I bumped into an on-again, off-again writer friend today, which was a surprise, since she seemed to be hovering somewhere above the clouds.

“My novel is going really well,” she said. “I’m going to finish it up soon and send it out!”

Yes, she was planning to submit her first draft.

First, I applauded her enthusiasm. “That’s great!”  Then I cautioned her. “But you should really have it critiqued first.”

“No, do you really think so? I don’t think it needs it.”

I explained that most writers don’t have enough distance from their work to see problems in their own manuscripts. The fabulous ideas in our heads are not always executed clearly on paper. Because the story is unclouded in our minds, we don’t realize when the paper takes giant leaps (or even small side-steps), losing the reader.

She belonged to my critique organization but quit last year due to her off-again writing status. I encouraged her to return if she was serious about this novel.

“Maybe I’ll just pay someone to critique it.”

A professional critique can indeed be helpful, but a good one can be pricey, so your manuscript should be in a near-submission-ready state. Because you don’t want to have to pay for two (or more) expensive reviews.

“The thing is, I don’t want a lot of people to read it. It’s very personal.”

“But you want to have it published?” I joked and she offered a pseudonym.

“Well, it’s a really great story,” she said. “I’m certain it will get published.”

“I’m sure it is. Everyone thinks their own work is wonderful. Or else we wouldn’t be writing.”

When I suggested some writing books I thought might be helpful, she asked me what a few of the terms meant. That’s when her feet returned to solid ground.

I had to explain that I didn’t want to squash her excitement, I just wanted to prevent her hopes from being squashed. If she sends out a manuscript too soon, before it’s truly ready, she’ll use up her chances with publishers and agents. If they reject something once, they are not going to want to see it again (unless a revision is expressly requested).

It’s terrific to be enthusiastic about your work. Love creating. Love writing. But be realistic, too. The clouds are a fine place hang out once you’ve signed that publishing contract. But keep your feet on the ground until then, pen to paper, writing and revising. And revising some more.