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It’s a tough world out there for the soon to be author. The competition is fierce and the skepticism is even greater. There are countless websites offering advice on anything from how to write better to how to market your own book. By the time you’re done wading through the garbage, you’ll question your own ability to write and if you still want to move forward. I want you to succeed, so I’m going to share how I made it through the entire process unscathed, and with a beautiful novel to prove it.
Put your fears aside and start writing. By now, I’m sure you’ve read countless blogs on advice from other writers concerning how to get in the “flow” or how to overcome “writer’s block”. If you ask me, it’s all relative. I wrote my first fiction novel over the winter while I was housebound with two young children who seemed to have more snow days than school days. Everything pointed to it being the wrong time to write, but I had a story to tell and it had to make it to paper before I went insane. It’s just a fact of being a writer. I speak for most of us, but not all, when I say we can be a bit neurotic and there’s nothing like seizing the moment when it comes to writing.
Second draft? Really? Yes. After you’ve spent weeks, months, or maybe years torturing yourself over every line, every word, and every bit of dialogue…start over. Okay, maybe not right away. Take a short break before you dive back into that manuscript. You’d be amazed at how much your voice and style changes from the first paragraph until the last. Besides, you’ll need to read you story through to make sure you haven’t missed anything. You want to make sure that it makes sense, all the pieces fit, and that it’s a generally smooth read. After all, if the reader can’t get through it, your book will be a flop. Period.
When I was finally done fixing my own mistakes, making my dialogue better, and filling the gaps in my story line, I decided I needed a second opinion. Well, I have to be honest with you, money was tight and I didn’t have a rolodex full of Creative Writing majors to call for advice, so I started with google. After exploring multiple options for editing software, AutoCrit seemed like the obvious choice. I used every function available in the software to bring my manuscript to the next level and saved myself thousands of dollars in the process. AutoCrit performs editing functions in half the time and for a fraction of what I would have paid a professional editor to do the same work.
After I ran my manuscript through AutoCrit, I contacted a few professional editing services to do a thorough developmental edit. Most of the estimates were outrageous, but a few fell into the reasonable category. This was probably the most challenging part of the process for me. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to take my chances and hand my manuscript out to a few friends in hopes of quality criticism or invest a little bit of money in a professional. I spent a lot of time researching editors and comparing prices before I decided to pay for another edit. The editor pointed out weaknesses in my story line and ending without having to comb my entire manuscript for unnecessary fillers, repetitions, or other newbie errors that AutoCrit had already picked up. Again, the editing software saved my editor’s time and my money.
I still decided to have a few peers review my work. I gave a copy of my manuscript to my wife, one to a friend, and one to a former college professor of mine. I know you won’t believe this, but my wife gave me the most constructive criticism of all three. I guess she doesn’t have a problem telling me “the way it is” and sometimes friends will give you the ole “It’s good…I like it” because they’re afraid to hurt your feelings. A word of caution: if you hand your book out to your friends and they all tell you they love it, it probably needs more work than you think. Even the greatest of literature is criticized harshly, picked apart, or outright rebuked. Unless you’re absolutely positive that you’re the next Hemmingway, expect to do some rewriting and editing after your manuscript makes it past your personal review panel.
At this point, I was ready to make some final adjustments to my story without disrupting the rest of the text that had already undergone a few rounds of editing and rewriting. So, I turned to AutoCrit, uploaded the text and did my rewriting right from the online portal. This ensured me a nice smooth edit during the writing process, instead of wasting my time writing and then backtracking to reword everything. Again, the editing software saved me time, money, and frustration.
The final proofread and copyedit are almost interchangeable in my eyes, but a professional editor will quickly point out that they serve two distinct functions. In my case, I didn’t have another wad of cash to part with for someone to literally read my book and I wasn’t going to pay someone to check for typos. I did the final proofread and copyedit myself before I handed the manuscript over to a friend (who happens to be an English Major) and asked for a favor. If you’re not comfortable with proofreading your own work or you don’t have any qualified buddies, the cost of paying a copyeditor is worth the finished product. Believe me, people love to point out typos more than anything.
You’ll want to prepare a few clips about your book: a short description, a long description, and the text for your back cover. You’ll also need a short Author Bio. Having all of this information in advance is going to help streamline the publishing process and help with marketing. If you’re pursuing the traditional publishing route, you’ll want to start compiling a list of agents and draft your query letters. If you’re planning on self-publishing, as I did, I recommend BookBaby. Their customer service is incredible, they produce quality artwork and formatting, and they’re absolutely the lowest price around.
For a similar guide to publishing from a non-fiction standpoint, check out this article from award-winning author and publisher Bennett R. Coles of Cascadia Author Services.