My friend and fellow writer, Christa Yelich-Koth, whose science-fantasy novel Illusion is due out August 2015, offers some insight into the process of releasing a novel. Read and enjoy and stop by her website afterward.
“When is your manuscript ready to send out?”
Writing. Editing. Writing. Editing. Writing.
Sometimes it feels like a never-ending cycle.
You need to have the best quality book written before you send it off. Agents don’t want to deal with a lot of corrections because it takes time. Editors will correct it as often as you want, but it’ll cost you each time. Publishers just think you aren’t ready—they want it ready-to-go. And self-published? Your readers will not come back if your work isn’t well written.
Now… is your newly finished manuscript ready to start sending out to agents/editors/publishers/ or to be self-published??
Here’s your job as a writer: To tell your story the BEST way possible.
How do you do that?
Here are a few ways to make your story the best possible:
1) Look over your manuscript. As in, read through it. And here’s a fun, time-consuming tip: read it OUT LOUD. It seems like it takes FOREVER to do this, but I’ll let you in on a secret. As the author, you know what happens in the book. You know what it’s supposed to say. So you will have the tendency to “fill in the blanks” if there is a word misspelled, if the sentence isn’t clear, if the chapter doesn’t flow well. Reading out loud will help you catch these because it makes you transfer the thought process to a verbal one, which creates one more filter and makes it harder to not see the mistakes.
2) Look at each chapter separately. Each chapter needs to have its own purpose. What are you trying to convey? What is the point? How does this help move the story along? Dig in deep. Cut what needs to be cut. Explain anything that might be confusing. Make sure the reader understands what’s going on in each chapter and how it fits into the story.
3) If all you are changing is perspective, you are ready for *beta readers. Here’s the trick. Ready? When you realize all you are changing is perspective—that you aren’t making the STORY better, just changing how its told (which you can do forever)—then it’s ready to send out to beta readers. Send them a pdf of your book. Let them know your timeline. (“I’d like your thoughts back in 2 months.”) Touch base with them about halfway through. Then, when you get your critiques back (and people will always have something to suggest), here’s the kicker: use ONLY what makes the story better. If what they are suggesting doesn’t make the story better, throw it out. Sometimes what readers suggest is things they’d LIKE to see in your story, not what your story is about. Sift through it. But be honest with yourself. If they are saying something is unclear or didn’t make sense, it just means you didn’t write it well, not that your story sucks. This difference takes a while to learn, but is vital if you want to keep your ego from being too bruised.
Okay. You’ve done all this. You have your ms in front of you. You’ve listened to all the feedback from your beta readers. You’ve done everything you can to tell the story the best way you can.
Guess what? It’s ready to send out. 🙂
((Although I highly suggest at this point finding a professional editor first if you can afford it. They will catch things that beta readers will miss and if you’ve put in the work, you’ll only need them this one time and you’ll know the version you get back will be the absolutely best polished version possible. Good luck!!))
*beta readers: a non-professional reader who reads a written work with the intent of looking over the material to find and improve elements such as grammar and spelling, as well as suggestions to improve the story
Christa Yelich-Koth is the author of graphic novel HOLLOW, comic book series HOLLOW’S PRISM and upcoming science fantasy novel ILLUSION from Buzz & Roar Publishing. She has staffed and led a workshop at the Southern California Writer’s Conference, been a panelist at MiniCon, and was co-founder of Green-Eyed Unicorn Comics. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Her website is http://www.christayelichkoth.com.
ILLUSION can be purchased for pre-order (with an exclusive pdf schematic of the Horizon spaceship), at http://www.buzzandroarpublishing.com/our-books.