I Wrote THE END… I’m Done, Right? Ummm… No.

theendWe were once all Newbie writers. The first time we wrote “The End” on our first novel, we thought we had produced the world’s greatest piece of literature ever written. Why wouldn’t agents and publishers be all over it? Don’t they know we’ll make them millions?

We’ve all been there and I get it. For twenty years now I’ve been writing and those first newbie moments have come and gone. I was so green that when I once received a rejection letter from a literary agent telling me I needed my novel seriously edited, I actually called her and grilled her about “what does that even mean?” I can’t imagine her dinner table conversation that night. Still, this kind, gracious agent actually took a moment to explain what that meant and led me to the editor I use today.

This is not to say that twenty years later I know this industry inside and out, because I don’t. This business (because it IS a business) is changing constantly and with the addition of social media, I’m learning right along with everyone else. But, I know the first draft of a new novel is not the world’s greatest masterpiece. It’s just a first draft and I’m now savvy as to what comes next. The work, the editing, the tearing out of my hair as I clean this monster up.

But newbie writers are like little kids. They don’t know yet what is coming. The moment I hear someone say to me, “Oh yeah, I always wanted to write a book,” my response (years ago) used to be “ooh, how exciting, go write it!” My enthusiasm was endless for them. That’s waned after I soon realized these people had no intention of ever sitting down to write a book, much less finish it. Now I just smile because while I’m excited that person wants to step into this literary insanity, the chances of them actually doing it and completing it are extremely rare. “Wanting to write a book” is very different than “writing a book,” which is very different than “getting the novel ready for publication.” Every step along the way requires a tremendous amount of effort.

I’ve worked very hard at this craft over the years and tried to learn this industry. I finally acquired an agent and also self pubbed a book. And while I do not profess to know everything, there are some bits of advice I can impart to new writers who just finished their first draft.

#1 – Don’t say to every published author you meet: “I just wrote a book and need an agent. Can you get me one?”

Why? Because the first question they’ll ask you is “did you get the book professionally edited?” I’ve heard answers ranging from “I used spell check, it’s too expensive, I’m sure it’s fine, my mom read it and loved it and I’m sure it will sell.” I’ve also been met with blank stares and condescension that I would even ask the question. Um…. ok. So the answer is, “no, I really can’t get you an agent but I can direct you to a directory where they all are and you can start querying.”

#2 – Learn Social Media. Even if you get that agent or get that book deal with a publisher, as a new writer, you will be required to create your own social marketing platform. So, get yourself a webpage, a blog, a Facebook Author Fan Page and a Twitter acct. If you’re Type “A” also get on Google+, Goodreads and a host of other author sites. Get a book trailer going on youtube. Do everything you can and link it all back to you and where someone can purchase your book. You need to build your fan base to get the word out that your novel is ready to be read.

#3 – Keep writing. Why? Because if you sit around watching your Amazon ranking #’s or sit around waiting for the agent to call, you will fall into a great, sinking depression. Always keep yourself busy with another WIP, short story, flash fiction. I don’t care what it is, but keep writing. The more books you have out there, the better off you will be and the more sane you’ll be having your mind kept busy.

So, I leave you with this new writers… yes, some badly edited works get picked up and make millions. But honestly, that’s like winning Lotto – it’s really not real life. So instead, congratulate yourself on taking the first step and finishing your book. Now take the second one and pay to get it edited by a respected editor… and then take the third step and get your ducks all lined up. It’s going to be a heckava ride!

Please feel free to check out my Dark Fantasy Tale THE WORLD OF KAROV.
US Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/World-Karov-Children-Demilee-ebook/dp/B00APJ6Z6Y/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1377874818&sr=8-1&keywords=the+world+of+karov
UK Amazon: http://www.amazon.co.uk/World-Karov-Children-Demilee-ebook/dp/B00APJ6Z6Y/ref=sr_1_1_bnp_1_kin?ie=UTF8&qid=1377874976&sr=8-1&keywords=the+world+of+karov

The sequel, THE RUBY AMULET is scheduled for release, December 2013.

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22 thoughts on “I Wrote THE END… I’m Done, Right? Ummm… No.

  1. You CAN be your own editor, but it means putting the book aside (for some months, preferably) and coming back and reading it as an outsider. It takes time and effort and a great deal of patience (“What, I have to read it AGAIN?!” Yep, you do – every line). It also helps to have another read it, someone who is literate and cares and, above all, is honest enough to give balanced feedback.

    • Oh, you should be your own editor – I’ve come back to books over and over and constantly change things, but the fact is, I miss spelling, grammar, POV issues, etc… it takes a very skilled person to be able to edit their own work to perfection, and if you’re a new writer, I firmly believe like you said, get another set of eyeballs who are literate and honest enough to give feedback.

