When you write a book, it is officially called a manuscript until it is published. However one of the tricky things about writing is that it can be very hard to discern when a manuscript is actually finished and ready to be submitted to an agent, or self-published. Some authors constantly tweak their work and others finish one draft and declare it finished. I follow three steps to know that my manuscript is done, although sometimes I repeat these steps.
After I finish my novel, and before I let anyone else see it, I edit it twice. The first draft of editing is just for spelling and grammatical errors. I often mess up my tense shifts so I try to keep an eye on that.
During the second round of editing I am more focused on the content. I want to make sure that the characters come across as authentic. I want to make sure the plot is interesting and doesn’t have any gaping holes. I do not change anything significant at this point, because I want feedback first.
The second step is to arrange a small group of readers. Try and choose at least five people whose opinions you trust, and give them a copy of your manuscript. Do not expect feedback from all five, but handing out your manuscript to so many people will guarantee that you get at least some feedback.
If you want any feedback on specific elements of the manuscript, type up a list of questions for the reader to keep in mind. This will help them focus on giving you the feedback that you need.
Make sure that when they give you feedback you appreciate the compliments as well as take in the criticism. Read over all the feedback carefully and then let it set for a little bit. Don’t do anything drastic to your book for at least two weeks.
The third step is editing the book based on the feedback you received. You don’t have to take every nit picky suggestion your readers made, but make sure to address any of the legitimate concerns they may have had.
After this draft and one final review for any minor errors your manuscript should be ready to be submitted to agents or self published. After being so thorough during the revision process you can be confident that your work is up to the publics standards.
That doesn’t mean that your agent might not offer revision suggestions, it just means that your work is now polished enough for people to read and enjoy it easily.