Ten Tips For Getting It Out There

Thoughts based on my own experience of editing, being edited, reading full and partial manuscripts and synopses for free reads and as a beta reader, my submissions which went horribly wrong, those which went right and stuff which I regard as probably true. Feel free to write and tell me I have this all wrong. Here’s the thing: you have a manuscript you want to place and submissions you want to do and I have quickly put together twenty thoughts on this because I know your work matters a lot to you. Therefore, it does to me.

Anna x

Photo by Pedro Sandrini on Pexels.com
  1. Read your work aloud. Only then will you hear and feel the sentences that have gone awry and the rhythm and weight that feel off. You will begin to hear and feel what your reader does. This is not an optional add on, but an essential. It also helps if you print it off and read, but I truly find reading aloud is key.
  2. Always use CTRL 4 to identify which words you overuse. These may be particular adjectives or you might surprise yourself here – quirks you had of which you were unaware. (See point 1.)
  3. I am not an expert, but I think a major issue – and one which I know I have cocked up myself – is not advancing the plot quickly enough. Pah, you say. I want a prologue and stacks of description. I love that too. I mean, I’d happily roll around in words all day like a pig in clover (or shit – forgive me), but it can grate. You’ve got to hook your reader and there are many ways to do that. A good way to reflect is by looking at the first pages of books you admire – and ideally cross genre. Reading is your finest teacher anyway!
  4. Linked to 3 and hooking them. A superb first sentence. Paragraph. Spend ages polishing and refining. Read, read, read for ideas and training.
  5. The show don’t tell maxim…I am not sure I am the person to comment on this because I want both, so mix it up. Don’t bore your reader into submission or the recycling bin. Or trash file. Harsh, but I am sure I have been there. Don’t bury your reader in detail and scene setting.
  6. Tough love. You CANNOT send out work with spelling errors or sentences that don’t…make sense. Is is clear to which thing your pronouns refer? Can you handle speech punctuation? Again, reading it aloud will help here. Have you misspelt the agent’s name? Or got their gender wrong? God: check. It would be awful if your work didn’t even get a look because you cocked this up. But I do believe that would be fair enough. It’s a tough business.
  7. Your synopsis always contains spoilers.
  8. Choose your verbs with infinite wisdom.
  9. Learn to use a variety of punctuation because it’s gorgeous. I will tell you now, though, that I have to be taken firmly in hand about my very long sentences and over-use of the lovely semi- colon. Take advice because while it’s your book, just as, when you get a publisher, your book is maybe half-way there when it goes to the editor, at submissions stage your writing has to be shit hot. Or close enough. Otherwise I bet you’re going to get knocked out of the water by the other folks who were more attentive.
  10. Always take advice. You are up very close to this manuscript. Fresh eyes will be needed.
  11. Why are YOU the person to write this book? Strikes me that this is a helpful thing to think about when (well obviously before) sending your pitch – and telling them.
  12. Show awareness of your indie press or agent. It’s polite, respectful and shows you mean business and have done the groundwork; that you might be a fit. This is part of the work. Reading their titles is part of the work. I think of it like this: they put in the work and now you have to.
  13. My day job is as an English teacher. I am coming at this from two angles now: it is harder to write with economy and precision than it is to write prose larded with adverbs and metaphors. Sometimes (takes a deep breath) learning to write a book may involve relearning (or unlearning) things you have been taught at an earlier stage. Like using lots of exciting metaphors and similes and lots of ‘wow words’. Make the language work; think how you could unpack it and use it judiciously and inventively. Cut. Choose wisely, padwan.
  14. Learn to accept rejection and that plenty of people don’t ever reply even though they ought to. Learn that if you make spelling mistakes in your submission and on your submissions letter, arguably you asked for it anyway. Rejection is part of it all and it hurts; the key is to keep going and not to feel persecuted. Sometimes, you cannot learn anything about your manuscript from rejection because you don’t learn anything from a form letter. But review what you have written and also review you. Feeling persecuted is going to stymie your creativity.
  15. Back to the manuscript. Ask someone online if they could be a beta reader and offer to read their work, too.
  16. If you ask someone to look at your work or you ask for opinion and criticism, reflect and listen. It is too easy to assume it is a difference in taste if they suggest changes. Use this time to reflect on what’s been said instead.
  17. Don’t panic about what you should be writing. Write what you want to write, but keep your ideas lively on genre and on who your influences are and, perhaps, on whose work you see yours being like. Because you might be asked.
  18. If you are submitting a book – this in on errors again – there’s no excuse for not being able to use an apostrophe. Also, you cannot rely 100% on spellcheck – and I notice this is a particular issue for homophones. Check, check and check again. And. like I said before, read your work aloud because this will also help you to notice spelling errors as spellcheck is not intuitive and cannot master context.
  19. Take breaks: between submissions, put your manuscript away for a bit and reflect. New things may pop out.
  20. And finally – I appreciate this is not what everyone does – why not work on something else for a while if your work is not getting accepted? For a start it’s refreshing but also, you might find that this new thing is better and furthermore, should your initial manuscript get a look in you can tell the agent or the publisher that you have something else up your sleeve. People like amazing creativity, but graft is cool, too – and it needs to go hand in hand with all that artistry because writing and books are also commerce and best to get one’s head round that early on.
Photo by Steve Johnson on Pexels.com

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s