Wednesday, November 16, 2011

The Million Dollar Question

Finishing your first novel is quite a feat. You announce it to your family, friends, and fellow writers. However, you're so excited you've forgotten the million dollar question: Will my book get published?
A lot of my bloggie friends are writing or just finishing up their first novel, and I applaud them for their diligence and dedication. So, I want to share what an anonymous writer asked the experts  at theWriter's Digest about publishing his/her book.

Q: I have the first five chapters of a novel written, and I think they’re reasonably good. It would be nice, however, to know if I even have a chance at getting the book published once it’s completed. Is there any place I can submit what I’ve written to have it looked over, or should I go ahead and find an agent?—Anonymous

A: Hold off on looking for an agent just yet. Many people begin writing a manuscript and, after they’re a few chapters into it, get excited about what they’ve written so far and feel overjoyed about the healthy direction of the plot. But the challenge of writing a manuscript doesn’t fall in the first 10,000 words, where ideas are easier to find than a Starbucks. The challenge resides in the middle and end of the book. That’s the tough part. That’s where you prove you haven’t lost focus or the excitement you developed in the first five chapters. Dedication is what can separate you from the rest, so finish the manuscript and prove you have something of quality. Then an agent is more likely to listen.

If you want expert advice on the prose you’ve already compiled, you can find critique services on the Internet and listed in the classified ads of your favorite writing resources (I'm sure that plug will garner some "thank yous" from our ad folks). But carefully research the services and people you’re considering—check credentials and references to make sure they’re legitimate. And make sure you know what you're getting for your money. You don't want to have unrealistic expectations, but you also don't you want to set the bar too low. The more information you have going in, the more likely you are to be satisfied with the results.


  1. Great practical and helpful and sober advice!! Don't run before you can walk or something like that! LOL!!!

    Thanks Claudia! Take care

  2. I don't know where to begin - but basically I wouldn't dream of even dreaming about submitting to anyone until each chapter had been critted by, in my case the OSWFF and then a final whole novel crit by my online crit group. Even then, I go back to it a few weeks later and see imperfections. And THEN I begin the tedious business of actively seeking rejections whilst beginning the next project.

  3. That is really great advice, Claudia. For all the novels I've attempted, I can say with experience that many novels do fizzle out mid-way or even earlier. Not all ideas work in a novel length format, not matter how exciting it is at first.

    I'd also add to the advice that, yeah, while it's nice to find out whether the book can be published or not, that's not the only reason why one writes them. I have no idea if I will publish my manuscript, but I won't ever regret completing it. I've learned so much and have gathered many ideas along the way for even more creative work.

  4. Very interesting and helpful, Claudia.
    I've always wondered, though, whether showing your manuscript around might get your idea stolen. I mean, if I had to choose a person to show it to and have it critiqued, I think I'd send it to you, the only competent person I trust!

  5. @ Carole Anne:
    Thank you for stopping by :-)

    @ Jennifer:
    I have learned to pace myself. When I started writing I wanted to fly before I even learned how to crawl, LOL! Lesson learned after a few crashes ;)

    @ Mike:
    Yes, we all have support groups, fellow writers, or friends who can guide us in the right direction before we submit. As I told, Jennifer above, I do things differently now.

    @ Raquel:
    I love your positive attitude. So many writers give up before even finishing their manuscript. Thank you for sharing your advice, too.

    @ Jay:
    Thank you for your kind words and your trust in my work. ;) I understand your concern about your work being stolen. Remember, you only share your work (or part of it) with people you truly trust. If it's a professional editor, you send two registered manuscripts: one to yourself (DO NOT OPEN IT!) and one to the editor (partial work) and this should be your proof (of your work). I learned this from one of my mentors at a workshops I attended a couple years ago. When in doubt, go with your gut feeling.

  6. Hi there Claudia, hope you are well. Great blog post, some great advice there and very true. I think it takes alot of guts to put yourself out there doesn't it?!
    Thank you so much for stopping by and for following my blog. Love your blog :) Hope the weather has settled down for you now. Did you go and see the merchant of venice?? If so hope you enjoyed it.x

  7. Hi Eve,
    Yes, I am doing well despite our first snowfall ;) There are two types of aspiring writers: the gutsy ones who submit their MS everywhere (even if the MS is not ready), and the shy ones who are too afraid to submit. I know this tip I shared in my post serves both types ;)
    BTW, I did see "The Merchant of Venice" and I loved it. I really enjoyed it. Thanks for asking.

  8. Now this is the sort of information every aspiring novice 'writer' needs. I have several 'self help' styled books on the topic of learning how to write, but they soon get me yawning as the contributors seem to do nothing but plug their own work at every opportunity.

    Slowly working my way through your posts, Claudia, like a slug that finds itself on a salad bar :)