Writing Advice from a Publisher
Our advice comes to you today from Motherspider Publishing owner, Jennifer FitzGerald. She has some publishers advice for you.
Writing Advice from a Publisher
Authors are a very different breed of people, in my opinion. As a micro-press owner, I have found the handling of authors to require a different set of criteria than when I was a day spa owner.
I am totally aware that you the author are super excited about your writing and completing what you feel is an absolute masterpiece. Many of them are, in fact. This year, I read submissions from 43 people. Of those 43, I rated 6 of them at 5 stars. Statistically, that is slightly above the 10% expected rate.
Now, for the unexpected part. When I went into this business, I never realized how much time would be spent working with authors to perfect their stories. Almost all of the people who submitted to me had no prior background in writing. They didn’t go to school for it, they haven’t taken any classes or seminars to improve their skills, and most disturbing was their lack of ability to do self-editing prior to submission.
Don’t get me wrong. Some of them have college and graduate level degrees, although not in the field of writing for the general public. This leads a lot of people to feel they are qualified to write. I personally feel anyone can write a story. We all have life experiences and that is where most great stories originate. Although, there are a few things you must do before submitting your work to anyone, even if you do have a degree in writing.
Anyone who desires to write a novel, non-fiction, or even poetry should have a checklist they go through prior to feeling it is truly ready for the quintessential publisher.
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Once you are finished writing:
- Re-read your entire story from cover to cover OUT LOUD.
- Utilize at least one, if not two, editing software, (like ProWritingAid, not Word)
- Change over used words. (Use a Thesaurus!)
- Check for repetitive words that are not technically the same. (i.e. apple, apple pie, apple tree)
- Find a trusted friend, or two or five, and ask them to read it with a red pen in hand.
- Address and fix any issues your friends point out. (They are true readers, so if they have an issue with it, you need to fix something.)
- Put your book down for at least one month. Then come back and read it again from cover to cover out loud.
At this point, you may be ready to submit your work. Although, I suggest a rinse & repeat of #5 or find some beta readers who don’t know you. That is often even better advice as they won’t try to sugar coat it.
It is very heart wrenching to get criticisms on your writing, although it is the absolute most valuable information you will get when working on perfecting it. Please take it all, and put it to good use. This is true diligence for an author, and a publisher will greatly appreciate the time you have spent. In fact, most publishers won’t read past your second or third mistake before they round file your work.
As a small publisher who is passionate about assisting unknown authors, I do tend overlook many more editing mistakes if the story holds me. Five pages is typically all I need, though, to tell if an author has spent enough time with the actual storyline and character development.
That leads to my final point; the actual story. How it is told, how your characters are developed, what point of view you use, the ebb and flow… This is where it’s at. This is where classes and seminars come in as vitally necessary. Even I have issues with staying on track with my point-of-view sometimes. Every story must have the proper hook at the beginning and the correct amount of ebb and flow with the crescendo at the end.
These aspects of writing do not typically come naturally to anyone the first time. It takes time, practice, and criticism to develop. Utilizing a critique group during your writing process is often the best and least expensive way to develop these tools of the trade.
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The short end of my entire message here, as I wrap this up, is to spend more time with your work. The day you finish writing is not the finish line, that does not occur until you have had at least a few people telling you it is great, and they didn’t find any issues. With that, you stand a much better chance of getting noticed, picked up, and published.
For more publishing advice, look for our self-publishing series from Nancy Miller.