We have something very special here today: a guest post from Alison Pick, author of Far To Go which Love in the Present Tense author (and sharer of two of my three names!) Catherine Ryan Hyde calls, “Somewhere between a book and a miracle.” Here she shares her thoughts with us on how to get our novels published.
“I was the lucky writer nobody likes to hear about. I wrote a manuscript, it won an award. The award got me published. Point finale.
Looking back, I know how lucky I was. In fact, the farther I go in my literary career the more grateful I am for that first award. It wasn’t very big. There was almost no money involved. And yet it got my foot in the most marvelous door. I’ve been in the room ever since.
From this vantage point it’s easy to give advice, as though there’s a step-by-step guide to getting published, when in fact I know some excellent writers who have never seen their work in print, and some mediocre ones who have. The truth is that, along with hard work and talent, there’s always a bit of magic in the equation.
Still, though, I have always been eager to hear other writer’s thoughts on this subject, and in case anyone else feels similarly, here are mine.
The first might sound obvious, but wait until your manuscript is as absolutely perfect as you can make it before you send it out. Show a rough draft to your writing group, sure, or your mother-in-law or your best friend’s cousin, but do not send it to an agent in hopes that she will see the promise in it. She won’t. She’s too busy. And so are the publishers. It is your job as the writer to protect your book—think of it as a baby if it helps—from the world. You have to nurture it before you send it off, and make sure it is rock solid. Compelling. Unforgettable.
And how, you might ask, do you get your manuscript into this state?
This is the fun part.
Start at the beginning, and read. A lot. Every genre, all writers, as widely as possible. At the same time, write. Diaries, book reviews, love letters, short stories. This often comes as a surprise to emerging writers, who want (like I did) to be good right away. But only by practicing one’s craft does one get better.
Once you have written something you love, find someone you trust and show them your work. Let me underscore the importance of finding the right person here. Emerging writers—well, let’s be honest, all writers—are vulnerable, and even the slightest bit of misguided criticism can have dire consequences. Only when you’re sure this person has your best interests at heart should you let them read your draft. Before you do, tell them what kind of feedback you are after. Ask them for tangible ways to improve.
The next step is to go back and edit according to their suggestions, and to your own intuitions.
Lather, rinse, repeat.
Oh, and one more thing. Turn off Facebook! And Twitter. And your email too, if you can muster the courage. The internet is a wonderful way to engage with a community of other writers, but the real work of writing has to happen alone.”
Thank you so much for stopping by here on your blog tour, Alison!
If you’d like to visit some of the other stops on Alison’s blog tour, see the sidebar to the right or stop by High Heels and Book Deals, where Alison was yesterday, or She Reads Novels, where she’ll be tomorrow.
Check back this afternoon for my review of Far To Go.