There! Finished! Your manuscript is finished and - and it is perfect! You might even print it and take it to the copy center for a cover of some sort after you've had your tea. You begin to wonder how to set up an amazon account. Maybe a website. Who knows, Oprah might call next week.
You sit there (sipping tea) wondering why so many writers talk about drafts and rewrites. Your ms is perfect. After all, spell check was on the entire time. Based on how complete you feel and satisfied, you are certain this ms is ready for the NY Times bestseller list.
All I can says is, "Ah, to be a novice again."
Let the ms sit; leave it at least six weeks or more. Go off and draft the synopsis, research literary agents (Yes-yes, I know you only need one. Yeah right.) Humor me and make a list anyway. Research what they have sold in the last two years. Research if there are complaints about them (then weight those) and lawsuits. Double check their websites for their exact submission guidelines and if they are still representing your genre.
They are more likely to be the real deal if they belong to agent organizations, since there is no licence needed to be a lit agent. For example, AAR (Association of Authors' Representatives) isn't just one of those clubs you can pay up and join. Sure there is a membership fee, but also criteria to be eligible for membership. Check out their Canon of Ethics. Link at the bottom.
"Search" for info on writing query letters. There are all kinds of tips out there. Unless the agent requests what book your book is like, I omit that. What if you use a book that they hate? Yet, they might like yours - know what I mean?
Put on your bright mind and think about things. This is the big stuff now.
When you get your agent picks listed, your synopsis and query letters drafted - put them aside. Did you notice I said drafted?
Go back to your ms, that lovely perfect literary work you wrote months ago. Print it. No, really. Print it on the back of used paper or promise me to use the back of this paper.
Read it aloud. Not to in your head, read it with an audible voice. (Have pen in hand - you'll need it.) If you can get someone to take a copy and follow along as you read aloud, you just hit the jackpot. Sometimes we read something different than we wrote. Usually what we said is the better choice than we typed. At least consider it could be better and make a note for later.
I circle everything I find and make a note in the margin too. I use proof reader marks on my mss. Seems not many writers know what they are.
Make a copy of your ms file. The first is named with the title and draft. You never touch that one again. You might need it. The copy file is named with the title and master. Remember to make back up copies in your usual way: CD, flash drive, external backup or portable hard drive.
Then make all the changes to the second file of your ms. The trick to doing this is to make the changes from the back forward. Why? Because as you make changes in your ms, the text will move up or down (if you deleted). Before long, it will be different from your printed copy and turn into a bigger task. If you make changes from the end to the beginning, it will go much easier.
Get that done and I'll go from there tomorrow.
AAR link: http://www.aaronline.org/