You have a manuscript! Now what?
I’ve had requests from friends wishing to know more about the writing and publication process. Before anything else, please understand I am at the very tip of this iceberg and am by no means an expert. So having admitted I am a novice, I am more than happy to pass along what advice I have been given about different procedures.
Skipping right to the place where I felt most ‘stuck’…
Finished writing! NOW WHAT?
Celebrate! Every bit of your writing journey should have joy attached to it. Not everything is completely enjoyable, but if you have that underlying joy in the process, come what may, it will be an amazing adventure. I’m not saying there won’t be frustration and pain, but enjoy this journey. So celebrate this step of accomplishment!
Done celebrating and find yourself staring at your manuscript in confusion? I know that feeling. I got there with several manuscripts written and didn’t know what to do next.
(I like to joke that I write for therapy. My settings are happy places I can go to relax and rejuvenate so I can hit the next crazy, super long day. This was particularly important when I had my twins. As soon as I could breathe again, I started writing. With my life prioritized on being a mother, I didn't have time for that part of the journey where you go out and get into a writing club, go take writing courses, go to writing workshops, and so on. I hope you have time for these amazing experiences)
I didn’t know where to turn. Fortunately, I found out my best friend’s brother was an author. I hate bothering people, so it was a while before I had the courage to call him. I shouldn’t have worried. He was wonderful! After chatting with me a while, trying to find out which way I wanted to publish, his advice boiled down to this:
-If you’re going to be self-published, or go with a smaller publisher, or go with a large publisher, you need to make sure your work is as polished as possible. If self-published, between you and the editor, you are responsible for your published content. If with a smaller or one of the ‘big six’ publishers, you want to make sure they don’t have any excuses to throw your manuscript away. HIRE AN EDITOR!
The price range I was given went into the ten thousands. WAIT! Don’t get discouraged! There are also editors out there who are just trying to help others succeed. For a few hundred dollars they can go through, help with broken plots, missing threads, and annoying grammar and punctuation marks.
Editors are not all created equal. And they are just human. Some are better at content, others at the polishing phase, etc. Some want to manage your voice, others want your voice to shine.
Finding an editor can be a process. The most important part is to find one that works well with you. For example, my editor had me submit my first chapter. After I got it back and looked through it, I loved where she was taking me. (Mind you, I had to walk away from her corrections and think about them a day or two to realize she was right!)I hired her to do the rest. Half the money up front, the rest when I was satisfied with my book and ready to send it to a publisher.
(Please understand that throughout the editing process it is crucial to be willing to let go of words, phrases, sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters, even story-lines. Stop hyperventilating! I’ve been trying to estimate how much I’ve deleted and know it is at least tens of thousands. Our work can always be better!)
So go find an editor! How? Call your local literary center. Do on-line research. Talk to those you know have gone through this process. If you have time, attend writing conferences or join a writing organization to network. If you only need copy editing (grammar and punctuation) you can contact your local university’s English department and ask for a recommended graduate student to hire.
During the editing process, don't forget the power of good beta readers. (Members of your writing group, your family, friends and so on.) Having fresh critical eyes on a manuscript helps catch those nasty little flaws. For a fun read about alpha and beta readers... http://tavenmoore.com/2011/alpha-readers-vs-beta-readers/)
A quick re-cap of the basics, since I have a tendency to be way too wordy:
-You have a manuscript done. CONGRATULATIONS!
-Find an editor.
-Get it edited. (Whether for content and copy or just copy)
COMING UP SOON… Done editing? Now what?