Tag Archives: manuscripts

Time travel

I’m looking to 2012 to be an author again. Why? because this year I’ve done a lot of talking about writing. Actual writing, not so much. There are reasons and excuses aplenty for this but none of them change the year that was and is. All the more reason to look ahead.

In looking ahead though, I had reason to look back. I was recently approached about ideas I have on the go. That’s a rich vein to tap into. There are a couple of would-be novels percolating, one of which could possibly end up a graphic novel… or a spec fic series. There’s a junior fiction idea or two (part written) and a handful of children’s books. All of these need some time and silence to come alive.

It also led me to delve back into old hard-drives to check out stories I’ve begun, abandoned and long forgotten. Why? Because I wanted to see if any of the lost characters still spoke to me. Whether they had gone off and had other adventures since I last occupied their headspace.

There was the piece from 2003 about a boy reluctantly attending a Christian Revival event and feeling massive peer pressure to go up front and lie that he believed. That character lives on, still mired in unrequited love. I’ll revisit him down the track.

There was the 2005 project, all 12,000 words of it, that was conceived as an adult novel rather than YA. It centres on a love triangle and is quite sad. That’s another one I plan to re-read and re-think in the very near future. Given that I remember very little of it, apart from the central character’s name and inability to sleep, I wonder how I’ll react to what I read.

Creative visions

When an artist paints a picture they take their vision and transfer it to canvas for others to view, interpret and like/dislike. Unless the work has been specifically commissioned by a patron, I think it highly unlikely it would be partly or wholly repainted to accommodate another’s vision for the work.

Writing a book is a little different. The commercial realities of publishing render writing a more collaborative process. The people investing in the manuscript are entitled to request or suggest adjustments and edits to enhance the product. The author’s willingness to cut or rewrite is probably determined by whether the outcome fits with their original creative vision.

I was lucky that the proposed edits for Game as Ned were relatively minor. Book 2 is slightly more experimental and likely to provoke a broader range of reactions. Several of my test readers say they like it even more than my first book. It’s still early days for publishing industry reactions.

I’ll have a better idea of where Book 2 is headed, and what further work is required, early in 2009.

A big week

Last week was massive. I’d been sweating on feedback from my agent on my current manuscript and was greatly relieved when her verdict came through as a big thumbs up. First hurdle crossed! I’ve subsequently made a few minor edits and that manuscript is now ready for market.

The other welcome news to filter through was that there’s some interest in Game as Ned in America, which is fantastic.

I was also approached about speaking at a Centre for Youth Literature event in 2009, which I’m greatly looking forward to. I have long thought Melbourne is blessed to have the Centre, along with its super website insideadog – both of which must have added punch to our city’s successful bid to become a UNESCO City of Literature.

Throw in my father’s birthday, booking Coldplay tickets, cycling approximately 100 kilometres, two School Council-related meetings, catching the latest James Bond flick, and my editing job, and it all made for an action-packed week.

Can’t wait to see what this week brings…

Confidence: Upwardly mobile
Reading: Neil Gaiman’s The Graveyard Book; an Indiana Jones Omnibus; and the Deathly Hallows to my son
Listening to: Coldplay’s Viva La Vida; Springsteen’s Ghost of Tom Joad; four-year-old chatter
Watching: West Wing season 3 on DVD

Pathways to publication

During author visits to schools one of the regular questions is “how long did it take you to write your book?” When speaking to adults, there’s inevitably someone with a manuscript in their top drawer who wants to know how to get published. Here are some tips that might be useful for the latter query.

1. Make sure your manuscript is unique or at least a fresh way of looking at an old idea. If you stand out from the crowd you’re a big chance. This means researching the genre you’re writing in and making sure you’re not trying to pitch an idea that has already been done to death.

2. Once your manuscript is complete, I recommend road testing. Show it to trustworthy and honest friends in your target audience. If you’re writing for children, for instance, show it to teachers or childcare workers and read it to kids in the applicable age group. If these expert test “readers” don’t offer feedback, ask them direct questions – what did they like, what didn’t they fully understand, how could you improve it, etc.

You might even be able to get some vox pop feedback to use in your pitch. (“This is my favourite and best book of the day.” – Rhys, 4 yrs old)

2. Reading your manuscript aloud is vital as you’ll hear any passages that don’t sound 100% right. If you’ve used rhyme there might be phrases that don’t scan correctly. If not, there still might be sentences that the tongue stumbles over. If it’s tough to read aloud, it won’t work for young kids or the adults reading to them (unless it’s a tongue twister book.)

3. Based on feedback, polish your manuscript until you are confident it is as good as you can make it.

4. Print it and proof read it (and your book proposal – see A Decent Proposal) until you can’t see the words any more and then get a friend to proof read it carefully for you. Spelling and grammar errors can severely dent your prospects.

5. Now you basically have three options:
– get an agent who will promote your book to publishers;
– submit direct to publishers; or
– self publish.

Agents charge 10-15% of your (generally meagre) earnings from a book project. If you submit to an agency they will probably read your manuscript quicker than a publisher. If they think they can sell it, they will offer to represent you and then pitch your manuscript to the most appropriate publishers. If all goes well, they’ll conduct an auction on your behalf.

Agents also haggle with publishers over contracts and represent your interests in any difference of opinion with a publisher. If you choose to go this way, research the various agencies (via www.awmonline.com.au). Select one that covers authors in your genre. Ring and ask if they have an agent that specialises in your type of book and write your approach letter to that individual.

Submitting to a publisher direct will be slower. Why? Because publishing companies get thousands of unsolicited manuscripts each year and employ sifters to sort through them all.

If you’re proposing a picture book, my understanding is that publishers prefer to receive proposals without illustrations so they can choose from their own stables of artists.

Before mailing your proposal, check out the publisher’s website, looking for any submission/style guidelines – or warnings that explicitly state they don’t want unsolicited manuscripts. Then ring their switchboard and ask who you should send your manuscript to.

Self-publishing is basically backing yourself and investing in your own book. You bear the costs up-front but get instant results – including control over the look and feel of your book. On the other hand, you will find it much harder to get publicity and on to shelves in bookstores, libraries, etc. That said, it can work very well for entrepreneurial authors.

Another possibility might be to get published overseas. I have heard of authors getting involved in online chat forums about their ideas and being plucked from obscurity to get a US agent and then publisher – but this would depend on the nature of your project. Be careful not to give too much away in case you get ripped off.

I’m still very new at this author business and have plenty to learn myself. That said, I hope there’s something of value here for any would-be writers out there.