Ever asked yourself, ‘is my novel really ready for publishing?’ If not you should have. This is because a large majority of slush pile manuscripts are discarded simply because they’re not ready. What do I mean by not ready?
Well of course very few novels if any require no changes at all before going to press. But the ideal situation from a publisher’s point of view is that your work will need as few changes as possible- thus making their job easier. The upshot for authors is that if we present them with a well turned piece of fiction then they will be much more likely to accept it for publishing. So if you do it right, it’s potentially a win win situation. Remember that!
So now that we’ve established that a well-honed manuscript means a higher chance of success what should we consider when aiming for this standard?
Here is a brief check list.
- Check that your chapters are correctly numbered/titled.
- Read through each at least three times changing any incorrect punctuation, grammar and sentence construction.
- Be on the lookout for past tense and present tense errors (editors hate these.)
- When you read each chapter, try reading out loud imagining that you are at a book signing in a big store. This will make you more aware of mistakes.
- Try videoing yourself reading your work. Then play it back and listen to it with a critical ear.
- Have you eliminated all unnecessary characters, plotlines and words? Remove anything unnecessary to the story as you need it to move fairly swiftly or you will most likely lose your reader.
- Never assume it’s ready just because you finished retelling the story that was in your head. What about what might be in the readers head? Did you communicate the story that you conceived, well? Or will the reader be left with more questions than answers? Think about the connection points between events and characters. They need to be clear and well timed. Maybe the protagonist needs introduced at an earlier stage? Maybe you need to hint at the motives of the main villain or round out the character of the heroines love interest? Make them see what you see.
- Remember he or she probably has thousands of potential novels lying on their desk. Make yours STAND OUT. Do not have excessively long introductory chapters or opening paragraphs. Use your words like bullets or arrows. Use them to drive home your point quickly and efficiently. Grab their attention. Do not say in twenty words what could be said in ten.
- DO use spell check. (Unless you’re a Jedi. Then, use the force.)
- Beware of changing styles part way through. Be consistent. If you have chosen a character driven plot or a story driven plot, ensure that you have stuck to that. Changing part way through will muddy the waters and annoy your reader. The same goes for your writing style. If you start out descriptive, stick to it. If you narrate, narrate.
- Does your work flow? Is it easy to follow? Get someone else to read your work. Don’t choose someone who will pander to your ego or who is scared to tell you the truth out of fear of offending you. There are forums where people volunteer to do this but it can be hit and miss as to whether these individuals are qualified. Check out their online presence first to see whether or not they have the necessary credentials. Also try writer’s groups. You can find them in most localities or online.
- Ask yourself what your reasons are for thinking that your novel is ready. Is it because you’re sick of it and want to move on to the next thing? If so your boredom will most likely be transparent to anyone who reads it. Is your eagerness to get it sent off to the publisher borne of impatience? Are you all revved up and desperate to make your mark? If so – take a chill pill. Else impatience will cost you that all important book deal and that’s the whole point. Get it right first.
For many writers it’s tough knowing when their literary baby is ready to fledge the nest. Even after sending it to all corners of the globe many often tinker with it endlessly, changing this word and that. But that is no bad thing in many respects as the great Leonardo Da Vinci himself once said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned.”
Keep on improving and adding to your storehouse of knowledge then, you will be better equipped to reach your goal of finally becoming a published author.