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Congratulations! You’ve done something many people have talked about but never done.
But what comes next?
First, do you know where your book would fit on the shelf?
Is it a mystery, a thriller, women’s fiction, sci-fi, fantasy, or ? Editors and agents don’t want to hear, “It’s like nothing out there.” A book must fit a genre or category.
How do you find where your book belongs?
By reading, reading, reading. Hopefully, you already read books like what you’ve written. You know the patterns of a romance or a horror book, etc. and therefore your book would be recognizable to readers of such. I think you’ll find this article helpful: “How to Figure Out The Genre of Your Book.”
Is your book close to the expected word count range for its type?
Yes, there are standout titles that are outside the general parameters, but don’t handicap yourself by being way off. Here are some guidelines: “Word Count by Genre: How Long Should a Book Be?”
Have you edited your story?
No one writes a perfect first draft. It’s important to make sure the parts of your story are working, that it is clear and as free of errors as you can make it. Check out these resources: “The top 10 golden rules of self-editing,” “Self-Editing Basics: 10 Simple Ways to Edit Your Own Book,” and “The Ultimate Guide to Self-Editing your Manuscript.”
Have you gotten any feedback on your story?
Some people use beta readers—nonwriters who like to read and are willing to comment. It helps to have questions to ask them to aid in getting feedback. Here are two resources: “6 Key Questions to Ask Your Beta Readers” and “50 Questions to Ask Your Alpha and Beta Readers.”
I prefer using critique partners—other writers who exchange critiques. Read these: “Guide to Critique Group Etiquette: 9 Embarrassing Mistakes That Make You Look Like an Amateur” and “How To Set Up A Critique Group | 5 Cardinal Rules.”
How do you find beta readers or critique groups?
Through writing groups or organizations. Some are found in person, others online. For example, on Facebook Sub It Club has a Critique Partner Matchup. Groups that may have critique opportunities with editors/agents/published writers and/or offer critique groups include: American Christian Fiction Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America. Here’s a list of some organizations: “10 Best Organizations for Writers.”
Once you get feedback, you revise again. But do you do everything suggested? Not necessarily. Some suggestions will strike a chord in you and you’ll see immediately that it makes your story better/stronger. Others may take some time to sink in. Yet others your gut may respond with a loud no. This article might be helpful in determining what to do: “Nine strategies for handling criticism as a writer.”Repeat as necessary.
When your book is as good as you can make it, now look at it with a microscope. Is the grammar correct? Are there overused words you can cut? How’s your punctuation? Some other ideas of what to look for can be found here: “10 Tips for a Polished Manuscript” and here: “Wax On, Wax Off: 5 Areas To Polish Before Submitting A Manuscript.”
A lot of work? Yes. But you can confidently move on to submitting once you’re done.
Note: the image is the cover of a picture book I’m Done! by Gretchen Brandenburg McLellan. Little Beaver thinks he’s done, but has to learn the satisfaction of perseverance. Although aimed at children, this book is a good analogy of the writing process too.
SM Ford writes inspirational fiction for adults, although teens may find the stories of interest, too. She also loves assisting other writers on their journeys.