Category: write

I Wrote a Novel, Now What? Write, Rewrite, Publish, Repeat!

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When it comes to editing, there’s no “one size fits all” approach. If you’re wondering how to get your NaNo novel polished for the presses, have no fear! Today’s post comes from Estonian participant and author Ene Sepp, who shares her advice for rethinking and revising your novel: 

I found out about NaNoWriMo in 2013, and haven’t looked back since. Before then, I’d already published three books, but I wasn’t ready to call myself a “writer;” I still saw it as just a hobby rather than a career.
NaNo helped me to understand that I actually

could

call myself a
writer—and write a lot more than I first thought! Since 2013, three of my NaNo novels have been
published, and there is hope for the fourth one.

Of course,
getting from a draft to a hard copy doesn’t happen in an instant. Sending out your very first NaNo draft as is won’t get you a publishing contract—if you’re lucky, you’ll get some very polite rejection letters. No publisher
wants to dig through a story with tons of
grammatical errors but no logic.

For me, the second draft is as important as the first. This is the only
way I can actually make my story good enough to share with other
people.

The very first
thing I actually do is print my story out. It may seem like a waste of
paper, but for me it’s become an essential part of my writing
process. I print the story and, scene by scene, cut it to pieces. After
I have a pile of scenes, I place them on my living room floor
(praying there is no gust of wind), rearranging if needed.

I absolutely hate
scrolling up and down in Word, to find a more suitable place for some
lonely scene. Although I’ve moved on to Scrivener, playing
around with my scenes on the floor makes it a lot easier—and fun! When I am
happy with the new layout, I just retype everything. It takes a good
amount of time, but I can already clear out some grammatical errors
and make sure that everything is in order and sounds logical.

“Every editing session gives me the idea how I want to write my next book.”

I highlight
scenes that need some fact checking. I try to do it while writing,
but if I can’t then it’s better late than never. This is also the
time where I think about potential beta readers. I start the search early so that when my story gets to the beta-reading-phase,
I can just send it on its way.

For example, my
latest book, I wrote about horses and riding—so I got in touch with
teenagers who ride in order to make sure I got my story right. In my fifth book, my main character had to deal
with her mom coming out of the closet, so I found people from the
LGBT community who could read the story and let me know if everything
was realistic. For my fourth book, I needed details about how a huge
lottery win is handled. I gathered up my courage and sent an e-mail
to the company that is responsible for lotteries—lo and behold, the answer I got was
very thorough, and so it found its way into the final version. Sometimes all you have to do is ask!


Every editing session gives me the idea how I want to write my next book.
After NaNo 2016, when my story was a huge mess (I’ve since found I cannot be a pantser) and I spent way too much time making it readable, I promised that I would start to put more effort toward making the editing process smoother!

And then… after
re-reading and rewriting the story, I can send it off to the publisher
and hope they are actually interested in publishing the novel I
worked so hard on.


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Young adult author Ene Sepp started writing her first book when she was 14 years old and it was published couple of years later. By now, at age 26, she has published 6 books that have been very well received by the readers. She is published in Estonian but as she spends part of the year in New Zealand and USA. Ene is preparing to get her work translated and to start writing in English. Visit her online on Instagram, Facebook, and Goodreads.

Top photo licensed under Creative Commons from Mike Pratt on Flickr.

Chasing Unicorns: Publishing Tips from a Pro Who’s Seen It All

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So you’ve written your novel, put it through countless rounds of editing, and are ready to publish. But where do you start? And how do you choose which path to follow? Today, author Silver James shares her tips for how to take your novel from polished to published: 

Once upon a time, a novelist hunted an elusive unicorn named Agent. The novelist hoped that capturing such a rare creature would send them to the end of the rainbow and the pot of gold known as A Publishing Contract™. That amalgamated fairy tale is still the goal of some—but not all. 

In today’s publishing culture, there are a few paths a novelist can follow: traditional publishing—with a fork leading to small presses or big publishers; and self-publishing. A writer can choose one or all, depending on personal goals. 

No longer does a novelist have to be “electric” or “gasoline” in order to publish. We can be hybrids now.

I’m a hybrid. I first published with a small press in 2008. Four years later, I jumped off the cliff to swim in the rip tide of self-publishing, all the while hoping to sign a contract with a New York publisher. I signed my first contract with Harlequin in 2014. Since I began, I’ve had 41 books and novellas published, as well as learned how to juggle contracted deadlines with the desires of the fans of my self-published series.

