The wonderful Donna Galanti is guest blogging for me today, and her topic is something every writer needs to be familiar with: 9 ways to get your novel ready to market. Donna's shared some valuable links as well. Enjoy!
Hi Stacy, thanks for having me on! In my quest to polish my first novel to be the-best-it-can-be here is feedback (and resources) I received along the way from the experts—agents, authors and editors.
It’s been driven into us writers over and over that before you query, you must have your novel as polished and professional as possible. In these revolutionary publishing times, it’s especially important for a debut author to have a top edited MS to send that agent or publisher. Here are some areas to address to make your novel shine.
1. Is it in the proper manuscript format?
Check out the Agent’s MS standards or Google. Here are some basics:
Double spaced. Minimum one inch margins all around. If sending a hard copy make sure it’s printed single sided, unstapled. Your name, title, page # should be in a header on each page.
A good resource list:
2. Is it too long?
Know the accepted word count for your genre. Look at another round of editing to shorten if need be. You don’t want this to be a reason you get rejected. An agentor publisher may wonder, as a debut author, if you have performed the necessary edits to make it a professional submission if it’s too long. Look at shortening your MS. Publishers think in dollars. Higher word counts = higher publishing cost.
3. Perform a butterfly edit. Do a search for these nasty guys to replace or remove
I eliminated 4,000 words just by doing this!
*Look to remove adverbs. Those nasty (–ly) words and unnecessary words like just, even, very.
*Consider removing annoying POV filterslike: realized, thought, saw,noticed, glanced. For example: “She realized he moved closer”. If we are in your character’s POV the action is coming direct from her, so all we need to say is “He moved closer”.
*Where possible use past tense (–ed) vs. (–ing).
*One space after periods is now the standard. Can do a search with a period and two spaces after (. ) and replace with a period and one space after. (. )
*Reconsider passive language: is, are, was, were, has been, will have been, have been, etc.
*Remove exclamation points! If your MC “screamed” we don’t need the (!) to tell us so.
*Make sure you use the em dash (“No way–I can’t!”) with no space before and after.
*Do not use a dialogue tag with a sentence that ends with ? or ! (but you removed that ! – right?).
4. Do you know what genre your MS really is? Do you have a sub-list?
Make sure. Check out (library site)
Mine is a paranormal suspense and here is what I found, for example.
Then create a submission list (sub-list) of the top ten books your novel is most like. The agent or publisher will want to know that you know where your book will be placed on the bookshelf (online or brick-and-mortar).
5. Does your book start with the true inciting incident?
Know where your book should start. What is the event that propels the premise in your book? Do you start with the true inciting incident or does it just seem like the true one? Sometimes it can be deceptive. The inciting incident must set the premise and the dramatic imperative for the reader to keep reading.
6. Does your book start with your main character? It should. If not, perhaps the character it starts with instead is your true MC. Then of course this changes your query letter, your synopsis…..This happened to me with one project. I was made aware of it by two author mentors.
7. Point of view (POV)
Rule of thumb. One POV per scene. Watch for head hopping. Very few authors can pull this off well. In reviewing my MS I found a few head-hopping scenes. I went back through each scene and checked off who had the most POV in it. I also decided who needed to tell the story best in that scene and changed it to that one character’s POV.
TIP: Make sure you are telling the scene through your character’s eyes. For example, if Laura is showing us the scene then we can’t “see the tears shining in her eyes”.
8. Does your book start with your protagonist sitting around thinking and not doing?
Don’t start your novel with the character sitting around alone in exposition. If your MC is doing nothing, skip it and start at Chapter 2 or 3, or wherever the action starts. For a good example read Accidental Tourist intro scene. You need to grab reader (and agent) on first page. This is the only chance you have.
9. Is your MS in the right voice for its genre?
Check out other authors in your genre. Do you have a consistent voice throughout scenes in the book? If it’s a Thriller make sure your MC doesn’t have a YA voice or your YA book doesn’t sound like it’s written from an adult’s POV.
QUIZ: Just for fun. How many things are wrong with this sentence below?
“Don’t even do that!” She screamed loudly, running away, as she realized what the writer could have done.
Good luck polishing your book so you can market it well!
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