This page is by no means complete. I will regularly come back to it to add more tips or links.
If I bold a single term or word, it’s because I’ve explained it in my list of acronyms or in my lexicon.
And if you’re curious, I created this page because of writers who are just getting started and instead of using Google, they ask published writers a thousand questions. I’m sorry, but those kinds of writers get on my nerves. When I started writing 4 years ago, I used Google. A lot. And I read writers’ blogs and literary agents’ blogs. I went on forums for writers. I started posting stuff on fanfic.net then fictionpress.com.
What I didn’t do was annoy published writers with a thousand questions.
Too blunt? Don’t care: Google exists for a reason! Moving on now.
- How to write the first draft
- How to edit that first draft
- How to write a query letter
- How to choose which literary agents to query
- How to write a synopsis (the plural is synopses)
- How to name your characters
- Word count according to genre
- Money, money, money (advances, earning out, royalties and movie rights)
- From getting a literary agent to being published
- Revision Stages
- Useful links
- Useful writing programs
- A couple of do’s and don’ts
- Acronyms and stuff
How to write the first draft
- outlining/plotting: either you plot or outline your novel from start to finish. It’s up to you how detailed your outline should be.
Tools you can use:
- a white board or two
- spreadsheet (I use Courtney Reese‘s fantastic template http://4.bp.blogspot.com/_VzmpVdx3hj0/SzbzS9PEgXI/AAAAAAAAAJA/VCPRQS0Om60/s1600-h/Plotting_Spreadsheet.bmp)
- index cards
- pantsing: if you’re not a plotting person, you can pants (write by the seat of your pants). For this, you just start writing the second you have an idea.
- of course, you could blend the two: have a vague outline but only use it if you’re stuck. It’s up to you.
(Me, I outline. Pantsing has never worked for me. The novels I don’t plot, I don’t finish.)
Most important thing though is to just WRITE. Don’t worry about what people will think, or if that’s the right word to describe the sunrise, or if you’ll ever be published. Just write what you want to and you’ll have fun.
How to edit that first draft
This depends on the kind of writer you are; you can:
- edit the moment you’re done writing the first draft.
- put it away for a couple of weeks then come back to it with fresh eyes.
- directly pass it to a writer friend (also known as a critique partner or a beta reader) who’ll read it and send it back to you with comments and ideas on how to improve it.
- do a light edit for typos then pass it to that writer friend.
- use the Shrunken Manuscript Technique (http://www.darcypattison.com/revision/shrunken-manuscript/)
Whatever; it’s up to you.
How to write a query letter
In a query letter, you will talk about your novel; this letter will help you land a literary agent. They know all about the publishing industry and will guide you through it as well as help you get your novel(s) published.
For the tips on how to write a query letter, I will simply direct you to a bunch of websites:
Oh, and the query, unlike a synopsis, doesn’t reveal the end of the novel. Also, be professional and polite. Spell check and don’t send the query letter out the same day you finish writing it. The next day, you might be able to find mistakes you didn’t see before.
If you’re underage, don’t mention that in your query. Just say you’re a student. That way there’s no prejudice. Once you have an agent, the only “problem” you’ll have is that your parents have to sign the contract for you.
If you’re querying by email, use an email address containing your real first and last name. It’s more professional than, as Jackson Pearce said in a live show, “sexybabyangel82”.
An agent will NEVER ask YOU for money. You should be receiving money (Money, money, money).
If you’ve planned to write a series or trilogy, make sure the novel can stand alone and say something like “This novel is a standalone with the potential for a series/trilogy” in the query letter.
How to choose which literary agents to query
Obviously, you should choose an agent who represents your genre. (I’m sure some people somehow manage to make that mistake…) And if, like me, you write in English but don’t live in an English-speaking country, it isn’t a problem to query agents who live in the UK or in the US.
I think querytracker keeps, well, track of the agents you’re querying, but I’ll be using a spreadsheet when I start querying.
Here’s what your spreadsheet should include:
- Name of the agency the agent belongs to
- The agent’s name
- The writers they represent (gives you an idea of what novels they like)
- The genres they represent
- The agency’s address, the agent’s email address, twitter account, blog and website if they have any of those
- Notes — how many pages/chapters of your novel should you include? Should it be in the email itself or attached as a file? What kind of file? What’s their response time? Not all literary agents will mention their response time. Should you include a synopsis?
- The date you sent them a query
- The date they asked for a partial request (partials are usually around 50 pages long)
- The date they asked for a full request
- The date they offer representation or the date they reject you
Send query letters in sets of 5. When you get a rejection, send another query letter. Sending 30 out in the same day is a recipe for going insane.
If after 4 to 6 weeks you have no reply, you can send a polite email saying you sent a query and blah blah blah. But if the website of the agency that the literary agent belongs to says you have to wait Z weeks, you wait Z weeks.
- Form rejection: these won’t usually mention why they reject you, but, if they liked your writing style, they could ask to see another novel of yours, if you have written another one. Or they could invite you to R&R. Although I’m not sure if they’d say that in a form rejection. Huh.
- Personalized rejection: if they’ve taken the time to read the whole manuscript, they’re going to explain what could be done better.
