No, no, this post isn't a menstrual diaper commercial.
How does one know when the beloved Work in Progress (WiP) is ready to grow wings and become a Work on Submission (WoS)?
Note: I did not say, "when the WiP is done."
As Jeffe mentioned on Sunday, "done" doesn't happen.The best we can do is, "I will not be ashamed to have my face printed next to these words." Oh, for fuckssake, how is anyone to know when that is? There is a test you can use -- one many authors avoid like crotch-rot:
The Query and Synopsis
I know. I didn't think those dreadful things would ever prove to be useful to me. ~visualize the poor put-upon writer pout here~ Lest you think I've started drinking before the ass-crack of dawn, I assure you, I am completely sober. For many writers, our biggest doubts center around structure. A decent spell-check program and a marginally interested critique-partner can catch surface errors. The query and synopsis go deeper by forcing you to distill the essence of your story down its bones. With the road-map exposed, the structural flaws are glaringly obvious -- kind of like neon yoga pants.
You can thank me for the brain-bleach later.
Here are five questions to I ask myself before I consider my WiP a WoS:
- Can I succinctly name the Goals, Motivations, and Conflicts (GMCs) of my protagonist(s)? If not, the story likely suffers plot and character development issues.
- Can I easily write my query and synopsis? If they're a bitch to write, then I need to revisit my GMCs. The overarching GMC of the story is the meat of the query. Per-chapter GMCs go in the synopsis. My mantra: be concise but not bland.
- Did writing my synopsis reveal weaknesses and/or extraneous scenes in my WiP? Erm, 80% of the time, yes, yes they did. Therefore, I must revise the WiP one. more. time. ~shakes fist at sky~
- Have I re-read my re-revised story after I've re-written my query and synopsis? Do they match? Hopefully, yes.
- Does my WiP meet the submission guidelines of my target audience? My audience for a WoS is not the reader; it's agents and/or publishers. Most agents and publishers (who accept un-agented subs) make their submission guidelines available on their websites. The last thing I want to be is the turd in the slush pile, so I follow the guidelines and re-verify the agent/editor is open for submissions.
After that, I attach the wings to my WiP and hope it flies.
Do you, dear reader, have a WiP-to-WoS checklist? Care to share?