It's hard to know when you're really finished with a manuscript. After all the writing, editing, polishing, rewriting, and re-editing, it's easy to feel finished too soon.
The first ten pages of your manuscript are pivotal. They tell an agent or editor a lot about you as a writer. You don't want ANY mistakes on these first pages.
I was recently judging a contest and I was shocked at how many minor mistakes were in the first few pages of many of the entries. I could tell, by the writing, these aspiring authors knew better. I'm talking about things like "to" instead of "too", a minor change in a character's name, inconsistencies with attire or setting.
Here's what I think the problem was:
The author thought he/she was finished and neglected to do a thorough edit with fresh eyes. After looking over the first few pages dozens of times, the author decided it was finished, done, finito, and sent the manuscript in to be judged. If, with fresh eyes, the author had gone over the pages again, I think all these mistakes would have been corrected, thereby increasing the chances of doing well in the contest.
Sometimes, in order to complete a productive edit of your manuscript, you need to put it down for a while. A couple of weeks, a month---a significant period of time. This way you pay more attention. You haven't JUST read it and your eye doesn't fill in nearly as much.
The first ten pages of your manuscript may be BRILLIANT but if they're riddled with errors, most agents and editors will likely pass. They want to make sure you're precise and capable of editing your own work. Sure, they'll have changes and edits to add to yours, but you don't want a stupid mistake to ruin your chances.
Be sure to join me tomorrow. We've got another guest blogger!