I started off making absolutely every mistake in the book. I was all tell and
no show, used more adverbs than an episode of School House Rocks, and I killed
off two characters in my prologue, never mind the fact that I even had a
prologue. I had many painful lessons to
learn before selling my first book so to save you from the same; I humbly
submit the following insights.
you Romance, Women’s Fiction, Upmarket, Literary Fiction? There are genres and
sub-genres and you need to know where you book falls before you start to shop
it around to agents or publishers. Best way to know? Find books similar to
yours and read them. Read a lot. Then read some more. By the time you
understand what genre you’re in you’ll probably have a good understand of what
your sub-genre is as well. Research prospective agents. Don’t make the mistake
of querying someone who will auto-reject you because they don’t represent your
range is for word count. If you’ve got a contemporary romance at 130,000 words
you’re not gonna get a lot of agents or editors willing to look at it. The same
is true if it’s 40,000. If you’re shopping around a high fantasy at 60,000 you’re
not gonna get a lot of interest. Fair? No. But this is a business and as an
agent, why read something you know misses an important criterion.
heroin addict and his long journey to sobriety. It’s gritty and real with the
word choices to match. Probably not a
novel to shop to an agent who deals with young adult or middle-grade novels. As
important as knowing your genre, watching your word count, is knowing who your
likely readers are and what category that puts you in. You want to be sure
you’re querying agents and publishers who are looking for what you’ve written. You also want to your book to appeal to your
readers. Again, read to research. Seek out comp titles.
your own book unless you yourself are an editor. A good one. Get beta readers
for big feedback, but for the heavy lifting you either need to hire an editor
or choose skilled critique partners. A good CP is worth their weight in gold. There’s
online CP forums if you need to seek one out. I found mine on Twitter and they
have been incredibly helpful. A skilled
CP will point out where you’re telling and not showing, where you switch
tenses, where your characters suddenly act out of character. Then you need to
kill those spots with fire! Chop those adverbs and clean up that writing. Clean
writing can make the difference between pages that get a full request and
in your career.
Don’t be afraid to pay for that workshop, that editor, or that class if you
think it will improve your writing. If you’re taking this seriously, you need
to invest in your talent. Don’t be afraid to take a risk on yourself. You are
When not at her desk working or writing, Christa can be found curled up in her favorite chair reading, out and about with her husband and kids, or in the garden. She lives with her family along the coast of Massachusetts in the converted barn they share with a dog and two formerly-feral cats.