Wednesday, 23 July 2008

You've finished your book, now what?

I had a question from an emerging writer who has finished his book. What now?

For a newly finished book, I suggest
1. Put it away for a month or however long it takes you to disconnect. Don't read it, don't touch it. Forget it.
2. Read it all the way through
3. Fix it.
4. Polish up the first 3 chapters and synopsis until they shine like diamonds, really, really shiny diamonds.
5. Go to the (most up to date) Writers and Artists Yearbook, pick 3 agents who represent writers you aspire to emulate and send it out.
6. Forget it.
7. Start the next book so you can talk enthusiastically about it when your agent calls.

Step 5 needs a bit more discussion at a later date, I feel.

Any comments?


Sandra said...

Excellent suggestions.

I've not finished a novel, so I may not have anything useful to offer. But I have written and published a number of short stories, and am in the editing stages of a collection of short stories.

I'd say the process is similar. I thoroughly recommend your first suggestion -- put the book/story away for a while.

The other thing I'd add is once you have dealt with minor issues like typos etc, give the manuscript, or a section of it to a small selection of trusted readers... (*trusted* being the important word!). If you get feedback on any major changes, tune in to see if they actually resonate with you. In my experience, I can only do this if I've detached enough from the work, otherwise I get too personally triggered/influenced.

Once a synopsis and the first chapters are polished, I'd also get 'second' eyes on the work -- it is so easy to miss things, and at this stage it's important to send work that as polished as possible. I have a friend who has the sharpest proof reading eyes - very useful!

Yes to 'forgetting' about it, and make a note of who and when you sent it to. If you get a rejection, find another agent to send it out to, so you have the piece always well in 'circulation' until it finds a home.

Yes to starting something new to put your energy into... I find this so important. If I have all my 'eggs in one basket' they begin to feel very fragile.

Emerging Writer said...

Great comments, especially about the trusted readers. Thanks Sandra.

Jim Murdoch said...

Cannot stress #1 enough. I've left stuff till I couldn't remember writing it. What you need to remember is that, as you're writing, a good portion of the book exists purely in your head. You don't need to explain things or add the details in because you know everything. And it takes a while to clear your head so that when you're reading it you're only reading the same words your potential readers will be. I personally think a month isn't nearly long enough.

Emerging Writer said...

I rely on my unreliable memory...