Saturday, March 19, 2011

The Next Step

Out of six recent submissions, two have made the next cut. I know you've heard this before, but let's look at some of the things that can be done to get through the next hurtle to get your york of fiction published.

The query, by some stroke of luck, got the reader to want to read the three chapter submission. Good job!

Here are some things that can get the chapter sample a favorable read. First off, submit exactly what is asked for in the guidelines. In the case of Cactus Rain, I like to see the first three chapters. Never send chapters that aren't the first and in sequential order - no skipping to the good part. The beginning has to be the good part.

Manuscript format counts more than you'd think. Double spacing the lines in an ms is not optional - ever. The people who did not set up their software before embarking on the adventure of writing, have work to do to fix that omission. Single spaced paragraphs with spaces between them is not correct. Manuscripts must be double spaced lines. Always.

One space between sentences is the mark of someone who's done their research. It is never okay to have two spaces between sentences in an ms.

At this point, if these two basic formatting errors are present, it is likely that the writer knows even less about writing. Before I became so busy, I would give a "pity read," but even I don't have the time for that now.

For writers who believe in the value of their story, but are not good with grammar - in the slightest, then it is worth paying for a professional line edit. Line edits are about grammar and punctuation, they are not the same as content editing. They are not ready for submission just because they were edited by your English teacher or grammar-geek friend.

It is not necessary to be able to recite the 48 prepositions, but the writer should have a basic knowledge of parts of speech (there are 8 in US English -- how hard is that to review?) and review the basic punctuation rules.

There are differences between UK English and American English punctuation rules. However, there are some things that I will never tolerate again. The number one offender is ellipsis marks. It is rare that ellipsis would fit correctly in a work of fiction; if you use them, don't send your ms to Cactus Rain Publishing.

In school we're taught there is a formula to paragraph writing where a certain number of sentences and types of sentences are required. That is not wholly true in fiction. The trick on fiction paragraphs [and dialogue] is easy.

This next bit isn't the technical way to explain this and if Nick Daws reads it, he is likely to comment - consider yourself warned.

Think of dialogue and scenes as a tennis game. Each time someone speaks, the ball is in their court and you look their direction - that equals a new paragraph. Every change in speaker in dialogue is the start of a new paragraph. Even if the speaker gets only one word said, they get their own line.

Basically the same is true for scenes. When you take the reader from one location or one "camera shot" to another in the same location, then make a new paragraph. For example, if the reader is facing the fountain as the setting behind the scene action, then the action comes from another direction, say from behind the reader, that is a new paragraph. Think of it as watching the ball in tennis and it has changed courts.

This post is getting furiously lengthy, so I'll take a break here. This would be a good time to save a master copy of your ms, then run searches for things like double spaces between sentences, and fix them in a new file doc.


  1. These are things you have to tell people? I guess I can understand single spacing, but the rest? If you read books, you should already know these things. And if you don't read books, you probably don't write very well. C'mon people.


  2. Hello Tara, all I can say is every once in a while someone amazes me with what they send out. Sometimes the story is interesting, it is just they don't know what to do with the ms.

  3. We were all new at this gig at one time. It is the people who read blogs or books on the subject, who succeed.

  4. You are so right Tara. The problem is because people can write a shopping list and have a laptop they think they can write a novel. How wrong they are. A musician, to be worthy has to practice and practice. To be a writer it is the same. I write 365 days a year. No excuses.
    When the draft was finished then I had to be prepared to work with Nadine. In the end we produced a novel that we could both be proud of.
    And feedback I get from readers is saying the same.

  5. Okay, Glyn!
    What does "had to be prepared to work with Nadine" mean? Was it really that bad?

  6. Well however the process went, the end result was great!