I Know What You Did Last Summer

dum dum DUUUUUMMMM!

Summer can be the slow season for publishing. But it’s also the busy season for writing. Maybe it’s the long daylight hours, the vacations, or the two Camp NaNoWriMo sessions, but it seems like everyone is finishing manuscripts.

If you’re like me and finished an MS, you’re still riding high on your own awesomeness. You finished a book! Congrats! And you might be eager to send that puppy off to agents.

Don’t. Stop. Step away from the MS.

Sending out a first draft is never a good idea. You can always tell when a manuscript has been meticulously edited and when a writer grew impatient and sent their work in a draft too soon. So fight the urge to hit send on those queries right away. Step back. Take a few days. Take a few weeks. Once that “just finished” rush is gone, you’ll notice the cracks in your work.

(And to be perfectly clear, sending out a second draft is not a great idea either. Even a third draft is usually not a great idea. Just wait.)

So, what to do before you prematurely hit send?

  • Take a break: That’s right. Just walk away. If you are anything like me, even after you’ve typed “The End” (usually metaphorically speaking), your brain is still generating ideas and characters and plot bunnies. It’s overworked. It’s fried. And it needs to think about something else before you can move forward with more edits. So, read another book. Plan another project. Binge watch bad summer reality shows. Just unwind.
  • Share it with people: Send your MS to CPs and beta readers. If you write for a specific age range, give it to someone in that age range. Give it to people who know a lot about your genre. Give it to people who don’t normally read your genre. But most importantly, give it to people you trust and whose opinions you respect. Make sure other people look at your MS before you send it to any agents.
  • Swap pages with another writer: Find a CP and swap pages. While they’re giving you notes, get into that editorial mindset and give them notes. Observe what works in someone else’s manuscript and what doesn’t. And, hopefully, distract your mind with a good read.
  • Enter a contest: Granted, don’t do this if you only have a first draft. First drafts are messes and should never be seen by anyone but you (*shivers* never…NEVER…). But contests open your manuscript up to new eyes and feedback. Brenda Drake opens the entry window for Pitch Wars in the summer. WriteOnCon is now open. There are so many contests where, at the very least, you’ll get feedback on your query or first few pages.
  • Write your query and synopsis: While it’s not exactly a break for your brain, writing your submission materials will give you a new angle to view your MS. Trying to condense the entire plot into a one-page synopsis or writing pitches will show you where the weak spots and plot holes are in your manuscript, and give you ideas to tighten everything up.

So tuck your manuscript in a box or dark drawer. Hide it from yourself for a few weeks. And when you come back to it, fresh and with a new perspective, your writing will flourish.

Chill out!

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