Sometimes it’s hard to decide how much of a manuscript to complete before trying it out with an editor. Several variables are in play, including genre, publishing house, relationship with the editor, and track record there.
When I submit a picture book, I finish the whole story before sending it on its way. For nonfiction, especially longer work, I create an outline with explanatory notes and include a chapter or more. For longer fiction, some editors like to see the whole thing while others prefer a good outline and enough of the writing to establish how the story would be told. Again are there variables.
For poetry collections, I tend to send an outline and several examples of the proposed group. Once in a while someone will suggest that I finish the manuscript and resend, but most of the time my approach works for me. If I write six or eight poems in a certain vein and they fail to catch the wind, I’ve saved a lot of time and still have a few poems on hand that might be useful in some other context at a later date. I’ve placed a number of poems like that in anthologies over the years.
I’m currently at work on a new collection. I’m not sure if the theme is strong enough so I keep pushing ahead. If I can’t convince myself, I have trouble thinking I would have better luck with an editor. So in this case I’ve decided that I want to see a complete manuscript before deciding whether to send it out or tuck it away. I have eleven poems to go and hope to finish it this month. I’m waiting to hear from editors with notes on a couple of collections under contract so my completion date for this project could get pushed back. Either way, I have plenty to keep me happy for now.