It’s both a satisfying and sad feeling. You’ve been at it for months, spending nights and weekends in front of tiny laptop screen passionately punching out the words to your story.
After weeks and weeks of outlining, drafting, revisions, character development, bouts of writer’s block, doubt, chocolate splurges and excitement beyond anything you’ve ever felt, you’ve reached those two words.
When I finished writing my first book, THE PANACEA, I cried. The ending was emotional in and of itself, but I couldn’t grasp that this project I’d spent a year of my life on was over. At least for now. The story was complete at 50,000 words, and I was proud of it.
I finished my book in July of this year, for real. I say that because I’d thought I’d finished it in December 2017. I’d reached the ending I’d always envisioned for this story, but it still felt lacking. It was only until a literary agent suggested I make it a little longer that I realized I had more work to do.
Now that I’ve finished my manuscript, people have asked me how publishing works, or what I’m going to do now. While I don’t have the expert’s grasp on the former part of that question, I can share how I approached it.
You can certainly self-publish, as a lot of writers do, however I’m trying for the traditional route. Check out what happens post-ending below.
Let it be
When I finished my book, I immediately wanted to head straight back to chapter one and begin editing. I don’t recommend this. Instead, step away from it. Let it sit for a month. Don’t look at it. Then, when you are ready to edit, you’ll have fresh eyes.
Proofread and poke holes
Now that you’ve let your book sit, you feel it’s time to start editing. It goes without saying that a writer should do a thorough job of proofreading and grammatical/spelling /mechanical editing. But there’s an entirely different kind of editing that’s crucial – developmental editing. This is the poke-holes editing. For me, I liked to interrogate my own writing.
Why did so-and-so do this? Didn’t you describe this differently a couple of chapters ago? How can x happen if y is happening?
It seems annoying at first to grill yourself with so many questions, but this will really help you spot inconsistencies and plot holes in your story. After all, if you don’t spot it, your readers will.
In short, revise.
Beta readers and critique partners
Once you’ve self-edited, it’s a good idea to find yourself some beta readers, or people who will give feedback on your book. These aren’t your friends, or family, or basically anyone who has an emotional connection with you. Why? They won’t be honest.
Finding good beta readers and critique partners is a fantastic step. They’ll help you improve your story and may spot things your eyes glazed over. I’d recommend anywhere between four and eight. Take their comments and feedback with a grain of salt, though. Remember that’s it’s your story. If they make a suggestion that doesn’t feel right, trust your gut.
Find a great editor
This step isn’t free, but having a great editor will help polish the manuscript and get it ready for my next step. Determine what you want to hire the editor for: is it grammar/spelling/mechanics? Or is it developmental editing? Or is it both? Both will be greatly beneficial.
Query literary agents
This step is the step I’ve been on for eight months now – and that’s not uncommon. Since I’m pursuing traditional publishing, I’m querying literary agents in the hopes that one will want to represent me. Having an agent is extremely advantageous to a writer, and they’re often referred to as “your first friend in the publishing world.” Nowadays, most publishers will not accept submissions unless they come from an agent.
A query is basically a short and sweet email pitch explaining the premise, conflict, and stakes of your book. Agents will often ask for a writing sample to accompany the pitch, which can be anything from the first ten pages to the first three chapters. Important note: A writer should not query an agent for a work of fiction unless the manuscript is finished and polished. Additionally, a genuine agent never asks for money up front. They only get paid if your book sells.
This is where getting cozy with rejection comes in. In the almost year of querying, I’ve received 50+ rejections, one full manuscript request (passed), and one partial (still out for submission). But I’m still going.
Start writing the next book
The truth of the matter is that it’s rare for a writer to get an agent on their first manuscript. Should that be discouraging? No. It means a writer should get to work on their next project – which I’m happy to say I’m doing right now, and it’s completely different from my first one. Not only will you have something to distract you from awaiting agent replies (which can be months after you’ve submitted), but you’ll keep honing your writing. If your first one doesn’t cut it, maybe this next one will.
And that’s all for now! If you want to check out what my next manuscript is all about, please visit the fiction page.
Thanks for reading!