Today we hear from freelance editor and author of The Dragon Whisperer, Vanessa Ricci-Thode.
So you just finished writing your book? Congrats! Reward yourself! Go grab some ice cream. Have a wild evening out with friends. You’ve earned it. Few people ever even start writing a book, never mind finishing one. You’re a star!
Now it’s time to roll up your sleeves and get to work. That’s right, writing a novel is the easy part! If you’re completely lost about what to do next, then you’ve come to the right place.
Step away from the manuscript and no one gets hurt
Give the novel some time to simmer. Do anything that doesn’t involve tinkering with your shiny new draft. It’s one of the first thing Susan Bell recommends in her excellent book The Artful Edit
. Even the masters of literary abandon at NaNoWriMo suggest taking time off before getting back to work on your novel, and they’ve got some excellent tips
on what you should do next.
Don’t fall in love with your words
Once you’re back at it with fresh eyes, you need to remember that this is a first draft. Don’t get too attached to it and it will be easier to focus your revisions. You’ll need to watch out for those “darlings” Stephen King warns us about in On Writing
, as well as point of view problems
, and the insidious matter of telling rather than showing
It all seems daunting, especially when you consider that this is still the beginning stages of revision, but there are many tools available to a resourceful and dedicated writer. I’ve named some already, and one of my favourite books on this subject is The First Five Pages by Noah Lukeman.
Find a second (or third or fourth) set of eyes
No one can wholly edit their own work — and this from a professional editor! — so find some objective friends and family members. Get them to read your book and give feedback — constructive feedback! Be sure to ask them how you could improve. Don’t have any readers in your social circle or family? Join a writers group
or submit to an online critique group like Critters
Editors aren’t your enemy
Okay, by now you should have gone through at least one more draft of your novel, but dozens of rewrites wouldn’t be unusual (or even a bad sign). You’re confident that you’ve got the best manuscript you’re capable of. Remember my second point and don’t get too attached. You may have taken your novel as far as you can, but a good editor can guide you in taking your writing to dizzying new heights.
Whether you plan to self-publish or approach traditional publishing houses, remember that good editors want your book to succeed. When they make suggestions, they aren’t trying to “tear apart” all that you’ve worked so hard for. It’s an editor’s job to point out lingering weaknesses and guide you in making your novel truly shine.
If you want to hire an editor (and I strongly recommend it if you plan to self-publish), there are plenty of places, like the EAC
, to find qualified professional editors for whatever genre or length of story you’ve written. Do your research
and make sure you find an editor who is the right fit
I frequently have authors ask me, after all the above steps have been taken, where to find publishers
. There’s always the option of self-publishing, and I could fill a whole post on that. For traditional publishers and markets, I recommend checking out Duotrope’s listings
, as well as two great print resources: Jeff Herman’s Guide to Editors Publishers and Agents, and the Novel & Short Story Writer’s Market.
Final comments from Beverly:
Thanks very much, Vanessa! These are useful, practical tips. One note I wanted to share with readers is that Duotrope is now largely a paid site. They’re the top name in the game; but there are donation-only alternatives, such as The Submission Grinder
Another note is that if you really feel that you can’t afford to hire an editor or proofreader (or cover artist for that matter), you have the option of hiring a student for a smaller amount of money. You pay less, but bear in mind you also get less experience, so you must keep expectations realistic.
If you have any questions or comments for Vanessa, leave them in the comments.
Vanessa is a word sorceress working as both a fiction author and editor with a focus on genre fiction. She’s been writing her whole life, and has been a freelance editor for three years, with active membership in the EAC. Visit her website at www.thodestool.com for details.