As I look for an agent and begin the long march toward traditional publication, I can’t help but think of everything I’ve learned about each of the steps required to bring a manuscript to life. Here are some of the resources I’ve found to be helpful. Please feel free to use, share, or promote any of this information you find to be useful.
There are so many ways to capture and expand upon those ideas that wake us in the middle of the night. Whether you’re a pen and paper person (like me) or absolutely tech-reliant, there’s a brainstorming tool that will help you take your idea from a bubble to a book. Here’s a link of several useful tools: 24 Tools for Brainstorming and Mind Mapping http://mashable.com/2013/09/25/mind-mapping-tools/
Plotting Tools Once you’ve developed your idea, it’s time to sketch out your plot arc. Surprisingly, nearly every plot contains the same parts and requires a similar outcome. Here are a few tools that will get you started thinking about the beginning, middle, and end of your story.
Freytag’s Pyramid http://www.ohio.edu/people/hartleyg/ref/fiction/freytag.html
NaNoWriMo YWP Dare Machine http://ywp.nanowrimo.org/
Snowflake Method http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/articles/snowflake-method/
Plot Generator http://www.plot-generator.org.uk/
Writer’s love to loathe their writing tool. No program is adequate, each one has its quirks, and the one you love is the one you love–until it suffers from an update bug or a glitch that costs you hours of valuable writing time. If you’ve never ventured beyond Microsoft Word, it’s time to explore the many options in which you can write, store research, retrieve graphics and even edit your story. If you’ve not explored some of these programs, do yourself a favor. Check them out.
Scrivener http:// www.literatureandlatte.com/scrivener.php Snowflake Method http://www.advancedfictionwriting.com/product/snowflake-pro-software/ Storyist http://storyist.com/index.html Wordslingr http://www.wordslingr.com Write or Die http://writeordie.com
So I’ve finished my first draft. Now what?
I followed the #pit2pub hashtag for a bit this evening and laughed as I read one writer’s tweet: “I finished my book last night. Getting ready to pitch; wish me luck!” I guffawed and I thought back to my first draft, imagining the outright mockery I’d have been subjected to had I pitched that version of my book. In public.
Once you finish your draft, shove it in a drawer and binge watch Netflix for a few weeks. Not only do you need a break from your story, but you need to give your brain time to forget what you wrote so that you can edit with a fresh perspective. And when I say edit, I mean butcher. My first draft came in around 110,000 words. The third draft is a lean, mean 63,000.
Find a few supportive friends (it’s even better if they’re writers; they’ll be appropriately supportive in these early stages) who are willing to read and give you some gentle, constructive feedback. Hire an editor if you can afford it (A quick shout-out to my wonderfully funny and insightful editor, Eileen Cook, who charges a very reasonable $2/page for invaluable feedback and witty retorts: Eileencook.com). If you can’t swing the greenbacks right now, offer to trade critiques or edits with another writer. Do what you must to get some new eyeballs on your story. If you don’t have anyone local, 10-minute Novelists is a group on Facebook that provides strong community and solid support: https://www.facebook.com/groups/488365771285615/ You can post requests for critique partners on #BuddyTuesday. Chances are good that for critique swap, you’ll find someone there who can give you some feedback.
Once you’ve polished your manuscript to a lustrous sheen (I’ve heard blood, sweat, and tears all work well), it’s time to begin the process of looking for an agent to represent your work to the big five publishing houses.
Seeking an agent
#PitMad is a pitch party on Twitter where writers tweet a 140 character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublished MSs.
#MSWL is both a website and a Twitter feed through which agents share what it is they’d like to see; search by genre and/or age level in order to find out whether there’s an agent just waiting to read something like what you’ve written (and edited and polished and revised; you get the picture).
Jane Friedman’s “How to Find a Literary Agent”
Jane Friedman’s page is a “to-do” list of tasks as well as a terrific collection of resources to help you find an agent. You’d do well to begin your quest by reading her insight.
The Query Letter
Many writers dread the query like the unmedicated man fears the root canal. But really, it’s nothing more than a structured, somewhat formulaic letter introducing your story to a reader. No one on earth is better suited to writing that letter than you! It’s your book, these are your characters, and you know them better than anyone else. So roll up your sleeves and get to work. Here are some resources to get you started:
Pitching at a Writer’s Conference
There may be nothing more terrifying (at least for one who is rather comfortable writing in her locked office, alone, for hours at time) than meeting an agent face to face, but if you have a good writing conference in your local area, I encourage you to consider attending. Agents need writers. That’s right; without us, they’d have no work. Building relationships, even if it’s one that doesn’t initially bear fruit, is one of the best ways to network within the writing community. Each meeting hones your pitch and brings you closer to the agent of your dreams. Sign up, put on your “first day of school” clothes, and polish your pitch. You never know who you might meet.
Pacific Northwest Conferences
South Coast Writers Conference, February 13-14, 2015 http://www.socc.edu/scwriters
Pacific Northwest Writers Association Conference, July 16-19, 2015 http://www.pnwa.org/
Willamette Writers Conference, August 7-9, 2015 http://willamettewriters.com/wwcon/
Write on the Sound Writers Conference, October 2-4, 2015 http://www.writeonthesound.com/#