Lessons for Beginning Novelists: The danger of premature publication

This is the first of three lessons for beginning novelists

If you’re a would-be novelist, naturally you can’t wait to see your book in print, but there is a huge downside to premature publication. Publishing too soon can permanently turn off potential agents and readers which might kill the enthusiasm you currently feel for gaining entry into this exclusive club.

Each writer dreams of making it big, and who am I to rain on anyone’s dreams. To increase the odds of making it, however, it is important not to skip any of the critical steps that need to be taken to assure your manuscript is ready–whether you’re submitting it to agents or self-publishing. Here is the checklist I use for my own books.

1) Be well read in your genre. The danger of not knowing current trends is that your book could be out-of-step or worse imitative. In addition, if someone asks you who you like in your genre or what you think of the latest sensation, you’ll be ready with an answer.

2) Share drafts with qualified readers. Don’t wait until you feel your book is finished to share portions of it with qualified readers. The danger of waiting is that you might be tempted to ignore valid criticisms if it means a major re-write. (P.S.: A qualified reader is not a relative or a friend unless that person is a published author or has professional editing experience.)

3) Read your manuscript out loud. You’ll hear where you left out important information, where you’re repetitive, and when you need to touch up your writing.

4) When you think it’s done, put your manuscript aside for 3 to 4 weeks. Then revise one more time. Distance will help you see ways your draft can be improved.

5) When you think your book is ready, pay a professional editor or editing service to proofread your manuscript for grammatical mistakes and typos. If you need to sacrifice to be able to afford a professional editor, do it. Typos and bad grammar are probably the number one reason manuscripts are rejected and readers stop reading.

Success comes to those who take the necessary steps in the writing process to make sure their submissions are as good as they can be. Still, if your first effort fails to make the grade, put it aside and get to work on your next one. Quitting should not be an option.

Beginning writers sometimes get off to a fast start, but midway through the process many ‘hit the wall’ and never finish. My next column will help you avoid that unhappy scenario.

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