Those who read the last post related to my novel-in-progress may remember that I had a “nearly completed rewrite” as of last December. Some of you, possibly, are wondering what happened with that. Others, if I may be so fortunate, might be newcomers curious about when they can expect to see the published version of the novel that my homepage promises. So what’s going on? If I had a nearly completed rewrite in December, I should be nearly ready to publish, right? Unless I slacked off like a lazy good-for-nothing.
Well, the truth is that it takes far longer to publish a book than anyone who is not themselves an author may realize. I do, in fact, have a completed manuscript, and I’ve had one since shortly after New Year’s. I was only a few days late to reach my self-appointed goalposts. Huzzah!
So that should be it, right? Well, it would be if said manuscript was good enough. Because I’m trying to publish traditionally, my manuscript has to be in a state of polish that will attract the attention and win the “love” of an agent. Agents get swamped with query letters every day from people trying to get their novels published. Not everyone who asks receives. Agents and publishers aren’t willing to spend time helping a newbie author fix a truckload of mistakes they made. They want to pick up a manuscript that will make them the most money for the least amount of effort. And yes, many agents do reject manuscripts based on sentiments along the lines of “I just didn’t fall in love with it”.
So what can an aspiring author do to make sure her manuscript is as polished as it possibly can be before she casts her line into the waters, hoping for a bite? Revising independently is step one. Step two is this: have other people read it and tell you what they think. I did this before starting to query last time, sending my manuscript to a friend from work who enjoys reading fantasy novels. He gave me a few pieces of feedback, which I then made revisions for accordingly. But the people who are really going to be able to help you see the flaws in your manuscript are those who know how a good book should be written.
If I had any friends who were writers (or if I had any left, I suppose I should say), I’m sure it would be quite nice to send them a copy of my manuscript and politely request their input. As the matter stands, the best I can manage is to exchange feedback for feedback. If I want someone to critique my manuscript, I need to pay back the favor by critiquing theirs. And if I want more than one perspective, multiply that by the number of additional people. I currently have six people reading and giving feedback on my manuscript, chapter by chapter, and each of them is returning the favor to multiple others as well. As you might imagine, this process takes quite a bit of time.
I also can’t really control how quickly anybody else gets through my manuscript. Or if they do at all. It’s a system of trust, and it may end up being the case that I critique someone else’s entire manuscript while they never finish mine. If I was a different sort of person, I would only critique as many chapters as each person has so far critiqued for me, but it’s more important to me that I provide critiques to others as I would like them to be provided to me. And so I’ve set myself a schedule to ensure that I deliver on what I promised to each person as fairly and speedily as possible, without sacrificing quality. I estimate at least ten weeks until I’m finished. Here’s hoping that all six people hold up their own end of the bargain.
I was also hoping that some of them would read a few of my posts relating to the use of the omniscient perspective, since I know not many writers on the site I use for critique exchange are familiar with it. But the nature of asking for a favor is such that it isn’t really fair to ask for additional homework to be done. They might choose to take a look at my little website and see what I have to say on the subject, or they might not. In the end, I’ll just have to evaluate the feedback they’ve given and decide for myself what to take, what to leave, and what to do about it.
And if I finish before they do? Well, I’ll have time to work on other projects, like short stories or writing exercises or pieces that I want to write for my own sake alone. Already, I’m spending more time reading, as critiquing can be tough work and require many breaks to avoid giving unfairly harsh criticism due to exhaustion. I’ve joined an online book club that I’m having a lot of fun with. Since I’m currently reading faster than the one book a month that it requires, I’m throwing in contemporary sci-fi and fantasy books to get a feel for the current market as well as older novels that I might be able to pick up techniques from. I also have a few how-to books I’d like to browse through so that I can hopefully have improved my craft even more substantially by the time I’m ready to take my next swing at this manuscript.
I don’t know yet whether I’ll end up having significant changes to make or a number of minor adjustments throughout, but either way I’m determined to see this through to the finish line. No matter how long it takes.
Good luck out there, fellow writers. It’s tough to get published and tough to make a living for many of those who have been, but I hope you all keep at it, too.