Wednesday, October 12, 2011

THE END, How Books are Made

Last night I finally finished the last scene of my WIP (work in progress). Contrary to the way it sounds, typing "The End" does not mean the work is done.

As I lay in bed last night reviewing the manuscript in my head, I found three major scenes needing adjustment. I had dreams about the stupid book all night long and awoke with the urgent need to write down all the things I found wrong with it as the night wore on.

So, I make the proper adjustment within the text and it's done, right? No? Damn.

After I've completed the manuscript to the best of my ability (or so I think at the time), I'll break it down and send it chapter by chapter to my critique partner. She'll use Microsoft Word's "Track Changes" function and send each back to me one at a time (while I do the same for her with her manuscript).

Once I've considered all of her suggestions and fixed any grammar/spelling errors she's found, it's Kinko's time. I have them print and bind the MS with a red cover--so I know that version is unedited--and break out my red pen.

I do a much better job of line editing (sentence structure, spelling, grammar) on a printed copy. It's just not the same if I read it on the computer. For me, it's easier to find mistakes in printed words.

I work through the 300+ pages, marking mistakes with a red pen, line by line. This takes me about two weeks. (I'm a full-time wrangler of small children, time can be hard to find.) I then transfer all the red-inked notes to my computer copy and make all the final changes.

  • Next, I draft the dreaded query letter and synopsis.
  • Search a giant-ass database of literary agents and publishers.
  • Compare my work to the work represented by each publisher/agent who function within my MS's(manuscript) genre to see if my story will fit their guidelines.
  • After compiling a list of people to query, I search each one on google, check out their bog/twitter/facebook and find some bit of info about them with which to personalize my query to each specific person. (Yes, this takes an infuriatingly long time.)

Finally, I submit the appropriate materials--sometimes they ask for a query letter and nothing else, sometimes a query and synopsis, some want sample pages, a few want these documents attached to an email and some request everything be pasted in the body of an email with no attachments.

Response time on all unsolicited queries is anywhere from 1 day to 6 months. With each response, I update my personal database where I keep track of all submissions. Most are rejections (even super famous authors go though this). During the next few months, I send requested sample pages, chapters, or the entire manuscript to interested parties and wait for one of the fish to bite.

While waiting for the coveted positive response from someone willing to represent/publish my story, I start plotting and writing my next work. Patience is a writer's best friend.

This is my personal process, other writers do things differently but this is what works for me. Now, my lovely aspiring writer friends, go forth and write, submit, write, submit, and repeat!