How to write a synopsis (the plural is synopses)
Once again, I give you links:
2 pages maximum. You must reveal how the novel ends.
How to name your characters
If you’re a beginning writer, then you’re probably confused about genres. If even the term confuses you, I’ll explain. Genre is the type of story you write. If it’s includes magic, it’s fantasy, but there are many different kinds. If it’s set in the past, it’s historical. Here’s a small list (I got lazy after 3 genres):
- Urban Fantasy: modern setting (like a city) with supernatural beings (vampires, werewolves, witches, banshees, ghosts, reapers, etc)
- YA (Young Adult): this is a very broad genre (you can have YA Urban Fantasy, for example), but basically, it’s geared towards teens
- MG (Middle Grade): for ages 8 to 12
- Okay, I’m too lazy; here are some links http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_literary_genres and http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/120057/how_to_categorize_your_novel_fiction.html?cat=38
Word count according to genre
If you’re writing high/epic fantasy (it’s the same thing), your word count will probably be higher than a YA contemporary.
(50 000 words = about 250 pages)
Money, money, money
- Advance: This is the money you’re paid for your book and you get it in 3 parts. Now 15% of that advance goes directly to your agent. You get the first third when you sign the contract (this contract is with the publishing company), the second third when you send the book in and the last is when the book is published. You get to keep this money no matter what.
- Earning out: To earn out your advance, your book has to sell a certain amount of copies; once that amount is reached, you can start earning royalties. If you don’t earn out your advance, you simply don’t get royalties, and, I’m assuming, that publishing company probably won’t offer you a contract on another book, unless it’s REALLY good.
- Royalties: On average, you’ll get 2 royalty checks per year. On average, you’ll get 12% for each hardback sold and 7% for each paperback, though it can go up to 15% and 12.5% respectively, but it’s uncommon. The royalties usually don’t make you rich. Unless you sell a LOT of copies. What does make you rich, is selling lots of books.
- Movie rights: If a studio is interested in turning your book into a movie or tv show, they’ll offer you money for the movie rights. In the contract, they’ll specify how many years they’ll own the rights and if after X years they haven’t done anything, the rights revert back to you, the author. Then you can sell them again, should another studio make an offer.
From getting a literary agent to being published
Let’s say querying and getting an agent takes a year (some get an agent in a week, for others it takes 2 years of querying, the average is probably a year), then your agent has to get you a publisher.
Let’s say that takes a month (I haven’t done my research, but I think that part takes less time than the “getting an agent” part). Once you have a book deal with a publisher, on average, it’ll take 2 years before your book is officially published. In those two years, you will go through many revision stages (also known as “hell” to most writers).
Total: 3 years, 1 month
Yeah, people who say they want to be writers to be rich and famous are laughed at.
Well the very first one will happen before the book deal: your agent will tell you what to cut, what to expand on, what to change, etc. You don’t have to do everything they said (it IS your book after all), but take time to think about their suggestions–most of them will probably make sense, if you have a good agent.
The second one is when you revise your novel after receiving a revision letter from your editor. It’s 1 or 2 pages long and will just list things to change, add, expand, etc.
Then there’s copy editing and line editing. I’ll come back to this some other time. Don’t feel like researching it now.
- http://www.google.com/ (Google is your friend. Use it!)
- http://hiveword.com/wkb/search (And this is your best friend.)
- http://twitter.com/ (Here you can make friends with other writers as well as follow literary agents, published writers and editors.)
Useful writing programs
- Scrivener: Cost money. Only for Macs, for now at least. DEFINITELY worth the money.
- Jer’s Novel Writer: Free, pretty good.
A couple of do’s and don’ts
- don’t start your novel with a dream (unless your whole story is about dreams (like Wake and Fade by Lisa McMann)); practically no one likes this
- do start with something interesting (action scene, strange event, anything that changes the protagonist’s world)
- don’t start with info-dumping (see Lexicon)
Acronyms and stuff
- WIP: Work-in-Progress
- CP: Critique Partner
- (F/M)MC: Female/Male Main Character
- MS: Manuscript
- UF: Urban Fantasy
- SF: Science Fiction (also sci-fi)
- ARC: Advance Reader Copies (these copies don’t have the final cover, still have some typos and are given out to either book reviewers or as prizes in contests), a.k.a Review Copies or Galleys, though galleys aren’t exactly the same.
- R&R: An agent may reject your manuscript but ask that you revise and resubmit
- ConCrit: This is a Fiction Press term; it means constructive criticism. It’s preferable to comments/reviews saying “Loved it! Can’t wait for more!” Of course writers will like that comment, but it’s even better if you can help, offer suggestion to make it better or point out mistakes, anachronism (if they’re writing historical novels),
- OOC: Out Of Character; also a Fiction Press term. Used when a character is acting, well, out of character. If for 10 chapters your character is, let’s say, brave, and then they run away from a kid, with no explanation/reason, people will say it was “OOC”.
- protagonist: the main character
- info-dumping: when you unload too much information on your reader in one go (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Exposition_%28literary_technique%29#Information_dump)
- midlist: Will add definition later
- backlist: Will add definition later