PitchWars Round-Up: What Else Can I Do While Revising My Manuscript?
Thanks again to everyone who submitted to me in Pitch Wars 2017. Whether you found a mentor or not, you may now be asking: what should I do next?
If you need a break from revising your manuscript and query, there are many other things you can do now to prepare for your career as an author! So what are you waiting for? Let’s get started!
Note that much of what I’m going to suggest here is free or low cost.
Learn more online about writing and publishing
One of my favorite websites is JANE FRIEDMAN: WRITING AND PUBLISHING IN THE DIGITAL AGE. She offers great articles on writing, editing and publishing—everything you need to know, and more. I’ve heard Jane speak at writer’s conferences, and she is very smart and knowledgeable. Go take a spin around her site, and learn something! (Did you know you can also hire her to critique your work and/or query? Read more on her site.)
Another great free resource is WRITER’S DIGEST. This site includes examples of successful query letters, interesting articles by guest authors, information on contests, creative writing prompts, and a lot more. Prefer print? You can subscribe to their magazine or order one of their books from the site.
Get your list of agents in order
This can be stressful and time-consuming. I know. I’ve been there. You will need to make a detailed list (maybe a spreadsheet) of each agent you want to submit to, and research each. Agents provide their likes/dislikes and individual submission requirements on the website for their agency. So devote some time and thought to your list.
Don’t know where to start? Perhaps look at the Acknowledgements section of comp books and see who the agents are for your favorite current stories. Or, visit author websites where you can often look up the agent for your favorite authors.
You can also get a subscription to Publishers Marketplace to see who is making deals right now in your genre. (Some information you can access free; otherwise, a subscription is $25/month.)
Work your social media
You are going to be asked to do this anyway by your editor, agent or publicist, so why not start now? You will need a website. Get that started! I could write an entire article on different hosting companies and what elements are needed for your site, so I won’t go into all of those details here. There’s information online, and I’ll try to write more about this in separate blog post. But think about it and do some research in the meantime.
You will need a domain name. Do a check: is your name available (www.MyName.com)? If not, see what other authors have done to customize their site name (for example: add a middle initial; or perhaps add the word “author” or “books” to the end of your name).
If you are part of Pitch Wars, you’re probably already on Twitter, which is a good start. You’ll probably be asked to join all social media platforms, and have the same name across all of them (I am sandiwardbooks on Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest). You’ll probably find one or two that you like to use, and you should secure your name across the other platforms in the meantime.
Join author groups
There are many Facebook and Twitter groups and other venues (individual websites) for authors. Join a few, see what people are posting, start to interact, and find your people! Sharing information with other authors is extremely valuable for newbies trying to get up to speed. And the more you promote your fellow authors, the more they’ll be willing to help you out when you have a project that needs love and attention.
You can also go to Meet Up and see what writing-themed groups are meeting in your area—yes, face to face! Some writing groups meet once a month over coffee or at a library just to chat. Others meet to simply write silently in the proximity of others, which can be a way to get out of the house and a) write in peace if you have a noisy house full of kids, or b) meet up with other people if you spend a lot of time writing alone.
Take a class or attend a writer’s conference
Okay, now I’m going to get into a few items that require a time and financial commitment. But if you wanted to change careers—become a chef, or an architect—wouldn’t you spend some time and money getting the right training? I think you’d have to at least consider it.
Some classes are offered online (there’s a lot available, so do your research and see what other authors recommend). Or, look up what’s available at a local college. Some people pursue a Master’s Degree in Creative Writing, but that’s only something you should commit to if you are very serious and can’t live without it. You have to be willing to make a major investment with no guarantee of future pay-off (in other words, you have to want to do it for fun as well as for the learning component). You can also research writing retreats (these require only a week-end or week-long commitment), which are sometimes coupled with group or expert feedback.
Writer’s conferences often take place in big cities and require travel. But they are tremendous fun, and there are often non-stop workshops over a couple of days where you can learn more about all aspects of writing, publishing, agents, publicity, social media, and all that good stuff.
Consider a critique partner or professional editor
Critique partners are other authors who are willing to read and review your work-in-progress while you do the same for them. They can alert you to areas where your manuscript might need work. Sometimes we all get too close to our own material to see the flaws.
Keep in mind that one person’s opinion is just that—one person’s opinion. So think about it before making a change, because your book represents your vision. But personally, I generally assume that if one person has a suggestion, they’re right about it—and if two or more people make a suggestion, they’re definitely right about it. Don’t get defensive. It doesn’t help your manuscript.
I also always hire a professional editor, even before my manuscript goes to my editor at the publisher. My book represents me, and I want it to be the best it can possibly be. Editors can be expensive, so do your research carefully.
Don’t hire a proofreader unless you know you need one—what most authors need is not a proofreader but a developmental, “big picture” editor. You need someone very experienced, a professional who has seen and critiqued many manuscripts and will write you a report with suggestions. My editor is author, editor and creative writing teacher Susan J Breen.
If you’re lucky enough to get a mentor through a program like Pitch Wars, you can win a full critique for free. So check back at Brenda Drake’s website for more contest info!
Yep. I said it. Go read some books! Look at current debut novels. Why were those books successful? Why did they sell? It’s worth some thought.
And check out helpful books on writing, like Stephen King’s aptly named book: On Writing.