Thinking about writing a book? Wondering what the process is like? In one word: long. Here are some ideas for different stages of the road to publication.
- A writing class! Here in Madison, WI we are lucky enough to have several to choose from. The Madison Writer's Studio offers a wide variety of classes taught by published authors Susanna Daniel, Michelle Wildgen and Melissa Falcon Field. Taking a formal class is a great way to learn about the craft as well as find a community of writers who are at the same step in the process. The first 100 pages of my novel were written during one of Susanna's Summer Novel Writing Intensive workshops and the last two thirds with the critique and wisdom of a group of writers I met there. The Fifth Semester is a four month long program with authors Erin Celello and Ann Garvin that provides mentorship and manuscript development. Don't live in Madison? Check your local college or University for non-credit classes. Some rec departments also offer classes.
- If you can't find a class to take, finding a writing partner or group is a must. You may find online options or in person groups. Some book stores may host writers' groups for free. Check with your local book store. I met my first and most steadfast writing partner Susan Gloss through a class that was offered through the University of Wisconsin Memorial Union. That was eight years ago and we're still together and have seen each other through publication celebrations and nightmares as well as life events both happy and sad. My current writing group for my second (in progress) novel is a rag tag group of writers that meet every six weeks or so to critique each other's pages.
- Once you think your manuscript is perfect, find more readers, specifically some that don't love you dearly, and prepare yourself for more changes and edits. Agents don't want to see your manuscript unless it's spotless. Yes, you'll have to find an agent if you'd like to publish in the traditional market. Finding the agent who is in love with your manuscript and is eager to see it on the shelves and the New York Times Bestseller List is hard and time-consuming. Luckily there are online resources to help. Here are a few:
- Now you've got a polished and perfect manuscript, a query letter to die for and a list of agents you think would be perfect to represent you. Now you start sending out those queries, along with EXACTLY WHAT THE AGENT REQUESTS. It could be a synopsis or ten pages or fifty pages. If you do your research you'll know what each individual agent is looking for. Is it time-consuming? Yes, you bet. Is it a lot of work? Hell, yeah. Does it make a difference? Um... yeah.
- Now you wait. and wait some more. and then you get rejected a few dozen times and then you wait again. The pattern is often wait/rejection/wait/rejection... you get it. Until that one amazing-never forget it-change your life day when someone says YES.