Are You Holding On To Your Book Too Long? 4 Signs You’re Ready to Share Your Work With the Publishing Industry

reading-freestockphotosEveryone has an opinion: your critique group, your family etc. If you’re writing a book you need to show it to people to get it published, right? Your critique group or family has watched you toil over your writing for months, years or decades. And often they’re the ones that say: “Send it out!”

Are you one of those writers that holds on to their work too long?

4 Signs You’re Ready to Share Your Work With the Publishing Industry:

1. You’ve received feedback from all the sources you trust. Once you’ve shared with your writing group, writing professor or trusted source a few times–you’re not going to hear anything new. Don’t go searching for lesser opinions just to critique more. Know whose opinions you value and focus on those notes.

2. You can’t think of any holes or gaps left to tackle. Plot? Characters? Pace? Continuity? If you’ve got your basics covered there’s not much left to do. It’s always about the writing, not necessarily the flawless technique that agents or editors will notice. What is ‘perfect’ anyway? It’s an opinion. Hear to your gut when it’s talking to you.

3. You don’t agree with the feedback you’re receiving. Listen, this is your work with your name on it. So no matter what anyone says it’s your decision what to revise and where to rework. You have to agree with the critique group feedback in order to implement it. Don’t go changing things for other people if you’re not sure it’s right for your story. That’s when you stop and recalibrate–the next steps are always up to you.

4. You are proud to put your name on it. If it was published tomorrow would you be happy with it? It’s the writer’s job to get it to the standards that they are happy with. Agents want to see manuscripts at the point where the writer can’t think of anything else to make it better. That means they’re ready for the next collaboration stage.

Agents and editors want to see the best work possible from superbly skilled people. That’s it. It’s our job to ‘talent spot’ and take projects to the next level, but it starts with your great projects coming our way.

Q: When do you know you’re ready to send your work out?

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Agent perspective: What’s wrong with your manuscript

googleimages2Pitching your book to no avail?

Are agents not being forthcoming with advice?

Getting ready to submit in the new year?

The definitive guide to what’s wrong with most manuscripts:

1. All internal conflict, no external conflict. Does more happen in the character’s head than in the plot? This is going to be a problem whether it’s literary or commercial fiction. Make sure enough things happen.

2. Pace. The most important thing to get an agent’s attention is to keep us turning the pages and stop us from doing other things. The moment things lag, you’ve lost us.

3. Voice. This one’s more subjective, but the way to check if your book has voice is whether we can tell the difference between whose head we’re in or who is speaking at any given time. Everything about your writing style needs personality. What makes your book special? Your voice. It’s how we separate all the books out there.

4. Dialogue. This goes with my point above. I should be able to tell who is speaking–a character, not you the author. For me, this separates the beginners from the advanced writers.

5. Length. Does your book follow word count guidelines? If not, it’s an easy pass.

6. Structure. Getting experimental? Are chapters vastly different lengths? Jumping drastically from POV? If we can’t follow your structure, you’ve lost us.

7. Characters. Some people feel differently about the ‘likeability’ aspect of characters. Personally, I enjoy ‘liking’ characters, but more importantly: Do they grow? Do they evolve? Do we care about their stakes and what happens to them? If not, I’m not on board.

This comes from reading many, many slush pile manuscripts that I often like but don’t love.

Use this as a checklist.

Good luck!

Why Agents Pass On Material They Say They Are Looking For

stressMany writers on Twitter know how great #MSWL is. It’s a hashtag where agents and editors can list what they’re looking for. (P.S. For those of you not on Twitter there are two blogs that post them: Agent And Editor WishlistMS Wishlist.)

Many agents also list on their websites what they’re actively looking for, too.

It’s exciting when writers see their manuscript align with an agent’s interest so they send off a query and…then nothing. Either no request. Or a request but no offer of representation.

What happens when agents pass on material they say they’re looking for?

  • We’re still looking for the ‘magic.’ So many things have to be perfect for us to sign up new projects. Even if the plot matches with what we’re looking for there are other parts to the equation.
  • The voice wasn’t right for us. This is the other part of the equation.
  • Writers try to put a square peg in a round hole. If we say we’re looking for contemporary settings with suspense, don’t send us suspense set in space.
  • We have something too similar on our list. You missed the gap! We already got our ‘wishlist’ project.

If you want to know what I’m looking for here it is! My manuscript wishlist.

Q: What do you wonder about agents & their wishlists? I’ll answer all questions!

Repairing a ‘broken’ manuscript

Your manuscript needs serious revisions.

Your manuscript has gone through so many revisions you aren’t sure which end is up.

Your manuscript isn’t accomplishing what you set out to do.

MarkupsSound familiar? You’re not alone. Part of being a writer is following a plot or characters not knowing where it will take you. Sometimes it’s fruitful, sometimes you write 10s of thousands of words that end up in the trash can. It’s never a waste of time, but it can feel like a waste of energy.

If you think you have something salvageable (if you’re not sure, read this) you need to strip off the paint to a blank canvas and layering it again.

What to focus on as you repair:

  • What are the stakes for my main character? How can I increase them?
  • Are all of my scenes moving the plot forward?
  • How can the setting be a character in itself?
  • Can I simplify my plot into a storyboard? Does it still make sense that way?
  • Does what’s on the page reflect what’s in my head?

It’s hard for me to make a generic list when everyone has specific issues, but the most important thing is knowing that you still have the passion for it–even when it’s ‘broken.’ No one said writing (and inherently editing is part of writing) was going to be easy.

You can rebuild it. But you have to know you still have the tools: original premise, plot full of conflict, and a main character that is interesting enough to carry it. 

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“The more you leave out, the more you highlight what you leave in.”  ― Henry Green