What this means, of course, is hard to say. Relying on the pointers listed in any of the sure-fire guides to perfecting your story is no guarantee of readiness. In fact, there’s even a “counter intuitive” book out that numbers among the secrets of success “a conflict that’s compelling and ironic before and after the surprise”--whatever in the world that means.
In an attempt to get a better handle on the market, I attended a major writers conference in Portland, Oregon and a smaller one in Orlando sponsored by the Mystery Writers of America. In Portland, an “expert in story engineering” offered a series of workshops claiming that attendees had no chance to submit a professional draft unless they followed his formula starting with a gripping opening that inevitably plays itself out. In Orlando, I asked noted crime novelist Laura Lippman why her tale started out with an embezzling father and his mistress on the lam and then shifted to the effect on the lives of the man’s family. She told me that’s what she was interested in: relationships and the aftermath, not the same-old story engineering.
Perhaps that’s the key. What your story is really about and where it might fall short.
Recently, after two “it’s not ready yet” responses, I decided that, before sending it out again, I needed a seasoned reader/writer who could experience my narrative for the first time and earmark those moments when she stopped reading because something didn’t quite jell. When, because at this stage in the process I’m much too close to it, it might have the same now-hold-on-a-minute effect on an agent or acquisitions editor.
As a result, I found a seasoned colleague who offered to do a diagnostic reading for a small fee. After dealing with the underlying shortcomings she noted, I now truly have a final draft. The outcome, of course, is still out of my hands.