Writing the novel, polishing it, loving it–these are only the first steps along the road to getting your book into the hands of readers. Fellow writer, JoAnn Matthews shares today
Finishing a novel is a monumental task, but your work is only part-way done when you type “The End.” What are the steps AFTER finishing your book?
1) Let the book rest one or two weeks before you reread it. You’ll see misspellings, run-ons and other grammatical mistakes that are a mere keystroke or two from correcting.
2) Make notes on inconsistencies. Was your main character’s great aunt named Millie or Martha? Did your childhood friend die 20 years ago or 22 years ago? Find a way to make it easy for yourself to make these changes. I have a notebook handy, and do “word check” to find a name, date or event. I jot down the chapter/page where it’s first mentioned then continue the word check. You find inconsistencies right away. If major changes are necessary, write the situations down in your notebook for changes later. Always remember to include chapter and/or page.
3) Once you’ve made all changes, reread your book without stopping. You still might find a few minor errors you can correct immediately.
4) Ask one or two people you trust to be your beta readers. On two separate occasions with two different books, I asked relatives to read my books. BIG MISTAKE! Just because your close friends or relatives are avid readers does not mean they are capable of editing or recommending changes in your book. THEY AREN’T! Ask people who have experience writing, editing and/or publishing. Chose those who are honest without being cruel, knowledgeable without being pedantic and amenable without being ingratiating.
5) Weigh with careful consideration the suggestions your beta readers make. Beta readers see errors and inconsistencies that never caught your eye. One reader asked me how a sunbather could get a tan when she was sitting in the shade. Another asked how a character could see the expression on the antagonist’s face when she had turned her back on him. This are minor but important changes. If a beta reader suggests a major change, e.g., go from third person to first person, only make the change that you believe will improve your novel. I rejected that suggestion. Do NOT change anything you feel compromises the integrity of the story you are telling.
6) When you have made all the changes you believe are necessary, it’s time to head toward publication. I have always believed that an agent is the best course for me. Contacting a publisher is possible, but most take one or two years—yes, years—to get back to you. An agent takes one to three months. Even that’s a long time, but it’s worth it if the agent sells your book.
7) How to choose an agent? Do your research. Professional magazines such as “Writer’s Digest” and “Romance Writers Report” publish articles about and by agents. Www.agentquery.com has recommendations. Investigate any reference to an agent or agency and note which agents attend writers’ conferences. NEVER EVER pay an agent to sell your book. They work on commission and take their share once the book is sold.
8) Don’t scream “Yes” if an agency calls and says it wants to buy your book. Thank them and say you want to read the contact first. Many writers contact a literary attorney to help them understand the contract and get the best deal.
Good luck and publish in 2013!
Five Lessons Learned
Polishing one’s writing can be a lonely affair.
1. Enlist the aid of others–a writing critique group or even a good friend you trust. Sometimes simply reading aloud to yoruself helps, but when there is an audience, one’s own revision instincts sharpen.
2. Listen to comments on your specific piece., Evaluate, edit in light of those comments, but do not slavishly follow–trust your own creative instincts.
3. Listen to comments made to and by others. Yesterday comments made to another reminded me that the words “appear” and “seem” weaken everyone’s writing
4. Repeats are not necessary unless you have a distinct purpose for them. Mindlessly repeating words is redundancy and irritates readers. Repeating for emphasis awakens readers to your intent.
5. Write for your readers not just for yourself. Journals are for self-directed writing. All else should be selfless.
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