Didion’s Ghost and 7 Other Tests Before Submitting a Story

  1. Every manuscript tells two stories. One, how strong the writing is. Two, how professional the writer is. Not sure about the pro part? The story isn’t ready.



  1. If your piece isn’t even in manuscript format, or there’s your personal format but not what the market specifies, the story is very definitely not ready.


  1. All first ideas might be good, but they’re never the best or even complete. If you haven’t rewritten toward your core idea multiple times, the story isn’t ready.


  1. Proof-reading oversights and formatting mistakes kill a story before it gets read. If you haven’t proofed and re-proofed, preferably while reading the words aloud, or if you think some editor will clean up your typos, the story isn’t ready.



  1. If your manuscript hasn’t been critiqued or edited by someone not related to you, the story isn’t ready.


  1. If the ghost or apparition of anyone related to you, or say it’s Joan Didion or someone like that, appears and proclaims that something is wrong with your story, this is a subconscious confession and/or bad mojo. Your story is not ready.


  1. Every established market has tone, length, and subject preferences that are either specified or interpretable. If you can read previous issues of a target market but you haven’t read them, your story isn’t ready. For that market, anyway.


  1. If the work passes all of the above tests AND you’re mourning that your favorite sections got cut AND you would bet an English teacher big coin on the grammar AND you’re so sick of this thing you might chuck your laptop through a window, the story is ready.



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