Posted by: Kathy Temean | November 14, 2017

ASK DIanne – When Is A Manuscript Ready?

Q: Because I was part of a special workshop at a writer’s conference, I was given permission to submit ONE manuscript to the editor teaching it. How do I know when my manuscript is ready to send to her? I don’t want to blow this chance at publication!

A: Good question! There are lots of thoughts out there about how much writing and re-writing you need to put into a WIP (work-in-progress) before sending it out there to see what feedback you receive. Here are a few of my own thoughts:

Of course, you want to look over the submission guidelines the publisher has posted on its website and/or published in children’s publishing marketplace directories to make sure that your manuscript is not a genre or format that the publisher your editor works for does NOT wish to receive. Then review your workshop notes for any categories of fiction/nonfiction which the editor has said he or she is NOT interested in receiving as a submission. If your story doesn’t fall into the ‘no, thank you’ bins from either the editor or the publisher, you’re good to proceed to the next step.

It’s tempting to rush the work so your submission can be one of the first ones to arrive on the editor’s desk post-conference. However, doing so may mean you’re not submitting your best work. Please give yourself permission to delay submission for a reasonable time—say, within two weeks of the conference close—so that you can hone your story along with its cover letter to the very best it can be.

Try not to confuse ‘best’ with ‘perfect’. Your submission would not be perfect even if you gave yourself two years to hone the submission before sending it in. Just keep at it until you think it’s working, and then ask yourself some questions:

Have a used the most specific and interesting language possible for the age and reading level of my target reader?

Did I engage the five senses somewhere within the manuscript? Is my dialogue natural, and interesting?

Do I ‘show, not tell’?

Is my narrative pacing too fast or too slow in some places?

Have a created an MC (main character) that readers will relate to, and cheer on?

Is my MC given a flaw to make him or her more dimensional and emotionally believable?

Have I created a cast of supporting characters that support the MC and the plot without distracting the reader?

Have I set the plot in a compelling setting, whether it’s a familiar or foreign one?

And so on. In short, you need to make sure that you have demonstrated to the editor that you know how to write well.

You also need to show the editor that you have a complete vision of the story on the page, and not still in your head. Think of the 80/20 rule: you’ve got 80% of the story firmly set in stone, yet there is room for you to be flexible in response to editorial requests to tweak narrative elements here and there.
Once you’ve double-checked to make sure your submission is on target and reflects your best writing efforts, it’s time to let it go….and go on to the next project as you wait for the editor’s response.


Dianne Ochiltree is a nationally recognized author of books for the very young. Her books have appeared on numerous recommended reading lists, classroom desks and library shelves.  Her bedtime book, LULL-A-BYE, LITTLE ONE, was a selected for the Dollywood Foundation’s childhood literacy initiative, Imagination Library in 2007. Her picture book, MOLLY BY GOLLY! THE LEGEND OF MOLLY WILLIAMS AMERICA’S FIRST FEMALE FIREFIGHTER, received the Florida Book Awards (FBA) Bronze Medal in the Children’s Literature category in 2012 and was chosen for the ALA’s Amelia Bloomer list of feminist literature for girls. Her picture book, IT’S A FIREFLY NIGHT, won the FBA Silver Medal in 2013. Her 2015 title, IT’S A SEASHELL DAY, was given the FBA Gold Medal/Gwen Reichert Award as well as the Gold Medal for Florida picture book from the Florida Authors and Publishers Association. For more information about Dianne’s books, go to

Dianne, thanks for sharing your expertise with us. Another great answer.

REMEMBER: To send in your questions for Dianne. Use Kathy(dot)Temean(at) Please put ASK DIANNE in the subject box.

Talk tomorrow,



  1. Such excellent points, Dianne! Thanks 😀


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