Thursday, August 15, 2013

Technical Topic -- What to do when you've done what you do


Congratulations on finishing your manuscript.
Woot woot.
Go celebrate.

We'll wait.




...  All through with dancing and whooping it up?
Now there are a few necessary steps to take to get from here to publication.


 I. Get Crits

What:  Turn some chapters of your manuscript over to harsh, knowledgeable critters.  Listen to what they say.  You need critters who haven't been with you every step of the way as you wrote.  Critters who are not your family or friends.

This is not putting a saucer of milk out for the tabby.  This is wrapping yourself in raw meat and stepping into the lion's cage.

How:  There's a Writer's Workshop in the Books and Writer's Forum.   Here.  Absolute Write, here has a 'Share Your Work' section.  Writer's Forum here has a Writers' Workshop.
If you are writing genre, there are probably specialized sites for writers of your genre.

Why:  Intelligent criticism of your work will help you write better and will prepare you to edit your manuscript.



II.  Let the manuscript rest

What:  Put the work away for as long as you can.  Six weeks.  Three months.  Six months.
(You spend this time working on the next ms and critting other folks' manuscripts, which is an excellent way to improve your own writing skills.)

How:  Print it out and put it in a locked drawer in the bottom of your desk.  Put all the work in a folder named "Open in January.

Why:  This lets you look at your own work with a critical editorial eye.  It gives you distance.

III.  Learn how publishing works

What:  Spend a solid 40 hours studying the publishing industry. 

How:  Start out by Googling everything you can find on the subject.  Then drop into places full of knowledgeable folks and ask questions.

Why:  If you were going to (a) take a job in Thailand for a year or (b) go to State Aggie to study animal husbandry or (c) work for Avis Rent-a-car, you'd do that much research about (a) the country, (b) the university or (c) the business.
Why would you go into writing with less preparation?

III. Learn about agents


What:  Start making a spread sheet of agents who work in your field.  See who they represent.  See who they sell to.  See what kind of deals they're making.  Find out what folks say about them. 
If they have an on-line presence, get a feel for who they are.

How:  Google.  Look at the acks in the front of books similar to your own writing.  Publisher's Lunch and Publisher's Marketplace.

Why:  That's the list you will query, when you query, if you decide you want an agent.  And after all, you have some time while your manuscript is resting. 

IV.  Revise

What:  When the manuscript has aged like, y'know, fine wine ... take it out of hiding and read it over.
Now you will revise.  Now you see what's wrong.

How: Read and correct as if someone else had written it.

Why:  Because, unless you have indeed done this, the manuscript is not as good as you can make it. 


V.  Find Beta Readers

What:  Beta readers take an entire manuscript that is ready for submission and crit it.  Beta readers, if possible, have never seen the manuscript before.

How:  Find them by doing beta reads for others.  Find them by making friends in writers forums.  Pay them in chocolate.

Why:  Because they will tell you if the whole thing works.  They'll point out illogical story lines.  They'll improve the manuscript.

 

VI.  Re-revise in light of the Beta read

'nuff said.







VII. 
Get an agent ... or not


Three months have passed since you declared your manuscript finished. 

You will have read 10,000 words arguing Indie/Big Press/Small Press.
You'll have the best manuscript you can write in one hand and a significant bit of WIP in the other. 

Now you make this decision.

6 comments:

  1. Great advice, Jo, as usual. I just wish I had more "rest" time for my books now--that's what I miss most from my pre-published days.

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  2. Me, too.

    Now theoretically, books are supposed to get easier to write every time you write one.

    I have not found this to be the case.

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  3. When I have no other rabbit holes, I look at who represents whom:
    http://www.querytracker.net/clients.php

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  4. Excellent site for finding and sorting agents. I should have mentioned it. Glad you have done so.

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  5. Excellent post! so glad I found this!

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    Replies
    1. Hope it's useful to you.

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