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It only took about a year longer than planned, but I am happy to announce my work-in-progress novel, Ghazal, is finally, really and truly finished. The End. I made it!
Of course, now the big question is: what's next? Until it's published, is a work-in-progress ever finished? What steps do I, or anyone else who's completed a WIP, have to take in order to get the manuscript into print?
Here's my road map:
1. The first thing I always do upon finishing a manuscript at any draft stage is to print it out and put it away. I make sure I don't even peek at a single page for at least four to six weeks.
2. Once my manuscript is safely locked away, I take a break. Lunch with friends. Shopping, Drawing, beading--even a writing challenge such as Camp NaNoWriMo with a new story in mind can be a refreshing break.
3. The next step after all those weeks of fun is to take the manuscript out of storage and read the whole thing through, but with this sole promise: that I will not, under any circumstance, write any kind of notes on the manuscript. Instead, I like to have a legal pad and pen ready to list my page and line numbers that contain typos, grammatical blunders, glaring plot holes or character inconsistencies such as wrong birth dates or a jumbled timeline.
When I'm finished with that task, I then transcribe my list item by item onto index cards. I then go through the
manuscript and clip my cards to the appropriate pages. I still don't rush to "fix"
anything yet. Instead, I continue to let the manuscript rest while I write out the best ways to make my corrections. This is because sometimes rather than fixing a typo I might replace it with a better word choice, or I may eliminate the word altogether. The same goes for plot holes; filling them in too quickly can sometimes lead to an entirely new set of difficulties.
5. When I'm certain that I've found my problem areas, I use the notes on my index cards to make my corrections and then print out a fresh manuscript copy.
6. My next job is to create a
chapter-by-chapter outline. For this I again use index cards and note down the one-to-two most important scenes per chapter. I then type the list into chapter order. At the same time I also like to consider what the purpose of each chapter is. I do this for both my own notes and as a possible addition to the outline if I feel it will shed more light on the individual chapers.
7. Now that I have my outline, I write a one-sentence log line describing my book: a character, what he/or she wants, why they can't have it . . . . Very concise, very simple.
8. From this small start I then write a one-paragraph book description.
9. Followed by a one-page synopsis.
10. Followed by a two-page synopsis.
11. I then write at least three different types of bio-notes: a few sentences; one paragraph; half a page.
12. I research agents, editors, and contests.
13. I then write a query letter based on my synopsis.
14. My final step is to create 12 separate submission packages each one tweaked to individual agent requirements (e.g. one agent wants a letter, a one-page synopsis, the first chapter. Another might want a letter, an outline, a one-paragraph bio and the first 50 pages. Whatever, I like to have each piece prepared for when and how it's needed.) Once my packages are ready, I send them out, usually by email or through an online submission form.
15. And while my book is doing the rounds, I get to work on my next manuscript. Yep, it never ends!
Tip of the Day: The whole secret to this final stage of manuscript preparation and submission is to remember Rome wasn't built in a day. It's tempting to want to get the whole thing over and done with and as quickly as possible, but baby steps are key. Set aside 30-minutes to an hour a day solely to work on each of the above steps. Take your time and enjoy the process. And keep writing!