The first daffodils of spring. They didn't wonder if they were ready to bloom, they just did it. Photo by Kate Ota 2019.
One of the hardest parts of writing with the intention to publish is knowing when your work is ready to be sent out. Whether that’s to agents, publishers, or to readers as a self-published book is up to you. Anyone about to endeavor on that journey, no matter which path, always asks the same question: is this ready? Here are some ways you can determine the answer.
You Read It Through and Only Make Minor Changes
Periods, commas, a semi-colon, deleting that semi-colon, minor spelling errors. These tiny changes are a sign you’re done editing. No book is perfect, and if you’re going the traditional publishing route, many more eyes will be on this, so don’t stress that comma. If you’re self-publishing, you can consider hiring a professional copy-editor to catch anything else you don’t in this stage.
You’ve Fixed Problems Noted by Your Beta Readers
Especially if they only offered minor suggestions, or you decided not to take their ideas of larger changes. Once you know other people have seen it and overall enjoyed it, you can be more confident sending it out.
You Can’t Think of Anything Else to Change, but You Don’t Think It’s Good Enough
If you and your beta readers don’t have more ideas for how to improve the book, may I suggest it’s because there’s nothing that needs improving? This state of mind is just you not feeling confident enough in your work. Take a deep breath, tell yourself it’s great, and move forward. If traditionally publishing, your future agent or editor may have suggestions you like and incorporate—but maybe they’ll like it just the way it is.
You Want to Say it's Ready, but Feel Like You Need to Keep Editing for X Amount of Time or You’re Not a “Real Writer”
This is called imposter syndrome. Everyone gets it at some point, and it’s the worst. There is no standard amount of time for you to take on edits as a writer. Yes, there are some general sentiments out there, like it should probably take you more than a few days, and anything over ten years raises questions. But honestly, any timeline is fine. Got a full-time job and only write for thirty minutes at night on a good day? Gonna take you a while. Furloughed from work with no kids but also financial stability and therefore have all the time in the world to write right now? You’ll probably move faster than you expect. Don’t feel like you have to toil and lament in order to be “real.” You wrote words, therefore you’re a real writer. Published or not. Take the time you need to edit, and if you’re done, you’re done.
You Secretly Know You’re Done Editing, but You’re Scared of the Next Step
There is no pressure to get published. Scared to share your work? Don’t. You don’t need to publish to be happy. If you finish your edits, you can walk away from the project. If you want to be published, you’ll have to swallow your fears and get some emotional-armor ready. Yes, publishing is full of rejections. From agents, from editors, from reviewers, from readers. It’s a lot of work no matter which path you take and thinking you could fail at something you’ve been dreaming of is scary. You’ll automatically fail by never trying. So, don’t sit in the editing stage, claiming to be fiddling with this or that in order to put off the inevitable. Go forward and query. Go forward and submit. Go forward and figure out self-publishing. Whatever it is you’ll do next, go do it.
What other ways can you tell you’re ready to move on from the editing stages? Did these help you decide to take the next steps? Let’s discuss in the comments!