What Does "Submission-Ready" Mean to You?

“Working on a story. Am determined to get it submission-ready!”

So read a post I “tweeted” on Monday. Lo and behold, somebody actually read what I wrote. And she wrote, in turn:

“@erikadreifus what does submission-ready mean to you?”

What an excellent question. Not just for me, but for all of us practicing writers.

My response on Twitter basically said that I couldn’t possibly address the question in 140 characters. I promised to do so here, instead.

So here’s what I think “submission-ready” means to me: I think it means that I’ve brought the work in question to a point where I can’t envision further edits/changes/improvements. At least, not imminently. And I believe that an editor/agent/publisher will read past the first few lines/pages and take the work seriously.

Now, it does happen that I submit a story or essay or poem (or novel or short story collection), receive a series of rejections (the best ones provide some constructive comments/feedback), and am then prompted to revisit the work. I might ask others who haven’t yet shared their time and insights to read and comment, too. Although I won’t necessarily withdraw the work from any journal/contest/agent/publisher where it might still be waiting to be read/decided on, I’ll refrain from submitting it anywhere else until I’ve had time to consider changes and, more often than not, revise further. In this sense, “submission-ready” is not a constant. It evolves. Because, unfortunately, what I might consider initially “submission-ready” may not necessarily be “acceptance-ready”! In fact, the story that sparked my tweet is one I believed “submission-ready” quite awhile ago, but am revising once again.

I’m eager to hear from others on this. What does “submission-ready” mean to you?

9 thoughts on “What Does "Submission-Ready" Mean to You?

  1. Sara McClung ♥ says:

    That sounds about right to me 🙂

    I struggle because every. single. time. I revisit something I find myself questioning certain things and changing/adding/deleting. And then a couple times later I'm undoing the changes. It can get really cyclical! That's where my crit partners come in to tell me when I'm being crazy…

  2. Theresa Milstein says:

    Erika, that's what submission ready means to me. I have several people look at it. I've edited it to death and feel there's nothing left to do. I send it out, and when it's rejected and I get feedback as to why, I revise it again, having others look at it.

    I'm hoping that it pays off one of these days.

  3. Lisa Romeo says:

    I pretty much do exactly the same thing as you described. And for me, there's also another gut factor involved: at some point, I decide I'm sick of looking at, rereading, thinking about, and interacting with a piece — and so, out the door it goes, clearing the way for me to concentrate on something else.
    Sometimes it stays out permanently (gets accepted!), and other times, it comes home to roost, as you say, in need of further care and attention. By then I'm usually ready to see it again.

  4. Kate says:

    It usually means that I have been working on a piece for so long that I can't bear to look at it anymore, so I have to send it away.

  5. Kate says:

    I have to say Erica, that I have had some pretty mixed feelings about your using my question as the lead to a blog post without mentioning my actual name or twitter username.

    Twitter, as well as other social networking sites, have always been about individuals connecting in a public way. You broke an emerging code of etiquette by robbing me of my individuality.

    Obviously, as someone who writes about technology's influence on culture on a regular basis, this is more interesting to me than hurtful, but I am a bit surprised that this kind of behaviour came from someone so versed in digital culture.

    I don't know whether to unfollow you in protest or to wait and see how you learn to navigate use of this new-to-you tool.

  6. Erika D. says:

    My goodness, Kate. I am quite sorry–not to mention very surprised–to see this post. You are obviously quite upset, if you have considered a "protest" move (albeit one I'm not even sure I would have perceived). Thanks for letting me know about this.

    As you acknowledge, I am new to Twitter (I am certainly not yet "versed" in its particular "digital culture"). I did not realize that mentioning the source of the post as a question received via Twitter, plus linking to the feed– where my public note to you "baggyk" dated Tuesday morning at 8:06 a.m. indicating that I would be responding to your question later in the week on the blog is still very much visible–would be insufficient attribution.

    Plenty of this blog's readers are aware that I am acutely sensitive to fair attribution, between my conscientious efforts to link to sources "via" which I discover news and my (usually) private e-mails when I see that my words/tips from the newsletter or blog have appeared verbatim elsewhere without any kind of attribution, such as a link (or even quotation marks!). So I do apologize for assuming that presenting the question as I did, complete with quotation marks (to indicate that the question originated with someone else) and linking to the feed would suffice. I suppose that on some level, I assumed that you might, in fact, prefer some small preservation of privacy (as most people who send questions via backchannel seem to).

    Clearly, I did not yet appreciate that when people post something on Twitter they expect not only to be cited by Twittername, but perhaps even by real name.

    Lesson learned.


    P.S. Thanks, too, to everyone else who has commented on this thread so far. I do think it's an interesting question.

  7. Kate says:


    Sorry, I am perhaps a little sensitive. I blame the whole writing/submitting/rejection/acceptance process for that.

    I just came back to your site to delete the comment I'd made, but since you have already responded, I won't do that. I think there is a growing feeling on social networking sites that the community-building aspects are disappearing as the competition for eyeballs becomes fiercer in that arena too. It certainly happened with blogging.

    In any case, I certainly appreciate your response to my comment. Thank you.

  8. Erika D. says:

    Hello again, everyone. I've received an anonymous comment that I've chosen not to post, because I don't want to risk making Kate uncomfortable. I've received (and declined to post) similar comments in the past when blog readers see blog comments that appear to take me to task in some way. I do appreciate the loyalty behind such responses, but I hope that the posters won't be offended if I choose not to post them. Thanks for your understanding.

  9. Kelley says:

    After reading Kate's comment, I would add a corollary to submitting manuscripts: critical comments of a blogger should sit for an hour before they are "submission ready." I wish I always followed that rule myself.
    Kate you are to commended that you went back to remove the comment and that you left it. Erika your response was terrific in content and tone. Often tone is tough to capture in blog comments and tweets.

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