How I do it by Tia Fielding
This blog post came to be, because Portia saw my status update on Facebook.
“I have a plan for the current WIP:
1. write it out
2. get feedback from the betas
3. turn it into a novel (it won’t be long enough after the first draft, I’m sure)
4. get more feedback
5. get it polished
Now, this isn’t the usual way I work. Usually I get an idea, start writing, try to find someone who might want to look it over after I’m done writing it and then toss it to my publisher as soon as I can just to get it out of my hands. Yeah, I admit it’s not the best way to do things.
So let’s talk about what I’m planning to do with the WIP I’m talking about in that status update.
Write it out.
I had the idea for this quite randomly, it just came to me in the way most ideas come to writers; something clicked and then something else did and soon I had the general idea and the rest is almost history now.
Writing it seems to be easier than some other things I’ve written. This is important: Whatever people or writing guides say, not everything flows like magic or divine guidance. It doesn’t always pay off to make yourself write when it doesn’t flow. It’s all about you as a person, a writer and the story you’re writing. Sometimes I make myself write just because I know the story is
there, I just need to get it going again. Other times I wait, give the story time and it either starts to flow again or something else will. Sometimes I go back to the story later; sometimes I scrap it and never write it again. It pays off to keep a WIP-folder where you put the stories that stopped flowing at some point. Go back to this folder often, whenever there isn’t a new bunny that inspires you. You might find that the “old bunnies” can be resurrected, that some of them just waited for you to come around again.
However you write, no matter how long it takes, eventually you have something you want someone else’s take on.
Now, some writers do this chapter by chapter. Some others never show their work to others before it’s done and going to the person who beta-reads/edits it for you. It’s all how you want to roll and what kind of people you have helping you.
Personally I have a few people I can count on, more or less, but no-one that always reads for me. Right now I have two author friends, Anna who reads most of my stuff if she has time, and Helen, who reads this current WIP. There are other author friends who give me opinions on some things but not others, sometimes I contact my authors’ group to ask for a pre-read or just opinions. Not everyone has that, at least yet.
So what should you do? ALWAYS have someone read it and beta-edit it before you send it to a publisher. This is when we get to point two in my status update.
Get feedback from the betas.
For me it works best if the betas are also people I’m friends with. I’ve actually found out that some authors don’t like to work with people who they are friend with. They want “semi-anonymous” feedback from people who will be totally, brutally honest to them, and they think no friend would ever do that.
Mine will. They know me well enough to be honest, polite but brutal if needed, and I like that. That’s why I call them friends. Depending on the story, I have anything from one to five people read it before I take it any further. For example, the current WIP is read by 2-3 people, I think, before it’s done to the point I can send it to my publisher. It will, hopefully, be a novel, so it’s also time-consuming for the betas who are also writers/authors. Then again, I had this short story that is contracted to be released early next year that I wanted a lot of feedback for. I had 5 different people read it, just in case.
Feedback is priceless. I like the fact that my friends who beta for me know me well enough to know “my voice”. Sometimes when using someone who hasn’t read for me before, I get feedback that would take away from what is mine in the story. Never, ever apologize for your voice, because that’s what makes your story just that; yours. Keep in mind though, that some things are too much, don’t play with the language too much, remember that your voice can’t be one that annoys 90% of the readers, otherwise the book won’t sell.
Turn it into a novel.
Now this one is naturally something that is only valid for my current WIP. In context, I want to write a novel-length story and this one has the works for it. BUT, not everything is meant to be a novel. Some things work best as short stories or novellas.
If you’re going into writing and want to make money, remember that length is important, the longer the story, the higher the price, the bigger return to you. Then again, sometimes you read those stories that have way too many pages, so try to remember to stay true to the story, and only stretch it if it can realistically make the story better. If not, cut it where it ends naturally.
Again, feedback is important. It gives you something you can never give to your own story; an objective look. Our stories are our babies, and we all know every mother has the prettiest baby in the world. Another look from the betas after you’ve edited it based on the first feedback is always good. It pretty much tells you how the finished product might do.
Get it polished.
The question I hear a lot is “how do I know it’s polished enough?” Well…honestly, you don’t. At some point you just need to give it up and believe that it’s as good as it gets. After all, if you get it picked up by a publisher, they will give it to real editors who will polish it with you and/or for you. Those people are professionals, so they know what they’re doing.
How to pick where to send it? Well, first of all, whatever genre you’re writing, different publishers have different rules. Some require both a summary and a synopsis (I hate writing both, most writers seem to be with me in that, and I won’t go there right now because you can find help for that in several articles and workshops online.), some want a few chapters, some want the whole manuscript. Always remember to check if they allow simultaneous submissions. If not, think about whether you want to wait with that publisher alone, or send it to other places that allow them.
Picking the right publisher is tricky. Do you want a place that’s new and enthusiastic or one that’s old and prestigious? How about small and intimate or bigger and maybe less hands on? One that publishes your genre and this and that others, or one that only publishes what you write?
Go with your gut. Aim high. If you have a favorite publisher out there, send your manuscript to them first. Take a chance. Being rejected feels bad but you’ll get over it and there are other publishers. Being published by your favorite publisher… priceless.
I hope you got something out of this post. Whatever you do, don’t give up on writing. If the creative process is within you, you can only get better. Write, write some more, and then just to be sure, write a little bit more. If you give up, you’ll never know how good you could’ve gotten in time. Trust me; I know what I’m talking about. Ever since I started to write original fiction, I’ve noticed I’m getting better and better. You can do it too. I have faith in you.
Tia Fielding lives in Finland, thinks her first language is English (when in fact it is supposed to be her third), and has finally given in to the idea she actually might be a writer. She began to tell stories very early and kept on writing until her late teens, when she stopped for a while. Then, after writing fan fiction for a few years in her late twenties, she realized she actually liked her own characters better. Now she is published by Dreamspinner Press and Summerhouse Publishing. You can find her numerous social media links and more information at her website: http://www.tiafielding.com
The Double Ds – contemporary M/M/F short story, published by Summerhouse Publishing (May 2011)
Unwind – contemporary M/M short story, published by Dreamspinner Press (part of the 2011 Daily Dose)
Auld Lang Syne – contemporary western M/M novella, published by Dreamspinner Press (July 2011)
More stories coming soon!