A few months ago, I began an editorial internship with a literary agency. Being in this internship means that I receive and read manuscript submissions, and ultimately help make the decision over whether a story should be accepted or rejected. I love that I get to read all day and handle manuscripts from hopeful writers. But after reading so many unsolicited manuscripts, there’s one thing I frequently come across that makes me sort of want to tear my hair out, and with this, this is some crucial advice that I would stress to writers who are looking to publish their work.
When you submit your writing to agencies and publishing presses, make sure that it’s a nice, clean, edited copy.
Do not submit a story that is riddled with errors and poorly structured sentences and that looks like it hasn’t gone through any sort of editing process. This will immediately give your story a bad impression and is the quickest way to it being rejected. True, there are editors who are there to help you make your writing the best it can be, but don’t take them for granted. It should not be their job to fix every single error you make because you didn’t take the time to correct them yourself.
Editors may accept stories that have errors, up to a point. Of course they understand that not everyone’s perfect. But if it’s clear by the first few pages that your story hasn’t been properly looked over beforehand, it will not be accepted. Editors will not walk you through your entire story to make sure it’s readable, because they simply don’t have that kind of time with everyone. Ultimately, it is your job as a writer to make sure your writing is presentable and to be your own editor.
So, what should you do before submitting your piece?
Take the time to edit your story.
Whether that’s editing as you go along, or reading through it all again once it’s finished, make sure your story goes through some sort of editing process. Do NOT simply word-vomit your story and submit it directly after without going through it a second time. It can be easy to get caught up in the moment of finally having your story complete and eagerly wanting to submit it.
I get it! It’s a huge accomplishment to have finished this big project you’ve devoted so much time and effort to. But take the time to also edit your story before sending it off for good. Doing this is just as important as taking the time to write the story.
Have your story read by a fresh pair of eyes.
… because you can’t really trust yourself to edit your own story, no matter how much you may think so.
Being the writer, you are automatically biased. Of course you’re going to think your story is great and that everything makes sense. It’s exactly how you imagined it in your head. But guess what? Others are not in your head. They can’t read your mind or understand what you were trying to convey here.
So have someone else – preferably multiple people – read your story to make sure it’s good and that it makes sense to them too. Listen to their critiques, their questions, what they think you could improve on. If possible, have your story read by other writers – they’ll have a bit more insight and possess more knowledge on editing and writing tips than your well-meaning friend or family member. Look to writers around you, or even consider connecting with some online! There are plenty of writing communities (from Tumblr to Wattpad to Goodreads) where you can share your writing with fellow writers who will be more than happy to give you the feedback you deserve.
These few tips alone will help immensely with making sure your writing is the best it can be and will help your chances along the way of having your submission accepted. Along with this, it’ll also help you stay on the good side of those who will be handling your story. Best of luck!