Write, edit, submit…

Writing is a team sport

Really the title of this blog post should be write, edit, edit, edit, edit, edit, submit. In my #AuthorsForFireys blog I mentioned that I had sent my manuscript off to an assessor. About ten days ago, editor Dan Hanks sent me his feedback and report on my manuscript. I was chuffed to read this comment in his email: The long and short of it is that this was a tremendously fun story.

Dan’s report is a considered breakdown of everything he thought worked or needed polishing. He also included a brain dump of notes scattered through the manuscript, pointing out his thoughts as he went which was really helpful. I have quoted some of his comments in this blog.

The story unfolds at pace, the structure is all present and correct, and the characters are so well written in their shades of grey that you’re never quite sure who is going to end up being good or bad or somewhere in between. Which means the tension is kept cranked up to 11 for most of the book and the reader can’t help but keep turning the page to find out how it’s all going to end. Great stuff!

manuscript assessment comment

I have heard varied opinions about the value of manuscript assessments, so I did enter into this exercise with a degree of skepticism. It was with welcome relief that found it to be very valuable. There is also the added bonus of an injection of confidence when someone you don’t know, and who’s job it is to be critical, reviews your work.

The writing style is crisp and clean and punchy, as you would hope from a book of this genre, but there is certainly scope to vary the rhythm in places and build on the beautiful flourishes of prose that crop up from time to time – which I believe will lift the book to the next level.

manuscript assessment comment

Here are the things I found most helpful from Dan’s feedback…

On story, plot and structure:

  • identified some gaps and areas he felt needed to be fleshed out – particularly to give context to make it work more effectively for an international market
  • inject a little more scene setting
  • identified a loose end I hadn’t accounted for that needed tying up

There is a big theme here about having the freedom to be yourself. Theme is a big way to turn a perfectly fine and well plotted story into something that the reader can’t stop thinking about after they’ve put the book down. And what you’ve done with these characters – set against a backdrop of a campaign arguing for the right to be able to be yourself – is quite special.

manuscript assessment comment

On characters:

  • a couple of minor characters he felt needed a bit more distinction between them

On writing style (description/dialogue):

  • identified a few areas to tidy up to improve clarity and flow
  • a couple of spots to improve logic or continuity for the reader
  • some advice on grouping dialogue snippets appropriately so it’s easy for the reader to understand who is saying what
The forest for the trees

Last week I worked through all Dan’s feedback and made most of the changes he suggested. The other interesting thing for me about this exercise was that between the beta readers and the manuscript assessment I set the work aside for about a month without looking at, or thinking about it at all. I had one of those ‘aha’ moments when I went back to the work, about why people say you should let your manuscript ‘breathe’. Looking at it with fresh eyes gave me a new perspective, and I made some more new changes I identified myself, because of the distance.

All in all this is a really entertaining read, with a surprising amount of heart for a thriller, and some great characters to follow as they try to solve this mystery (and hopefully more in the future??).

manuscript assessment comment

I still have some minor tidying up to do, but did send a synopsis and a sample of the work I have completed revising to query a couple of agents last week, so I feel I have now started the next part of this journey. As I enter the querying phase, I am following the approach I learnt from completing the online Pitch Your Novel course I wrote an earlier blog about and look forward to seeing how that goes, though no doubt the waiting will be a challenge!

How is your writing journey going?

Querying in 2020

I trust everyone is having a pleasant festive season. The timing of Christmas in the middle of the week seems to have thrown significant confusion my way. For some reason I didn’t realise it was Friday yesterday and forgot to do all the things I might usually do on a Friday, including posting a blog post, so apologies for being a day late. Last week marked a milestone for this blog – my 100th post, so it would be remiss of me to fail to post this week. Better late than never…

This morning I did research and preparation for querying my manuscript as I want to be prepared to get started once all the beta reader feedback is in and incorporated. The querying process will involve a bit of administration and organisation, so I set up a spreadsheet to help me, and who doesn’t love a spreadsheet I hear you ask…? Said spreadsheet has three tabs – one for literary agents, one for publishers and one for manuscripts writing prizes – all avenues that could lead to publishing.

Having ummed and ahhed about the agented or not agented approach to publishing, I have decided that I will start with querying some agents. The decision to try agents first was driven in part by the fact that I work almost full-time and want to use my meagre spare time for writing, rather than focussing on the business end of publishing. In addition there are obvious benefits in having someone who really knows the industry going in to bat for you and taking care of contracts and guiding you through the process.

I reaseached agents, publishers and competitions and picked about ten of each to start with. My spreadsheet is a place to keep a summary of them – names, websites, submission requirements, when they are open for submission, what their estimated turn around times are, whether they accept submissions in my genre, and if they have other authors or novels that are comparable to mine.

My go to places for this exercise, and to find information about publishing have been:

All three websites have great advice on the publishing industry and getting published. I also made use of the course materials from a couple of Australian Writers Centre online course which I have reviewed in previous blogs – Inside Publishing and Pitch Your Novel.

Once my spreadsheet was set up I identified two agents who will be open to queries in late January and prepared submission packages, taking care to ensure what I send covers all their submission requirements. I now have a good start to a plan of attack to give myself the best chance of getting my manuscript published in 2020. I’m expecting a lot of this process to be a waiting game, so I will also keep working on my next manuscript, the second in the series. The added benefit of starting another novel is that if I get any nibbles with my querying and am asked if I am working on anything else, I can hand on heart say yes.

What are your writing goals for 2020?