There is one question I get over and over from new authors. The conversation usually goes something like this:
“I did it!” they say. “I finished my novel!”
Then they pause.
The path to becoming a published author doesn’t end with you completing your masterpiece–it starts with it. Writing is (mostly) the easy part. Now you have to do the hard work of editing, promoting, and marketing yourself and your work.
I’ve decided to make this a series of posts, because there is no way to fit everything into one post and keep it at a readable length. I have my own opinions about this topic, of course, but I also thought it might be helpful and interesting to hear what other authors and editors have to say. I posed this question on my Linkedin group for writing and editing professionals, asked my editors friends, and consulted a successfully published author, who also happens to attend my church.
What should you do once you finish your novel?
First: enjoy the feeling of satisfaction. Practically everyone wants to write a book, but very few will actually complete one. Congratulations!
Second: find a critique partner (or two) who knows your genre to give you feedback and advice. These should be people who are brutally honest and who read widely in the same genre. No use having a dystopian reader telling you what they don’t like about your historical romance.
Third: revise, revise, revise.
Fourth: go all NSA on agents and editors. Snoop online. Who represents books like yours? Who publishes books like yours? Who accepts manuscripts? Are these editors and agents attending any writer’s conferences? Are they open to bribes? Tailor every query personally. The shotgun approach only fills their inboxes and frustrates everyone.
* * * * *
What do you think?
I certainly agree that you should enjoy the feeling of satisfaction. Completing a novel is extremely difficult, and you should be proud of yourself. But you can’t be too satisfied, otherwise you’ll start believing you have the greatest piece of prose ever written in the history of the world.
I cannot stress enough that THERE WILL BE REVISIONS to be made.
“In writing, you must kill all your darlings.”
― William Faulkner
“Substitute ‘damn’ every time you’re inclined to write ‘very’;
your editor will delete it and the writing will be just as it should be.”
— Mark Twain
I love that Regina talks about finding a critique partner. Note: This person should not be your mother. Make sure your critique partner is someone you can trust to tell you the truth, good or bad. You should want to make your writing better, and to do that, you will need someone to give you all-important feedback and advice.
At this point, you don’t need to scout out an editor. See if you have any bookworm friends or find a writing group with someone who would be willing to act as a free critique. Take their comments and do some self-editing on your own before shelling out the big bucks for a professional editor.
We’ll talk more about that later in this series, and I’ll be sharing advice from editors and other writers as well as including my own thoughts on the topic like I’ve done here, so don’t go anywhere!