      • Yes, but that’s also where putting it aside helps, which removed the writer from the inside “nuts and bolts” of the thing. That said, you are of course right, if a writer has got a word wrong, or grammar wrong, they won’t know it’s wrong, although they will pick up on the casual mistakes, the typos, etc.

        For me the trick is not to try and keep writing a better book! It’s always tempting to just keep on polishing the thing or give it another rewrite, and never commit! It’s hard to finally say, “No, that’s it, let’s work on the next book.”

        As I heard it said of an artist once, “Sooner or later, you have to hang it on the wall.”

        🙂

  2. After falling into a major financial hole with my editor, I’ve decided to be much, much more patient with my writing. Maybe I won’t need an editor for more than one pass and it’ll be easier on the wallet. Still, it’s amazing the way the human brain manages to “fill in” and cover up your mistakes. Great post!

    • I seldom do a second editorial pass – you’re right – it’s just too much money, so I edit and edit and edit until it’s as clean as possible and then I send it off. Still, once I make changes, I wish I had the funds for a re-edit since I’ve probably changed a lot based on their advice. It’s so hard to make it perfect.

  3. Typing “The End” means you’re only beginning. Self-editing can be done but another set of eyes, ones that haven’t seen it before, will find things you, the author, gloss over. Great article. I still believe the best and final editor (after having a professional editor check it) are the ears. Read it aloud! (btw, I’ve corrected “is/are” about 6 times now — are the ears? is the ears?) Screw it. Rewrite. The ears are the best and final editor (after having a professional editor check it) to validate the work.

  4. I’m one of those people who always used to say: “I’d like to write a book someday!” And it took me years and years and years before I actually finished at least the first draft of one. That was 2011, and I still don’t have the manuskript even close to a state that I would feel comfortable sending in to publishers – I’m considering getting a professional editor now, because I don’t quite trust myself to be objective enough!

    And I haven’t even started editing on the two manuscripts I’ve written since…

    • Hmmm… good question… I guess you have to see if she does what you need her to do. My editor, Denise Vitola, is both a writing teacher/editor. She actually doesn’t do just grammar and spelling, but character and POV development too. She’s been known to return my work with cancelled out chapters because they bog down the story. I’ve had other editors that just edit and proofread. It really depends on what you need.

  5. I wrote “The End” on my first novel in 2000. I was so excited about it, I gave the novel to my mom to read. Her response: “Why’d you waste so much time writing that? It’s terrible!” I’ve been on a quest to improve my craft since then. I read books on writing and take courses. I think I’m improving, because my mom actually liked my last flash fiction piece. I’m currently doing a big self-edit of my WIP. I don’t feel as green as I was back in 2000, but I still has more to learn.

    • Her response was “why did you waste your time? It’s terrible?” I’m actually really sorry you heard that. First of all, you should be so proud of yourself for finishing your first novel and 13 years later I’m going to be excited for you and tell you great job! What a wonderful accomplishment, whether the writing was good or bad. You completed something most people never, ever do and please take that thought with you always. Learning the craft is another thing, but first and foremost, seek out people that will help you improve your craft, but with kindness. It’s one of the reasons I adore my editor Denise Vitola. Even when what I write stinks, she approaches it positively and helps me fix things. It’s one of the reasons I don’t show my writing to certain people in my family or circle. There’s a fine line between candor and callousness.

  6. All true, Lyse, and all your points are valid! I do think your #3 tip is the most important. Over the years I’ve seen too many writers finish that one book and then sink all their time and effort into marketing it, while never writing another word. That’s a shame, because having a list of titles under your name is the best marketing you can have, in my opinion anyway!

  7. What a great post. I stumbled upon it on Twitter, and am now a new follower of your blog. First of all, I have to say you DID hit the lottery when you called an agent to complain about the feedback she was gracious enough to provide, and she was then gracious enough to further explain the feedback! Wow. Loved that anecdote. As for professional editing: I recently went through the conundrum of, “should I hire an editor, or do I know enough about editing to self-edit my work?” Here’s how I solved it: I handed my first chapter to two professional editors who agreed to look at it for free and then give me quotes for editing the entire manuscript. When it came back looking like a stuck pig had bled upon it, I finally understood what people mean when they say, “You’re too close to your own work to edit it.” I’d advise anyone who is debating hiring an editor (or not) to give their manuscript the same litmus test! It’s a humbling experience, to say the least!

    • Thanks for coming, Kris and WOW, what a great way to choose editors! I never would have thought to “interview” them both. I’d have even paid for them both just to see how they worked, but you took it a step further. One of my editors – we have a joke that she comes “with a gallon of red ink.” (meaning she edits so much it’s a wonder I can even write) Basically we are all too close to our own work. It’s imperative someone else looks at it. Thanks for reading and commenting. Appreciate it.

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