The Readiness Test

Hi all! Today I welcome Maria Zannini as part of The Indie Roadshow.

The Readiness Test

Writers are the WORST judges for deciding when a manuscript is ready for publication. We wear industrial grade blinders, often missing the obvious faults in a manuscript. Our hearing’s not so good either since we’re likely to dismiss our critique partners when they fail to laud us with rose petals and applause.

It takes time, both to gain experience in craft and to hone the instinct that tells you which way to guide your story.  It also takes a great deal of reading across many genres.

Not to say that writing ever becomes easy, but it does become more intuitive. And part of that instinct is knowing when you’ve gone as far as you could. When it reaches that point, it’s time for the next tier: professional editing.

In traditional and small press, this comes automatically after you’ve signed a contract. You’re given an editor who will address issues you didn’t even know existed. If your work is sub par or for whatever reason doesn’t ring any bells for the submissions editor, then you’re left with either subbing it elsewhere or reworking the story.

But when you’re self-published, the onus of that decision is all yours. You have to decide (shrewdly) if the story is good enough to be published. Only then can you hire an editor and polish the story to its finished state.

I feel this is where many indie authors split ranks. There are books being published that are just plain bad. Many of these have never seen an editor, let alone a critique partner. I know editing is expensive. But it’s a requisite of publishing. No small or large press would ever publish work without editing, why would you do any less for yourself?

How do you know your manuscript is ready for publication?

• The story has a beginning, middle and end with full arcs for each character.

• You’ve proofed it backwards and forwards.

• It’s been in the hands of at least one other qualified reader; someone who is not your mother, your friend, or that eye-candy who wants to get into your pants.

• When you get back your critiques for the story, most of the comments center on tiny grammar nits rather than whopping plot holes.

• You’re certain there is nothing more you can do for the story. It’s as finished as you can make it.

At this point you either submit it to a regular publisher, self-publish, or store it on your hard drive in a folder marked: ‘Chicken!’.

How do you know it’s NOT ready for publication?

• Your critique partners say things like:  I really like the font you used. 

• You tried submitting it to regular publishing channels and your email is blocked as spam.

• You know in your heart it has problems.

Sometimes we love our stories so much we refuse to see them for what they really are. Recognizing mediocrity is part of growing as a writer.

True Believers which received such wide praise and got on two “Best of” lists for 2010 started out as crap. It was self-stroking and naive. I rewrote that story from the ground up—twice, until it became the tale it is today. It also had countless critiques and two editors. Believe me, it shows.

Just because your story isn’t ready today doesn’t it mean it won’t be ready tomorrow. Don’t rush. Write the best story you can. Be open to critiques, and rewrite with an objective.

When you self-publish there is no one you can hide behind. Good or bad, you get what you put out. Publish with that in mind.

I hope you’ll follow along with the rest of the Indie Roadshow as I share the things I learned on my road to self-publishing.

The Devil To Pay is available at Amazon and Smashwords for only $2.99. It is the first book of the series, Second Chances.
Synopsis: The road to Hell is paved with good intentions and bad tequila. Shannon McKee finds herself at the end of her rope, and she bargains her soul in a fit of despair.

Shannon’s plea is answered immediately by two men who couldn’t be more different from one another. Yet they share a bond and an affection for the stubborn Miss McKee that even they don’t understand.

When Heaven and Hell demand their payment, Shannon has no choice but to submit. No matter who gets her soul, she’s not getting out of this alive.

Bio: Maria Zannini used to save the world from bad advertising, but now she spends her time wrangling chickens, and fighting for a piece of the bed against dogs of epic proportions. Occasionally, she writes novels. 
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