ANWA Conference Report on Linda Mullineaux’s class by Author Betsy Love:

Today we have Betsy love as our guest. Welcome to my blog…

The Critical Skill of Self Editing-Focusing on what agents and editors really care about.

Even though I’m published, I have so much to learn, and attending Linda’s class was informative and fun. Here is what her class was all about:

First of all, Linda says, “Take time writing your book; make it as perfect as you can.” She says it’s important to know your target audience, know your word count, and know what your publisher/agent accepts.

Now that you’ve done all the hard work, you hit the send key on your email with your manuscript attached. Now what? First of all, breathe a sigh of relief and go work on something else. If after a few days you haven’t heard from them, it’s okay to ask if the manuscript was received. Then be patient. After some time has passed, it’s okay to “bother” the agent or editor By “bother” Linda means, a quick email saying, “I hate to bother you, but have you had a chance to look at my manuscript?” But DON’T bother the editor every day! Agents and editors want to know that you are not going to be a high maintenance author. Be patient, the process takes time.

Linda says that often the plot is not the problem, but it’s often the mechanics of the story. Editors have so many books to make decisions on that to have a great story and poor writing makes an editor reject the book. An editor wants to know “How much work will it take to get it in publishable form?” If it’s going to take too much time, then the editor will pass it over for one that is going to take less editing. If there are too many mistakes it’s likely to be rejected.

When contacting a publisher make sure to include a cover letter and synopsis, not a chapter by chapter, but tell the story. If an editor or agent sends you back suggestions to fix it, take this as a very good sign that your story is publishable, but that you will need to look at it again for syntax, grammar, punctuation, etc. This is where a critique group is crucial, but make sure they are going to be honest and helpful.

Here are some other tips on being the best writer and creating the best book you can:

  • Take your time writing. Make it as perfect as you can.
  • Let others read it and give you feedback—no not your mom, she thinks everything is brilliant.
  • The best way to be a great writer is to read—especially the classics.
  • Let it sit for at least a month. Write something else, think about something else.
  • Phillip Cosby “When in doubt, delete.”
  • As a writer you are not being fair if you’re not being honest.
  • In dialogue, less is more.
  • On setting—Don’t make it sound like a travel brochure.
  • Make sure your characters want something on every page.
  • Have a strong voice.

Some of the types of errors that Linda sees a lot of are as follows:

Punctuation and minor grammar issues

  • Overwriting
  • Syntax or logistical errors
  • Unvaried sentence structures
  • Dangling modifiers

The last thing you should have when contacting an editor or agent is a marketing plan. This is the nuts and bolts of what you are going to do to promote your book. Have a blog that is content driven, not just an advertisement for your book. Have a social presence on Facebook, Twitter, etc. Find other ways to be creative in promoting your book.

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