Will that thing you’re writing ever be ‘ready’ for publishing? Probably, if you ask yourself these questions before taking any next steps.
Is it finished?
This might seem obvious, but look closely. If it’s a story (novel, novella, short story), are all the loose ends tied up? Have all your round characters developed significantly from start to finish? Is everything consistent, edited and cleaned up? If it’s an essay or article, are all important points addressed and explained? Are they actionable, including helpful tips? Do the intro and conclusion open and close the piece properly?
Very rarely will you write a first draft and decide it doesn’t need any polishing up before you send it off. Even if you think you don’t need to look over it one more time, do it anyway. That’s not to say the more time you spend on something, the more likely you are to get good results. Give it the time and effort you think it deserves, but make sure all the key elements are there.
Do you feel good about it?
We are all harsh self-critics, so you are never going to feel like what you’ve just written is the best thing ever created (er, let’s hope not, because honestly, it’s probably not). However, when something is ‘ready’ to be submitted for publishing, there’s a certain sense of peace that comes along with it. You aren’t necessarily fully confident – it’s a big deal, and it makes sense to be nervous – but you’re sure the piece is as good as it’s ever going to be before sending it out.
I submitted an article to the Huffington Post this week. It was something I wrote that I was really proud of. Did I expect someone to contact me right away about publishing it? Of course not. They get hundreds if not thousands of submissions a day, because everyone wants a HuffPo byline. But that article was my baby. I worked hard on it. I felt like it was ready for the world, so I just went for it. It’s probably lost in the shuffle, and that’s fine, but when you just KNOW something is ready, there’s no reason why you can’t, and shouldn’t, just take a chance and see what happens.
Do you have an audience and publication/editor/agent in mind?
If you have already written something, you should already generally know who your audience is. But there are a lot of different publications that cater to the same audiences. Always know where you want your piece to go before you send it anywhere. Sending it out to every website, editor, agent, etc. to increase your chances of getting it published … just don’t do that.
What’s most important is that whether or not you feel fully confident, even when you’re nervous and/or new to this experience, you take this step because YOU want to. You really, really want this. You have something to share that others might find value in, and you want to get it out there.
There are people out there who do this just because everyone else is doing it. They do it because they want more people to visit their website or follow them on social media. Those are perks you might get, but don’t be one of those people who paraphrases someone else’s article, down to subheadings, just to put your name on something even though you didn’t come up with the ideas (I saw this the other day, and though it’s subtle and not direct copying, it’s still copying someone else’s ideas, and it infuriates me. DO NOT DO THIS).
You have valuable things to say. Are you ready to show them to the world?
Meg is the creator of Novelty Revisions, dedicated to helping writers put their ideas into words. She is a freelance writer and an eight-time NaNoWriMo winner with work published in Teen Ink, Success Story, Lifehack and USA TODAY College. Follow Meg on Twitter.