First off let me state...the first draft is never the one to send.
And in my case nor was the sixth for The Cornish House. It was the seventh. At the moment I am working on book two of my contract with Orion, August Rock. This will be draft 27, yup 27. August Rock is the book that i really began to learn the skill required to write and I wrote the thing to death. Now I am trying to breath life back into a good story...
This morning in order to find a scene I had long since cut, I went back to 2007 or to be precise draft two (remember nothing is ever wasted). Now the scene is written in a point of view that no longer exists but the concrete details of the setting were what I was looking for...they are like gold dust. Much of the writing made me wince...and yes, this version was submitted and rejected. And boy do I know why now.
So I come back to when is it ready...first, it's not ready because you are heartily sick of it or your brother told you it's good, unless of course your brother is Jonny Geller. It's not ready if it's still filled with mistakes..grammar, spelling or otherwise...
Luigi Bonomi stated clearly in the First Fictions section that the spark has to be there in the first three pages...ideally on the first.
So they are not going to see the great story if they are pulled out of it by mistakes...I know there are huge success stories out there with bad writing but they are few. More importantly is that what you want people to saying about your book...great story but crap writing. My hope is that my writing serves the story...it should be invisible.. But that's me and others may well feel differently but never does bad writing help a story unless that what's it's about...Saw a link again this morning to the book HOW NOT TO WRITE A NOVEL...it had me howling with laughter which of course is it's intention.
So as a test - pick out your favourite book in your genre and then your book and have someone else read the first three pages aloud... now in all honesty how does your compare? Good? OK? Needs work?
Don't submit yet if your in your heart know that it needs a bit more work but you're thinking ...surely the agent/publisher will see through that...they won't. They don't have time. Treat them with respect and polish that submission to within an inch of it's life...you may only have one shot.
ps...I can tell I am truly a nerd now thanks to being edited - copy edited and proofed. In the fabulous YA book the HUNGER GAMES I was pulled out of the story on page two...
'I swing my legs off the bed and slide into my hunting boots. Supple leather that has moulded to my feet. I pull on trousers, a shirt, tuck my long dark braid up into a cap, and grab my forage bag.'
I was out of the story...trying to figure how she put her boots on before her trousers...what type of boots or trousers can you do this with... Yes I know I am very sad...But I need to hold onto that to apply it to my own work....but not in the first draft- there my characters run free and dress as they damn well please