drafting · re-drafting · WIP · writing tips

The Next Step

In my last blog, I explained where I’m up to in my novel-writing process. This time, I thought I’d explain what happens after I finish writing it. Sure, I know – I need to get published, right? Only it’s not quite that simple.

Six months ago, I thought the next step would be to find an agent. I knew I was thinking about it too early because I wasn’t even finished with my first draft.

Don’t get me wrong, I knew finding an agent would be difficult and take forever and there would be countless rejections.

I knew there was a right way and many wrong ways to go about this and I would have a lot to learn about the process – and probably a lot to cry about, too.

I also know there’s a huge risk I might not even have a product worth representing (I’m stocked up on enough wine to get me through all of these events).

But then I learnt finding an agent is not the next step. You see, gone are the days (if they were ever there) of authors sitting back out of sight, writing to our heart’s content. These days, we have to get ourselves out there, back our own work, get heard of. After all, if I’m not showing interest, why should I expect a publisher to?

Publishers have enough to do: editing, designing, printing, proofing, marketing, distributing and everything else in between. Call it the fast pace of today’s society if you want, or a conspiracy if you’re that way inclined, but it’s still a reality. So if an author can do some of these things for themselves… well, you see where this is going.

And as luck would have it, just as I started looking around, I heard of an on-line course that sounded perfect. It was called Pitch Your Novel: How to Attract Agents and Publishers, run by the Australian Writers Centre and presented by the lovely, no-nonsense Natasha Lester.

Click any of these links to see for yourself.

I won’t give away what the course advises, but I will strongly recommend it to anyone starting off in this field, just like I am. But, based on what it taught me (and on my surfing-the-web-research) there are many things I should have already started.

Social Media. I’ve got myself out of the stone age and set up on my choice of platforms – not too many that I’m swamped, but enough to reach a variety of people. I’ve designed profile photos, learnt how to set up a web page, designed a web page, listened to negative feedback on my web page, and designed another web page.

I designed my branding. I changed my branding. I changed my social media handles to make them more consistent. I tweeted. Blogged. Posted. Started book reviews. Learned how to write book reviews for books I don’t like.

Whew! That’s all underway. But it’s taken me six months of squeezing it in around everything else. Time I didn’t have to spare but had to find. And still have to find every day.


Reading. Now as easy as that sounds, there’s a lot more to this. I need to read in my own genre and actively seek out books in that field. Fortunately I know my genre is Young Adult and I’m already reading current stuff.

Until I realised my genre is actually New Adult Comic Fantasy and added a whole lot more books to my list. Luckily, I also need to read outside my genre, so it’s not a waste (as if reading is ever a waste).

I discovered goodreads through one of my new Twitter contacts (yay for social media) and am getting around to listing everything in that one convenient place.

Why so much reading? To see what works and what doesn’t. To emulate another’s freedom of creativity, or to avoid their traps. After all, I can’t tell you how much I really hate adverbs and exclamation marks!

And so many characters step forward, start to run, or pause for a moment, it’s no wonder we want to kill them off. So to all the other traps out there, watch out. I’m looking out for you.

Image credit: Jim Hull at NarrativeFirst.com

Story Structure. This was the one I struggled with the most. After all, I’ve read stories, I know how they work. Won’t a formula take all the creativity out of my work? I read for hours about the scene-sequel concept and the (three-act- vs) four-act-storyline, but it wasn’t until relaxing with friends over quiet beers at the pub that I became a true convert.

One of my friends, the smart one among us, said ‘it’s easy. After an argument with your brother, you don’t want to argue with mum when you could be plotting your revenge instead. That’s scene-sequel. Making him wonder what you’re going to do next when all is quiet.

As for the four acts – you can choose to pretend nothing happened, then be surprised when he retaliates, dob on him and get yourself laughed at for being so un-Australian, and finally remember you love him and call a truce. It’s up to you to make it compelling.’

(Of course, you should read a much better version of how scene-sequel and four acts work, and you can find those here: Mad Professor of Fiction Writing does a bare bones explanation of scene-sequel and this brilliant Narrative First post sums up the four acts perfectly).

In the meantime, I’m incorporating The Next Step into my every day. I’m listening to my characters when they tell me how they want to respond, I’m reading about their contemporaries, and posting their reviews, because that’s what happens next.

Whew! The second book is going to be so much easier! There’s no way I have anything else to learn! Really!

Now I just have to get back to writing it. Join me next time when I tell you what’s involved in finding an agent.


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