1. Fronzizzle
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    Fronzizzle Member

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    So...what now?

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by Fronzizzle, Feb 28, 2014.

    Hello all,

    I'm looking for some advice from the great contributors at this forum. I'm sort of at a loss regarding the best way to proceed.

    A couple of weeks ago, I (finally) finished the first draft of my novel. After stepping away from it for a couple of days, I went back to it and did quite a bit of editing - I fixed a few plot issues, changed some scenes, fixed some grammatical errors, etc. Once that was done, I gave the book to my wife to read/edit. When she finished, we sat down and discussed it - what she liked, what she didn't, was something not plausible, how were the characters developed; pretty much everything. Based on her feedback and our discussion, I have made a few more changes; I have one more plot point to work out, but I'm confident that I'll be able to do that shortly.

    I have no idea where to go from here. At some point soon, I think I'm going to have to try and answer a couple of questions: (1) is the book any good? and (2) do I have any talent as a writer?

    I don't really know how to go about that. Do I find/pay a "real" editor? Try to find an agent? Give the book to friends to read? I wanted to try and stay away from posting it anywhere as I do hope to get it published at some point. Unfortunately, my only previous writing experience was posting 10-12 articles on a football-based website a couple of years ago.

    Now that I have this one mostly finished, I have the itch to write more; I already have three other ideas I'd like to pursue, but I'm not sure if I should bother; the reality might be that I'm good with coming up with stories but poor at writing about them.

    Looking for thoughts & opinions on what the next step(s) should be. Thanks in advance for all replies.
     
  2. JayG
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    JayG Banned Contributor

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    The first question I'd ask is why your qualifications for writing with skill are better, or worse, than your neighbors. Talent is potential, not an innate ability to do what others have to learn to do. If it was, people with a talent for writing wouldn't have to be taught grammar, or spelling, or...

    Seems to me that unless your qualifications and knowledge of the process of constructing a story matches that of the average professional now selling their work you're not going to have much luck in getting a contract because publishers aren't looking for okay writing, or "just as good as." They're looking for something that will get good reviews and make money.

    Look at is this way: if the publisher you submit to were given your submission, mixed with those of ten authors who currently have a book on the stands in your genre could s/he tell, just by reading, that yours is the one by a previously unpublished writer? Unless you have confidence that they can't, you have your answer—and know what you have to work on, now.

    Okay, some not terribly happy news:

    First novels suck. I wish that wasn't true, but the average now writer ends up writing, editing, polishing, and putting aside a half million words or more before selling their first word. It's not a matter of talent or the story, it's that when we leave school we think writing is writing, and we have that part under control. But we don't. Our schooling gives us only general skills not professional technique. And those skills are designed for nonfiction application. And since we don't know that, our first efforts often read like a report, or a transcription of the author speaking the story aloud. Neither will receive a publish's blessing.

    The fact that you say this says you're thinking in terms of story, and if you posted it you would be hoping for the reaction of people who have read it cover-to-cover, and are reacting to the story and the characters.

    But an editor, on receiving a submission, turns to page one and begins reading. As soon as they come to the first thingthey see as an amateur mistake they stop reading. And in fully 75% of submissions that comes in the first paragraph. Most of the rest are rejected before page two. What good is a great story idea if no one ever reads it? That's why I always say that writing well is a lot more important than plot.

    The problem is that while readers like a well thought out story, they buy a book for the writing, because they're looking to be entertained paragraph-to-paragraph. They want to experience the story, not learn of the events in it. They want their emotions stimulated—to be frightened, made angry, fall in love...

    And an editor won't help. They act as educated eyes and point out problems, they don't rewrite your prose to make it read as if a pro wrote it. That's your job. Friends are kind. And they can hear your voice as they read and so can fill in blanks that the average reader can't. On the other hand, if you give your work to someone who dislikes you and they say they loved it, maybe you have something.

    Bear in mind that I'm not trying to discourage you. For all we know you have lots of talent. What I'm suggesting is that you do exactly what you would do were you hoping to practice any other profession, and prepare for the task. look into the basics, and the things the pros and the publishers take for granted. Learn the nuance of POV, and how a scene on the page differs from one in film. Learn why editors reject manuscripts so you can avoid being rejected. Pick the minds of the great authors. Learn the process of creating compelling fiction and of equal importance, what the traps are.

    That may sound like a daunting task. But here's the good news. If you truly are born to write you'll find the learning fun, and will see the difference in your writing imediately.

    Here's a sample: A reader, in order to have context, and understand the action, needs to know where they are in time and space, what's going on, and whose skin they're wearing. If we know that, and what has the protagonist's attention, in the moment they call now, know their resources and their needs, we understand why they do and say things, and can empathize. Without that, we're just giving the reader information they haven't the context to understand.

    So, using what I said in the paragraph above, look at the opening to your novel. Would a reader have context as they read? And had you known those things when you wrote the opening, would you have done it differently? If the answer is yes, you would have opened the scene with more clarity, you need to dig into the craft of the writer.
     
