I receive a lot of lovely feedback from readers, and questions from budding writers. Some of those questions are quite similar, so I've developed this group of FAQs to answer the ones I'm asked the most. If your question isn't here, then I'd love to hear from you - email charlottenashauthor AT gmail.com.
How Do I ... ?
If your question is anything to do with editing, from how to get your head around your novel to how to fix particular issues, then you might want my ebook on how to edit a novel. It takes you through the process I use to convert my first draft into a polished piece. I use the 'PAPER' process - five steps for editing being Preparation, Analysis, Planning, Execution and Review. This book is based on the Year of the Edit course I have run through Queensland Writers Centre. If you'd like a paperback, this is available through CreateSpace - find the option by going to Amazon.com on the second button below.
HOW DO I GET PUBLISHED?
Multiple pathways exist to publication. You can land an agent and have them find you a deal, submit to a publishers' open submission calls (there's dozens of them around), win a competition, or make contact with a publisher through a conference or convention (and be asked to submit). My advice is to join your local writers' centre (if you're in Australia, I recommend Queensland Writers Centre) and inform yourself about the industry. Then keep writing, improving your craft, while you learn about the industry. When you submit and are (inevitably) rejected, persist. I have dozens of rejections, and several manuscripts in my drawer.
DO I NEED AN AGENT?
No, you don't *need* one (caveat: in my Australian experience). I don't have one yet, myself. But if you don't have one, you have to be prepared to do all the leg work of finding the publisher and interfacing with them directly. Many people do this successfully.
DO I NEED A FINISHED MANUSCRIPT?
Yes. Almost always. And not just a finished one, but the most polished you can make it. Even if your submission is a synopsis and sample chapters, the first question the agent or publisher will ask (if they like it) is to see the rest of it. So, you need to be done.
Always send an agent/publisher your best work. If you're still new at this and a bit shaky about your craft, invest in a manuscript assessment or professional editor, and in your own education (courses, workshops). Self-editing is an essential skill, and you must realise that editing comes in stages - structural editing is always first (improving characters, plot, pace, etc.), then copyediting (improving the expression at the sentence level). If you're going to use a professional editor, always ask around to find a good one who knows your genre - you can start with your writers' centre, but word-of-mouth recommendations are often gold. If you want to try yourself, then grab a copy of How to edit a novel, at the top of this page.
HOW DO I LOOK PROFESSIONAL AS A WRITER, EVEN IF I'M NOT PUBLISHED YET?
Here's my top tips on this one:
- Listen more than you talk. Writing is a connected industry, so go to industry events, conferences, conventions (as far as time and money allows) and pay attention. This will help you to understand where your own work sits in relation to the industry, and create connections that will help you.
- Produce a quality manuscript as your first duty. Submit the best work you can - this includes learning how to format your manuscript (click here for a basic guide that I give my students). Do this at the expense of your "platform". A woeful manuscript negates all that online work, and platform building takes your eye off what matters: good books.
- Don't be crazy! Do everything with passion in your heart, but a cool brick of ice in your head. Don't be passing your manuscript to an agent under a bathroom door. Not cool.
- Finish what you start. This is a requirement for publishing - incomplete books aren't published.
- Meet your deadlines and/or promises. This keeps you in good graces, and helps establish that you're easy to work with.
I HAVE A GREAT IDEA FOR ONE OF YOUR STORIES - CAN I TELL YOU ABOUT IT?
Wow! Much as I'm flattered that someone would offer me their ideas, I very much work with my own. This is what feels right and comfortable for me, because my stories are drawn from my own experiences. My writing mentor, Kim Wilkins, always used to say, "Remember: you are the person most qualified to write your story." So, if you're got a great idea, why not write it yourself?
CAN YOU READ MY MANUSCRIPT?
I'm not taking manuscript appraisals at the current time, due to my commitments to my students at both university and in other courses.
HOW MUCH DO WRITERS MAKE?
This is one of those "how long is a piece of string" questions. Writing is like acting - there's a small percentage of authors (like Hollywood A-listers) making squillions. Then there's a huge range of other incomes from making a comfortable living to making nothing. But let's gently peel the question back. Usually, people ask because they want to know if a) all the effort is worth it - boy, this writing thing is hard! Is is actually going to pay off?, or b) they can quit the nasty job they're doing now and become a full-time writer.
The truth is, you can't count on writing to make you a living. Most writers do other things to pay the bills. And if you're asking if it's all worth it, maybe writing isn't for you. Do it because you love it - the writing should be its own reward. If it isn't, becoming a writer is a huge gamble with poor odds for making a living. If you want to make easy money, you'd probably be better off taking your money to the casino (but please don't).
If you want a particularly candid view on how things are, you may want to read Ian Irvine's post ... however, if you're new to this, I'd advise waiting until after you've finished your first draft!