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How Do You Know if Your Piece is Ready for Publication?

By Cayla Cappel

No matter what you’re writing, there will come a point where you will want to publish your work. You could publish it in a writing competition, a magazine, or a full-length novel with a traditional publishing company, or self-publish it. But how do you know when it’s ready?

I think that’s a fault of all creative types. We never think our writing, art, music, etc. is good enough to be put out into the world. We treat our work as our children, and our nerves about putting it out there often get the better of us. You look at your work, and you see nothing but mistakes as you compare it to another person’s already completed work.

So how do we know when we’re done? When should we submit it, publish it, or look for a literary agent?

The first step is to overcome discouragement. Many people compare their work in progress to something that’s already been completed. Comparison can be good if you are using it as a goal to strive for, but, if these comparisons discourage you, you might want to look for something else to compare to, talk to someone about your feelings, or even just take a step back for a minute. It’s okay to take a break and come back when you get discouraged. Writing is a skill like any other and can be improved with time, so be kind to yourself when your English is broken and you just sit there staring at your blinking cursor or blank page trying to write.

The next step is to have some beta readers. If you’re not familiar with the term, beta readers are people you employ to read your work and offer honest, constructive opinions. I recommend having at least two readers. One of them should be a more technical reader, looking for sentence structure, continuity, grammar and spelling mistakes, and other technical things. The other reader should be the layman. They should read it from the perspective of the average reader and offer suggestions on plot, characterization, and description. You’ll find that the two readers will agree more often than not. Having these two or more readers can help to give you confidence that you are moving in a good direction and improving your story along the way. And if these readers are friends or other people you trust, you can even talk to them about your nervousness about putting your work out, and they can become your support system.

The last suggestion I have is to take a look at how you edit your work. In my sophomore year here at USU, I was in a literary analysis class, and our professor brought in a guest speaker who was a published author. Unfortunately, I’m terrible with names, and I have long since forgotten her name, but during class, someone asked her, “How do you know when your work is ready for publication?” The author answered in this way: when you’re making changes and no longer making edits, you’re ready, and it’s just your nerves getting in the way. Changes and edits are different. Edits improve the story overall. They help with readability, continuity, and helping the reader visualize the events. Changes, on the other hand, don’t offer improvements and what you alter, doesn’t matter in the long run of the story. It can look like changing the height of a character, changing the color of something, changing a name, etc.

In my last blog post, I mentioned that I self-published my own novel. In September of this past year, I sold 17 copies of my book at FanX. I was terribly nervous. Especially since the famous Brandon Sanderson was nearby and also selling his own books. I didn’t think I would sell any. It will always go better than you think it will.

It’s okay to be nervous, and it’s okay to seek support. In the wise words of Uncle Iroh from Avatar: The Last Airbender, “While it is always best to believe in oneself, a little help from others goes a long way.” If you don’t know if you can do it on your own, get support from those you care for and who care for you.

Be kind to yourself and know that you can do it! If you don’t believe in yourself, know that I believe in you! There are a million different ways that publishing work can go, and the outcome will always be better than you think.

Good luck!

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