Last Saturday, I spent about eight hours finishing up my second full draft of HalfLife. I love those productive days where it is so easy to get sucked into the manuscript. It is rare that I am able to just take an entire day and really dive in, so I appreciated the time immensely.
Through my writing process, alongside my partner in crime, I have learned a lot about the book industry and how it works. You can’t just send a book in somewhere and have it published. Because there are literally thousands of people trying to become published authors, it is actually very difficult to get published. The steps, as I’ve learned, are as follows:
- Write a Book
- Get an Agent
- Agent obtains Publisher
- Publisher publishes book
Those are the four big steps. Seems simple, right? I’m here to tell you that isn’t the case. Within those four steps, there are sub-steps. Just as in writing a book, there are main plots and subplots.
Take Step One: Write a Book.
I have learned that a first draft is just that: a first draft. Advice to new writers: never, ever, ever submit a first draft to an agent or publisher. I speak from experience. A first draft is getting the story out, the bare bones, if you will. What agents look for is a work that is as close to being publish-as ready as possible. It can take three, four, five drafts before it’s ready for publishing, or ready enough to obtain an agent.
Therefore, I provide you with Step One, Section A: Edit your Book!
HalfLife is only on its second full draft, but I’ve been editing and reworking and developing backstory on it for years. Do I think it’s ready for an agent yet? No. The point of a first draft is to get the story down. The point to an edit is to take out and revise and add and develop. My favorite quote about first drafts: “I’m writing a first draft and reminding myself that I’m simply shoveling sand into a box so that later I can build castles.” The revision process is very important. Not only do agents and publishers want to see a work as close as possible to being publish ready, but how can you be sure there isn’t more to the story if you stop after a first draft?
I want to build castles, not just shovel sand. 😉
Step One, Section B (This is where I am!): Beta Readers!
Last Saturday, when I finished this draft of HalfLife, I put a post out on Instagram and shared it to my other social media accounts. I was proud of the work I’d done. In that post, I put out a request, that if anyone wanted to beta read my manuscript, to please let me know. I thought maybe I would catch the attention of a couple of friends. I also reached out to a couple of people who posted ads to beta read for authors through Goodreads.
What I got back surprised me! I had over ten people volunteer to beta read. The thing is, most of those messages started out with: I don’t know what a beta reader is, but…
I am absolutely floored by the support and outreach so many have given to me. I expected I would have to fight tooth and nail to find folks willing to read my work. To everyone that volunteered, THANK YOU!! To those who I reached out to for email addresses, your copy of the manuscript is in your email if you haven’t already found it. 🙂
So, this post boils down to that very question: what is a beta reader?
The best way to polish a manuscript is to have feedback. You don’t know how your work is going to be received unless you actually let people read it. The point to betas isn’t to have a line by line edit done, but to have people read it, tell you what they do and don’t like, point out any glaring plot holes, and give you an honest opinion as to whether they like the book.
As a writer, I have to tell you, this has been the most terrifying step so far.
When I began the HalfLife journey ten years ago, I don’t know that I really thought I’d ever get to this point. I always hoped I would, but I’m a realist and psyched myself into thinking it would never be a fully workable manuscript. I’d like to think every author goes through this phase. The “What if they don’t like me?” phase.
This project is my baby. And I worry that people won’t like it. But, the truth of the matter is, if I don’t try it, I will never know, and I have to know if this story is as good as I believe it is. I know there are still places for improvement. Trust me, ever since Saturday when I finished the draft, I’ve been pointing out spots where I need to do more, be more consistent, or just downright remove the fluff.
But I won’t know how people feel about it until I let my baby go and walk on its own.
Again, thank you to every single person that volunteered to beta for me! I felt bad having to turn folks away, but, believe me, this isn’t the last project and I will absolutely need betas in the future. I am very touched by the support. I’ve spent a lot of time the last couple of years feeling like I was lost, or alone, and I realize now just how wrong I was. It means the world to me that there are so many people out there who want to support my journey.
I’ll come back to the steps and sub steps of publishing in the future, hopefully while I’m climbing the ladder myself.
As always, thanks for reading,