|By Antonio Litterio
1. BE PREPARED: live in hope of publication, and never stop writing. Before you send anything out, make sure you’re well ahead with your next book. When I first started writing fiction I didn’t do this, and I suffered for it. I went back to writing non-fiction instead, which was paying my bills at the time. When my first novel was accepted by a major publisher, they assumed I was already working on the follow-up, and wanted it as soon as possible. That meant I had to write day and night to produce Book Two. I barely had time to eat, much less sleep, or talk to anyone! Never let this happen to you. Always have another book of a similar style on the stocks.
2. USE A BETA READER - and the emphasis here is on the word “reader”. Editors know what sells and they can perfect your grammar and layout, but someone who can report honestly on whether it swept them away - or how you can make sure your readers are swept away - is invaluable. You can track down professional beta readers and editors in the small ads of writing magazines. Alternatively, join a creative writing group, and ask for recommendations. Word of mouth is always the best way, and sometimes tutors will offer reading as a service, for an extra fee. Whoever you get to read your work, make sure you can trust them to offer constructive criticism rather than simply telling you what you want to hear. It's better to find out the truth sooner, rather than later.
3. LET IT BREW: you need time to think before you print, or hit "send". Once your perfect manuscript has been made better still by the help of a beta reader and by your careful (but ruthless) revisions, let it sit for a while before you send it out. Put it aside. Forget about it. Ideally, get right away from your keyboard. Spend time doing activities that have nothing to do with writing. Ok, I'll let you do a bit of thinking about Book Two, but that's all. Then, after you’ve been away from your manuscript for a while, read it straight through from beginning to end. You'll be looking at it with fresh eyes. If you still think you're on to a winner, that's the time to send it out.
My next Top Tips blog will discuss whether it's better to send straight to a publisher, or get an agent first. To make sure you don't miss it, sign up using the subscription box above.