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Monday, January 23, 2017

Breaking It Down, Or Road Map 2017 Edition...

Happy Monday All,

Recently I've been posting on Tuesdays, but I felt like shaking things up, so I'm posting today.

Back in 2010, I wrote a blog post called "Road Map" talking about tips and things toward getting published. Some of that advice still works and some of it is a bit outdated (for one thing, Nathan Bransford isn't an agent anymore).

I figured I'd give a little update since I've gotten published and talk about some of those other things that helped me get here.

Let's start with the basics...

Know your genre. I have a whole blog post on genres (although, it's an overview and doesn't get into every one that's available nowadays).

Know your audience--this goes with genre, but it also speaks to who is reading that genre. Typically women read Romance, although, there are men out there who read Romance, too. Depending on the romance you're writing, you have to know how to tailor your story for that audience.

What route to publishing are you taking? Are you going for an agent, a publisher, self publishing? A contest? Know the guidelines for those people. Check the websites, the rules, all of it. This goes with knowing your audience.

Follow Industry Professionals Online. A lot of them have blogs. Some of them are on Facebook and Twitter. Find the ones you're interested in and see what advice they have to offer or what they're saying about publishing. They might have some tips and hints that could help you.

Format Matters!

In general, I have found that agents and editors and critiques and
contests will request that you use the following format for your novels:

*Either 12 Point Times New Roman or 12 Point Courrier New (so no fancy fonts--sorry).

* Double Space your work (easier to read)

* .5 indention for new paragraphs

*Center Title in Title Page and Chapter names (whether it's numeration or a title name, like Chapter 1: Fall Out--it'll be in the center of the page) (take off intentions when you're centering)

*1 inch margins all the way around the page (top, bottom, and sides)

*Save document in Word or as .rtf The only time I've ever seen a PDF file when working with published work is when I've gotten the
ARCs (Advanced Reader Copy) of my work. So don't use PDF unless instructed to do so. I don't know what format Wattpad uses, but I do know in general PDF isn't used unless it's an electronic ARC.

*Unless otherwise specified, put pages you're submitting directly in email. Generally agents and editors will request first 3 chapters or first 5 pages and a 1 page synopsis...within the email body itself.

*Page header on every page except title page to include the following: Title, Author Name, Page number (Page number upper right hand corner--unless otherwise specified).  Generally in contests, they will ask entrants to take their name OFF of the manuscript so that the judges don't know who the author is. The NWHRWA operates its Lone Star Contest this way.

Other Stuff...

Read in your genre. If you're doing romance, read romance, if you're doing mystery, read them. YA, read YA. Mid-grade, read it. It helps you know what's being published, what's being read. What's selling, which brings me to following:

Don't Follow Trends. Trends come and go. Write what you want, but don't write it just because it's currently popular. That popularity can fade as quickly as a day. With that said, if a popular trend is Vampire Unicorns and you
absolutely ADORE Vampire Unicorns, then write it. But, if an agent or editor says "ABSOLUTELY NO VAMPIRE UNICORNS" do NOT query them your Vampire Unicorn novel.

Resources...

Know industry terms. Do you know what mss is? What a query is? What an ARC is? Do you understand editorial terms? Find a book on writing and study it. Writer's Digest has some pretty good resources. They have a Free Advice section.

Research where to submit your work. A good website is Preditors & EditorsJeff Herman's Guide To Book Publishers, Editors, & Literary Agents is pretty much updated every year and the 2017 one is available on Amazon and on Barnes & Noble. It has a wealth of information, but make sure you use this book in tandem with looking up the agent/editor you're interested in on their website because sometimes they have more information on their website and may have updated since the publication of the book. It's a resource, not a bottom line tell-all.

When I was starting out I read The Complete Idiot's Guide To Novel Writing (not that anyone is an idiot, that's just the title). Unfortunately, I don't think there is an updated version of the book. So, some of the advice might be a little dated.

Study The Industry...

Are you falling for a myth about publishing? 
Long ago, before I got serious about writing I thought writers had to pay to have their books published.

Here's the reality:  At the time, this was vanity publishers and they were known to take advantage of authors.

So's what's the scoop nowadays?
Most of the time you don't pay anything out of pocket to have your work published unless you self-publish and depending on how you
do that will determine how much you pay. I don't pay anything out-of-pocket to have my work published because I'm working with a publisher that isn't a vanity publisher. Agents and editors aren't supposed to ask you for up-front fees (although, I think there are times there might be a reading fee, but I haven't seen those in my research of agents and editors). Agents are paid through taking a percentage of an author's royalties. Editors get paid by taking a percentage of royalties, too.

Add A Bit Of Polish To Your Work...

Yay! You finished your manuscript. It's lovely, it's amazing, it's got a great plot and engaging characters...you've studied the industry, you know what you want to do...you're ready to publish...

WAIT A MINUTE!

Did you edit your work?

Edit? What? Huh?

Yep. You've got to edit. Find those pesky repetitive words, look for sneaky spelling mistakes. Can you get rid of as many gerunds as you can. Can you say the same thing with 3 words instead of 12? Do you really need that 2-page description about the Vampire Unicorn's castle, or can you cut it down to one paragraph? All these things must be done before you publish, no matter what direction you take.
Bethany Averie & Kerrelyn Sparks

This is where critique partners come in handy. You polish up your novel the best you can on your own, then someone (typically another writer, but it can be anyone with a good eye that you trust) goes through and gives you feedback.

This can be hard. That story is your "baby". You worked hard on that thing. And someone's telling you that place you just loved, loved, loved...doesn't work. Sure, some of it can be one person's opinion--which is why it's good to have more
Bethany Averie, Kerrelyn Sparks, & Christie Craig
than one person look at your work.

Over the years, I've worked with several different critique partners. (Disclaimer, I've never critiqued with any of the authors in the pictures here, these are just fellow authors I'm friends with, not my actual critique partners) They always tell me what works and what doesn't. A good critique partner will give you the "skinny" in a such a way that's honest, but not completely spirit crushing.

My personal critique style: I try to use the sandwich method--constructive criticism, something positive, and then another
Bethany Averie & Terri Thackston
constructive criticism. You don't want someone who just says "This sucks, you suck, it all sucks, throw pie at it." You want someone who's going to tell you what you do well ( example: "Excellent use of dialogue." ) and what you need to work on. (Example: "I think this part is a little word, can you cut it down?")  Maybe even give you ideas on HOW to fix something (I try to do that, and I have critique partners who do this).

But you do not, not, not (did I mention, not?) want to send anyone your first draft. Trust me. And trust me when I say, if you can take some time away from a manuscript and come back, you're likely to
find MORE stuff to fix (this has happened to me).

Either way, rushing the process just leads to mistakes. Fix that baby up until it's just so pretty even the laziest cat with the most sour disposition can't resist snuggling it. (That's metaphorical language. Most cats don't read--at least, I don't think so. I never had a novel-reading cat).

Final Words of Advice...

Even if this is a career choice for you, find a way to enjoy it. Writing can be hard, it can have good and bad days. But if you're
passionate about it, if it's what you really want to do more than anything else, stick with it, even on those hard days. I
guarantee you, you aren't the first or the last author to have a bad day or a good day. We all have them. But you have to find a way to enjoy the process or it just becomes a drag. I love what I do. Some days it's easy to love, some days it's hard to do. But I can't imagine not doing it. If you feel the same way, then chances are you're passionate enough to chase the publishing dream. If you don't want to publish, then just write for fun. Nothing wrong with that. I have plenty of things I've done for fun that I'd never do professionally.


Have A Marvelously Merry Monday!

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