, when made repeatedly, make it very, very hard for me to keep reading.


Sylvia said...

Omar Cruz is spam, delete him. :P

I think it comes down to, fix the things that are easy to fix. I am one of those misfits that misuses it's (my boyfriend tells me I'm solely responsible for the apostrophe shortage that is causing the end of the world) but it is (haha, avoided that one) so simple to fix. And if it's easy to fix, then any editor worth her salt is going to ask, why didn't you fix it?

The story, that's the thing. The rest? Get your friends to check it, make special friends with an English major.

Submit when you've fixed the basics.

Joni said...

I'm going to disagree with Sylvia a little here. (So THAT'S where those apostrophes are going!!) Don't just fix the things that are easy to fix -- fix everything you humanly can. There are lots of people who like to read who may also be pretty good at proofing, but other writers should be your first resource. Those who are truly serious work toward improving their own understanding of the Evil Comma and etc., and you can go on that journey together.

Keep in mind that editors are probably more sensitive to punctuation and grammar mistakes than practically anyone else in the world. If the copy is too unprofessional, they're never going to read it for long enough to realize that it IS a really good story. It goes back to EA's comment on the previous post -- writers have time and work on their sides. Put in the work. It'll put you ahead of all those who aren't willing to do so.

Anonymous said...

Check your local library to see if there is a free writing evaluation service available. There is one in our city and new writers have done very well with the extra help.

Anonymous said...

I would suggest holding off on editors and agents for now, if nobody else has seen this book yet. Find some fellow writers or avid readers to give you a critique. Spelling and typos are the last things to fix in a manuscript. First figure out if it has a plot, if it has interesting characters, if you're starting the story where the story starts. Once those things are straightened out, then do the proofread and final polish and send it out.
If I misunderstood your question and you've already gotten the content critiqued, then yes, do a final proofread before sending out. But don't agonize over it.