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  3. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    Hi, welcome to the forum.

    Have you had any critiques or a beta reader? Is the novel ready to meet the world or are you not sure? An editor serves one purpose but a beta reader serves another.
     
  4. ChickenFreak
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    ChickenFreak Contributing Member Contributor

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    It's extremely unlikely that a novel that is your first substantial writing experience is good. But that has nothing to do with whether you have writing talent--even if you have an enormous amount of writing talent, your first writing is unlikely to be any good. Writing requires practice and education. So I'd suggest that you cheerfully, optimistically, assume that you have a lot of things to learn, and happily set out to learn them.

    One way to do some learning: I would suggest that you get to the point of being able to use the review room (enough posts, enough days since joining) and that after completing your two constructive reviews of someone else's work, you put some of your work up for review. It doesn't have to be part of your novel, and in fact it would be safer not to use it. You could instead write a scene or short story just for the purpose.
     
  5. Tesoro
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    Tesoro Contributing Member Contributor

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    What now? I'll tell you. :D You leave it in a drawer for 3-6 months and do something else. Write another story, forget about it completely. When you've forgotten it, you pick it up again and read it. Do some more editing. Then decide if you want to submit it.
    A couple of betareaders and someone professional looking at your ms is valuable too, of course, if you can find someone you trust.
     
    Last edited: Feb 28, 2014
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  6. David K. Thomasson
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    David K. Thomasson Contributing Member

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    That's what I would do. Before you sign on to pay someone, though, you can scout out outfits like Editing for Authors (I have no interest in it) that offer a free sample edit of a few pages. Costs and services vary widely, so do plenty of searching before you settle on someone.
     
  7. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    i mentor beginning writers full time, so i'll be happy to take a look at it and let you know if it's in good enough shape to submit to agents/publishers... if it's not, i'll explain why, with examples, so you'll have a good idea of what you need to do to get it there...

    love and hugs, maia
    maia3maia@hotmail.com
     
  8. Fronzizzle
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    Fronzizzle Member

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    Thanks to all who responded. Everything here will be helpful to me.

    I want to say how much I think I'm going to like and appreciate this forum. I'm a rather active do-it-yourself person so I belong to many similar ones in other areas (car building, construction, home theater and improvement, etc.) and while many have a lot of helpful people, there are also an abundance of knuckleheads and unhelpful replies. This is only my second post, but I've been reading a lot of messages and have yet to see anything like that.

    Much of the advice above makes me feel better; though I'm pretty happy with what I wrote I don't feel it's great by any stretch, at least not yet. It's good to hear that's normal. Sometimes, its easy for me to assume that writers can write, they just sit down and bang out a great story or book.

    It was interesting to me, when I went back to edit I could tell a huge difference between the beginning of my book and the ending. Some of what I wrote at the beginning made me cringe a little bit and I actually completely rewrote quite a few of the first chapters. But as I moved through the book, the things that I didn't like/wanted to change occurred less and less. I'm sure that when I read it again, that will change but it makes me feel like I improved a little already.

    Getting critiques/using beta readers will probably be my next step, once I have what I consider a "finished" product.

    It seems to me that writing short stories is a good way to practice, too. I know there is a contest on this site (and many others), I'm going to start submitting some entries.

    JayG - thank you very much for taking the time for such a helpful, detailed and well thought out response. There is a lot of good information in there.

    Maia - I will absolutely take you up on that, soon. I won't supply you something I don't consider finished though (or at least as finished as I can make it), so I still need to iron out the last few issues and do a final proofread to catch any remaining typos, that sort of thing. I'll be in touch shortly, I assume I can direct message you or something? Or is it better via your email address in your signature?

    Thanks to all again.
     
  9. mammamaia
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    mammamaia nit-picker-in-chief Contributor

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    yes, by email... whenever you're ready...
     
  10. Fizpok
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    Fizpok Member

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    If you are a good writer, you should be able to answer this question regarding any text, including your own. But for the first novel, just assume that it is good, otherwise it will never have any chance.

    See my answer to (1) with one addition. You need to get yourself a feedback, and preferably, a professional one. However, sending book to publishers will not do the trick - you need DETAILS. Fortunally... well, keep reading :)

    No.

    Not for the first book, I think.

    Let me put it this way. I am a programmer, and I wrote a program. Is it good? I have a friend (a very good cook) - will her opinion be of any value? The answer is NO. You need a professional feedback.

    Here is what you need to do: find local (country wise) fun group. If it is Fantasy, it is going to be Sci-Fi / Fantasy folks etc. They have workshops and convents. Use it to get feedback about your work. Sometimes professional writers run workshops, during a convent, providing verbose feedback to 5-10 people, this is a good chance. Also, if they like your work, they will introduce you to publishers, agents etc.
    Then, long time after, you will know them and they will know you. You will have a chance to reciprocate them and also, if there is a limited time chance to publish your book (we need 7000 words story about vampire elefant, urgent) - they might call you.
     

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