Stephanie writes young adult contemporary novels and is the creator of GoTeenWriters.com. Her novels include The Reinvention of Skylar Hoyt series (Revell) and The Revised Life of Ellie Sweet (Playlist). You can connect with her on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and check out samples of her work on her author website.
I started to write up a whole fresh post to answer this question, which a writer asked in the comments section last week, and then realized I had already answered it in the Go Teen Writers book:
|View the book on Amazon|
So rather than rewrite it all, I decided to just share the excerpt from the book. This is taken from chapter fifteen, which falls after Jill and I have detailed the steps of the macro and micro editing process:
...When it’s early in your writing journey, and it seems you learn more about writing and storytelling every day, it can feel impossible to discern when to stop fussing with your manuscript. So how do you know when it’s time to take the plunge and share your book with your critique partner or start querying literary agents?
I’m going to start with a question that totally marks me as a mom: Have you done your best?
Your book isn’t perfect, of course, but did you do your best with the knowledge and skills you have? Or were you lazy with character development? Is that plot twist at the end more of a cheap trick? Did you have an idea for how to improve it . . . but you weren’t in the mood for yet another rewrite?
If you’ve written and rewritten and revised and edited and rewritten and revised again, and you feel this is the best story you can produce at this point in your journey, I say go for it. Send out the queries. See what happens. I honestly didn’t know if my writing was “there” or not, until an agent said, “I’m so excited about this project. Can you send me the rest right now?”
And I didn’t dare say it out loud, but when she said that, my internal monologue was, “Really? I did it? It’s good enough now?”
I had been pitching projects for a few years at that point, but I never really knew if they were ready or not. I did my best with the knowledge and skill I had, put it out there, and braced myself for the feedback.
This is a rather uncomfortable way to determine the quality of your writing abilities, but it’s about the truest mirror you’ll find. Not to say that agents and editors don’t make judgments in error or guess wrongly about what will sell and what the public wants. Most everyone has received at least a handful of rejections. But for my rejections, typically I knew in my gut if they were right or not.
Like on the first book I sent out. Hardly any editors bothered to read it (no surprise, since I printed out all 90 pages of it and mailed it to anyone who accepted unsolicited manuscripts) but the one who did told me my ending lacked oomph. And you know, that resonated. As I considered it, I realized my book didn’t have an ending at all.
By now, I have a definite procedure I follow before I declare myself done with a book.
Before I send anything to my agent or editor, I always:
1. Write a bare bones first draft
2. Let my draft sit for 6 weeks (unless we’re on a major time crunch, but ideally I take a full six weeks).
3. Do the macro edit.
4. Do the micro edit.
5. Send to my critique partner and wait for her thoughts.
6. Make her suggested changes and read through it again for typos.
7. Send it to my agent.
And to be honest, even as a published author, when weeks go by and I haven’t heard back from my agent, I slide into a pit of thoughts like, “She hates it. She’s wondering why she ever took me on as a client.” Every time the phone rings, I’m thinking, “It’s her. She’s calling to say she hates it.” Most my writer friends do something similar. We’re a needy bunch.
While I’ve gained confidence in my ability to know if my story is a good idea or not, and while I’m mostly confident in my writing style and voice, I still tremble a bit before I send my stuff out, for whatever’s that worth to you. But at some point, you’ve got to go for it.
And here's a link to download the Go Teen Writers self-editing checklist.