When is enough? and when is too much?
These are very difficult questions to answer as a writer. On the one hand the manuscript is your baby. You have invested hundreds or even thousands of hours getting it so far. Yet, on the other hand you can see or think of things that you may wish to change. Maybe the odd sentence, a piece of action or dialogue, something.
To add to this uncertainty you read reference material and there is more that you are told “is essential” for an author to do to get picked up by an agent or publisher. You must do this to your manuscript, if you have that in it, it will fail and so on… We have all been there.
We all know the basics, write it, let it rest. Have someone else read it. Change the font and read again. Be brutal and cut out the unnecessary. Do the “does it add to the story” edit and cut out anything that does not answer that question, even if it is a great passage. If it doesn’t add to the story, cut it out.
You could try reading it backwards.
You could check over sentence structure, punctuation and grammar. Get those commas sorted out.
Look for common words used at the beginning of sentences, words like, “yet, now, but, how, also” and so on. Cut them out.
Take out adverbs.
Look at long chapters and see if it is all necessary, if in doubt, cut it out. I “chunked up” and cut over 5,000 words from one long chapter. It reads so much better.
I have gained a lot by reading Strunk and White “The elements of style”. An essential reference for writers.
Use some form of emotional thesaurus. It is a great way to find alternative words or phrases for character expression.
Once you have done all of that and perhaps so much more, have a professional copy editor go through the manuscript. Boy did I get a lot of corrections. They were all necessary.
Above all else, do your research. Do not waste your own time and money and someone else’s by sending a manuscript to the wrong people. If that one simple thing was cut from the writing industry I would suggest that agents and publishers would receive between 75 and 90% fewer submissions. Imagine the time they would have to spend on polished, professionally submitted writing.
When is it ready?
I suppose for me, the answer to that question is when I have done all I can do and it “feels” ready.
Keep writing, for you know you have to…