4 Signs That Your Book Isn't Ready Yet

If you're like most writers (and I know I am!) there comes a time when you just want your book to be done. No more edits, no more work, just a complete and polished manuscript, ready to send to agents or upload to Amazon and be devoured by the masses.

Because of this, almost every writer (including me!) runs the risk of stopping too early. And sending an unpolished book out into the world is the last thing you want to do.

Good question ...
So how do you know when your book still needs work? Here are 4 signs that your book isn't ready yet.

1. You haven't had many (or any) other people read it yet.

This is so, so important. You are the least objective person when it comes to the subject of your book, so you must have other people read it and critique it before you can say it's ready. In writing circles, we call them 'beta readers'.

The more beta readers you have, the better your feedback will be. Try to pick people who won't just say, "oh, yeah, it's great!" with no suggestions on how to make it better. Also, try to pick people who are in your target audience (for example, there's no use in having an eight-year-old read your YA dystopia -- unless s/he reads a lot of YA dystopias, that is).

So how many beta readers do you need? Well, if they're very good ones you could probably get away with three, but try to get five or more if you can. Ten targeted, thoughtful beta readers is a really great thing to aim for.

2. You haven't addressed all your beta feedback.

So let's say you have had other people read your book, but a lot of their critiques seem redundant to you. Don't just ignore them. I repeat, NEVER IGNORE YOUR BETA READERS!

Every comment your beta readers make needs to be addressed. Even if their feedback doesn't turn out to be the best thing for the book, you should at least look into changing what they say, especially if more than one person said the same thing.

A few months ago, I sent out an early draft of The Dreamon to my beta readers. The first one who got back to me said that I had to cut out an entire part (not just a chapter; a PART). At first I thought he was just being petulant, but then my most trusted beta reader (my mother, who is absolutely brutal when it comes to book critiques) said the exact same thing. I deleted the part with a heavy heart, but it made the book so much stronger.

Lesson learned: ignore beta readers at your own peril.

3. You haven't done a clean-up of filter phrases, adverbs, and passive voice.

Filter phrases are phrases like "he saw" "she felt" "I thought" "we heard". Try to avoid these; they distance the reader from the action. Of course, you don't need to obliterate every single one, but try to keep them to a minimum. For a full definition of filter phrases, and how to get rid of them, read this post.

Adverbs are words which describe the verb, like "quickly", "softly", "fiendishly" and "jerkily". These should also be avoided wherever possible, because they aren't very forceful. You have two options for getting rid of adverbs:
  1. You can replace the verb and the adverb with a single verb. For example, "pulled quickly" could become "jerked", or "said softly" could become "whispered".
  2. You can get rid of the adverb altogether. For example, "cursed loudly" could just be "cursed", or "ran quickly" could just be "ran".
Again, you don't need to obliterate every single adverb, but try to get rid of most of them.

Passive voice is when you swap the object and the subject of a sentence around. "Mary hugged the cat" is active voice, but "The cat was hugged by Mary" is passive voice. A trick to spotting passive voice is to insert the words "by zombies" after the verb. If the sentence still makes sense, it's passive voice.
  • Tim mowed by zombies the lawn (doesn't make sense -- this is active voice)
  • The lawn was mowed by zombies (makes sense -- this is passive voice)
Unlike adverbs and filter phrases, passive voice should completely removed from your manuscript, if possible.

4. You haven't read your book out loud.

When you think you're done with all your edits, there is one last thing you need to do. Read your book out loud.

That's right. Speak the words you wrote on the page. You'll catch a surprising amount of mistakes that way. You'll probably feel self-conscious, especially if there are other people living in your house, but it's something that has to be done. Otherwise, your book won't be ready.

So there you have it; four signs that your book probably isn't ready for mass consumption. If any, or all, of these signs apply to you, then you know what to do ...

Listen to the cat :)

Also, don't worry about the extra work. If you thought that you were done, then you're probably quite close to finishing for good.

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