So you’ve won NaNoWriMo. You’ve started editing your manuscript. Maybe you’ve polished it to a shiny finish. But what next? The blunt answer: It depends. 

“On what?” you ask. “On you,” I answer. Your publishing destiny depends on your expectations, your career path, and your knowledge and ability. No path to publishing is easy; they all take work and at least one takes extra expertise, and there are pros and cons to each.

Traditional Publishers

Although the “traditional” publishing industry still has “gatekeepers” in the form of agents, many publishers are open to un-agented manuscripts. Some have even created newbie-friendly “digital-first” lines. It’s a slow process, and you need to know the market for your genre; you need to have something the publishing house thinks they can sell; and most importantly, you need to have patience. Most authors will not have a “golden fleece” manuscript that goes to auction for six or seven figures—though you will get an advance, which makes the wait a little easier.

Small Presses

Small presses are sometimes more open to new talent. They lean toward niche markets and may provide digital-first options. Sometimes they offer advances. They provide editors, cover art, and the physical publishing. They may even do some marketing for you. An advantage of small press is that you learn the process of publishing, from final draft to revisions letters, to editing and copyediting, proofreading, and final publication. There’s more steps than you’d think!

Self-Publishing

Self-publishing may seem like the easiest path. Write the book, upload it, make money, right? Take it from me, it’s not. If you just want to write books, go after a traditional contract. Self-publishing is a business and you are the CEO. You’re in charge of editing, covers, formatting, uploading, all the paperwork, and marketing—all of which takes perseverance, expertise, and a head for business. It’s not easy, but it’s worth it.

The number one piece of advice I give to a new writer? Work with an editor. Every writer needs an editor—no ifs, ands, or buts! If you sign with a publisher, you will work with an editor. If you self-publish, you’ll need to find your own, but your readers will thank you! (Okay, climbing off my soap box now.)

I do love a good cliché (but avoid them in my books because editors), but I’ll say it anyway: I hope I didn’t rain on any parades. Take it from me—the path to publishing takes a lot of work, but if your dream is to be published, you can do what it takes to make it come true. I did, and I’ve never looked back.


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Silver James likes walking on the wild side, and coffee. Okay. She loves coffee. LOTS of coffee. Warning: Her Muse, Iffy, runs with scissors. An award-winning author, she’s worked with the military and in the legal field, fire service, and law enforcement. Now retired from the “real world,” she spends her days with two Newfoundland dogs and the cat who rules them all, writing paranormal suspense, urban fantasy, and sexy contemporary romance for Harlequin Desire. Look for Silver online at her website, buy her books on Amazon, follow her on Twitter, Facebook, or Pinterest, or sign up for her newsletter.

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Brett Jordan on Flickr.

Fantastic Agents & Where to Find Them

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So you have your NaNo novel in hand, and you feel ready to publish. But before your book makes it to shelves, it has to change hands—from writer to agent to editor and publisher! Today, author, ML, and seventeen-time NaNo participant Lauren Karcz shares her advice on how to track down the elusive agent:

So you’re almost done revising your NaNoWriMo manuscript. Or maybe you’ve already finished and prepared a submission package. Perhaps you’re meandering around the NaNo forums, Twitter, or other haunts for writers, catching bits and pieces about the traditional publishing process and wondering how to get started. A huge, but often overlooked part of the writing process is finding a literary agent—which can be challenging for first-time writers! 

To the untrained eye, agents appear to be wily creatures, making magic for authors’ careers but often keeping a low profile themselves. As someone who took a weird joy in demystifying the publishing world for myself, let me help you on the path to researching literary agents and finding a good match for you.

What does a literary agent do?

A new writer’s primary reason for seeking an agent is one of access—simply put, agents have connections to editors at major publishing houses. And when I say “connections,” that’s not just a matter of having their email addresses and phone numbers. It’s that they know editors’ tastes inside and out: what has an editor recently bought, and what are they looking for right now? When an agent sends out a manuscript on submission, the manuscript usually goes to more than one editor at a time—specifically, those who the agent thinks will be most interested in it. 

