Don't Be A Git, Know Before You Submit
First and foremost, your WIP needs to be ready before you submit to an agent or publisher. That means, it’s no longer a WIP, but a finished piece. COMPLETE! ONE AND DONE! FINITO! Not halfway complete, not almost there, not, “it’s good enough, I’ll finish it when the agent swoons over my query,” but complete, complete, with a badass opening line, a banging first chapter, and a satisfying ending. Know your book "must-haves."
Your manuscript must be as tight as you can make it. Trim extra or redundant words, cut out scenes or paragraphs that don’t advance the narrative, slice and dice unnecessary descriptions, and prune dialogue that’s overdone or too long.
Check that your scenes and prose contain sufficient sensory details, color, and the right amount of plot points. It requires you to be certain your voice and style shine through and the things you promised in your query are present throughout the story. Your pitch matters. Get in the know about your query pitch or hook. It's so important! Your hook is a clever sentence or two summarizing your book. Its purpose is to draw an agent or publisher in. Your novel must deliver what your hook or pitch claims.
Agents look for specific things in your query, synopsis, and chapters. (Click on the links for more info) Your manuscript must contain an adequate, if not superb beginning, middle, and end. The first sentence of your book must captivate the reader, so they’ll want to keep reading. Chapter one must start the story in the right place and in action. Hopefully something incredible and intriguing jumps off the page and wows the agent. Is that the case with your book? Well, then stop reading and submit your work. No? Not sure? Definitely not! Okay, get in the know and sop up the info I’m pumping out here, so you’ll be ready.
Your submission must be as pristine as you can get it. Free of grammatical errors, typos, misspellings, and clichés. Agents want to see original thought so instead of an overdone phrase, add one that sparkles with originality. Can’t say with a straight face your novel ticks all those boxes? Slow your roll, your story isn’t ready, and neither are you.
Know your genre, the word count for that genre, and stay within it. Submit to agents and publishers who accept and specialize in that genre. Don’t send a query for your fantasy novel to a romance publisher or an agent who represents memoirs. Know your target audience. Is your book geared toward young adults, middle-grade, or children, etc.? Pick one. If you’re confused about your genre, word count, or target audience, you’re absofriggenlutely not ready! Research books similar to yours. Go to a book store and cruise the categories. See where your book fits.
By the way, a swooning agent is a rare entity and that query you think is swoon-worthy probably isn’t if you haven’t even finished writing your story. Don’t lure yourself into a false sense of security by adopting the mindset that your unfinished book is so phenomenal, the essentials don’t apply to you. I promise you; chances are you’ll be disappointed. Conversely, don’t brush aside the importance of writing an amazeballs query letter, and instead compose a lazy inquiry of introduction, in hopes the agent or publisher will gloss over your meh, abysmal letter, dive straight into your riveting first pages, and find themselves beguiled and bewitched by your magical writing. Sorry to break it to you, my darlings, but there probably ain’t a snowball’s chance in hell that’s happening. Don't despair. Arm yourself with knowledge. Check out Wordy's Writing Tip Articles and Blog Posts.
Bottom line, do your research and get all your ducks in a row before you submit. Oh, and don’t use “ducks in a row” in your manuscript it’s one of those irksome clichés.