Tuesday, July 8, 2008

What To Do With That Diamond in the Rough

Q: I’m just about to finish my book. Now what? I want to be published. What do I do next?

A: Congratulations on finishing your book. There are many people who “want to be writers” but most of them just want to have written.

Many new writers want to rush immediately to finding an agent, approaching a publisher, etc., but I encourage you to make sure your writing is as good as it can be first. Focus on craft.

A young writer once asked me if it’s harder to get published if you’re young, and I replied that all things being equal it’s not harder to be published (maybe even easier). But things are usually not equal because it’s harder to be good when you’re young—just because the more you write the better you become. That’s the way to hone natural talent.

Even if you’ve already taken some steps to make your work better, I suspect you probably could still benefit from critique from other writers who are serious about craft. You may want to link up with other writers in your area. If you’re writing for teens, you may want to join SCBWI (Society for Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators). You can visit their national website here http://www.scbwi.org/ and look under Regions to see if there is a chapter near you. They often have local critique groups and may sponsor a local writing conference where you can learn a lot about craft and the business of publishing.

You didn’t mention whether you’d read and applied any books on craft. I have a number posted on my Website. Self Editing for Fiction Writers is an excellent choice.

Once you’re convinced your work is as good as it can be, consider looking for an agent. You can search for agents who rep what you write at http://www.agentquery.com/. Literary agent Nathan Bransford has lots of basic tips on his site, here. http://nathanbransford.blogspot.com/. Look for the basics (Before You Query) posts.

There is info on how to find an agent on my site and what to watch out for. You also might want to check out the Writer Beware blog sponsored by the Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America here http://accrispin.blogspot.com/
to make sure the person you are querying is legit. Use the Preditors and Editors link on the right hand side. One way to meet agents and editors from publishing houses is to attend writing conferences.

Finally, I often post answers to writers’ questions on my blog. On my LiveJournal site, http://cindachima.livejournal.com/ look under the tag Young Writer Q&A.

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