An agent isn’t a guaranteed ticket to a book deal—let alone a quick book deal—but they should be a person in your corner who wants both of those things to happen as much as you do. 

As you get further into your writing career, an agent becomes a vital person to have for the “business” side of the book business. Contract changes, foreign rights deals, audio rights deals, multi-book deals, marketing plans, changes in your publishing team—you name it, a good agency should have experience with all of these aspects of the business, allowing you as the writer more time to work on your next book. 

On the “Now What?” NaNoWriMo forums, I’ve seen some writers mixing up the jobs of agent and publicist. An agent can’t really do anything with a novel you’ve already self-published, or even published with a small press. If you’re looking for someone to help you sell an existing published book, seek out a publicist instead of an agent. If the issue is that your book has been out a few months and isn’t selling as well as you’d hoped, a publicist is unlikely to take you on, either. Your best bet at that point is to write a new manuscript.

OK, so I definitely want to get an agent! Now where do I find one?

Well…do you like research? Do you like research that’s kind of twisty and turny and never entirely done? Great! You’ll love finding out about the publishing industry. Writers have sometimes asked me for a “list of agents to submit to,” which isn’t quite a thing that exists, and if it was, it wouldn’t be the same list for each writer. 

The closest thing you’ll get to a “list of agents” is QueryTracker, a fabulous site with lots of tools for creating your own query list, including finding agents for your particular genre. But before finalizing your list, you’ll want to conduct your own research. Who represents books that are like yours? You’ll find that info either on an author’s website, or in their book acknowledgments. Wind your way through agency websites and look at individual agents’ wishlists. You might find these on an agent or agency’s Publishers Marketplace page, as well (this link to my agency’s page provides a good snapshot of who’s at the agency and what they’re looking for).

Google the agents you’re interested in; hopefully, you’ll find interviews or blog posts they’ve done over the years. You’ll start to get a sense of their personalities. Perhaps you’ll get starry-eyed over one or two “dream agents” who seem like the best possible fit for your career. That’s normal, but don’t get so hung up on one person that you neglect to query widely. 

Don’t restrict yourself to only one type of agent, either—for example, only brand-new agents, or only agents who represent bestsellers. It’s possible that the agent who best understands your manuscript isn’t the one at the top of your list. You never know until you find out!

It’s easy to get caught up in all of this research, though (speaking as someone who did)! Don’t get too obsessed with it. At some point, you need to cut off the “looking for agents” process and start querying the agents you think might be a good fit.

A few quick cautions:

  • Don’t pay any agent upfront. They should get paid when you get paid—that is, they’ll take a commission after your manuscript sells.
  • Some authors prefer to have an agent based in a big city like New York or London. But there are many fantastic agents who live elsewhere! As long as they have the right connections, an agent can work from anywhere. 
  • Some agents, like many writers, have second jobs. They may be an assistant to a senior agent, or a bookseller. Some agents are authors themselves. Don’t let an agent’s other ventures necessarily disqualify them from your consideration. But do be wary if they have a lot of side hustles that take significant time and energy away from their agenting.
  • Researching someone who’s new to agenting? Look into where they’ve worked before. If they’re coming to agenting from the editorial or sales side of book publishing, they probably have what it takes to make it as an agent, too. If the person has no experience in the book world, you’ll need to get concrete information as to whether the agent has the connections to sell a book, and the knowledge to negotiate a contract.

Good luck!


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Lauren Karcz is the author of the YA novel THE GALLERY OF UNFINISHED GIRLS (HarperTeen, 2017). She’s also a seventeen-time NaNo participant and former ML of the Atlanta region. Find her on Twitter or Instagram, or at www.laurenkarcz.com

Top image licensed under Creative Commons from Michelle W on Flickr.

Prompt #354

The evening sun is falling on their face and she thinks maybe, just maybe she is a little bit in love with them.

Prompt #353

That thing she is feeling is wonderful and sinful and perfect and a complete and utter disaster.

Prompt #352

Some people express their love and gratitude with flowers. And some do it with cacti.

Prompt #351

“I could kiss you right now!”
“You’re very welcome to do it.”

Prompt #350

Not going to lie to you, we’re all going to die. But not today.

Prompt #349

She was a warrior and he was a dreamer. She was the brain and the brawn and he was the heart.

Prompt #348

They were not supposed to be alive – but here they were, living and breathing.