Though I started this blog as a means of marketing myself and my as yet unpublished novel, I realize that I have so far done a terrible job of it, in that I have yet to spread the word of this space to friends and family near and wide. Why? Largely because I come to this activity reluctantly, not sure that I need to share my inner thoughts with the world and really don’t understand why the world would care in the first place! As I am in the early stages of trying to get my novel published, a process that can take a very long time, I also wondered what was the point as this stage. However, I will persevere.
In an effort to do improve my pitching skills (marketing NOT baseball), I had purchased the book posted below some time ago and cracked it open only yesterday hoping to learn all the secrets of successfully pitching to an editor and agent and was surprised to find the first chapter devoted to the creation of a product that agents would jump to get their hands on. I was impressed enough with the 5 steps to a saleable product, that I thought I would use this space to share this wisdom with the other wannabe writers out there (apologies to my writing group, they HATE that term!).
Step 1: Read before you write
Seems simple enough and basic common sense. In the words of Stephen King: If you don’t have the time to read, you don’t have the time or the tools to write.
I was a voracious reader in my youth, sometimes staying up till the wee hours of the morning trying to plough through the latest James A Michener tome. That fell off with the demands of university reading and then later on with the demands of motherhood but I still read as much as I could. Interestingly enough, when I started writing, I found that my pleasure in reading severely dropped of, as all of a sudden, I found myself critiquing and tearing apart the novels, seemingly incapable of enjoying the story for what it was, as I had previously been able to do during my unenlightened stage. I was also devoting so much time to my craft, that I was starting to feel that reading was a luxury I could ill afford.
So, with the comment from an agent jumping off the page, that “The best writers are avid readers”, I can now indulge in my favourite pastime without the guilt that I should be doing something more productive. The fact that I just finished and was able to thoroughly enjoy Kate Morton’s The Secret Keeper (notwithstanding the slow start to the novel) and which I thought was absolutely brilliant in how she kept the mystery going until literally the last chapter, has renewed my ardour.
Step 2: Write for the market
This one is a bit controversial but as they pointed out “Editors and agents want you to be aware of the market and write for it.” Otherwise, they have no product to bring to the market, so will have no interest in your work.
My fellow book clubbers might be a bit alarmed to know that the fact I started or joined book clubs over the last 12 years, was to use them as focus groups, to see what sort of novels had appeal and which one’s didn’t. It also broaden my reading base as I had a fairly narrow genre of books that I read and gave me the book The Tenth Gift by Jane Johnson, which was the novel that sparked my desire to put pen to paper and write a novel about second chances in cross cultural settings for ambitious women.
Step 3: Write for yourself (which seems like a contradiction to the last step, I know)
The key here is to write in a genre that you know and love but make sure your work is marketable. Don’t write for the latest hottest selling genre (50 shades of soft porn) unless it is one your are familiar with. “You shouldn’t be writing in a genre unless you enjoy it, otherwise it will show and you won’t make it.”
Step 4: Learn how to write
Take courses on creative writing whether through an adult education program (which is what I did); if motivated enough, through a university program such as a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing; how to books, such as the one currently under critique; magazines and newsletters (not a personal favourite); writer’s conferences (I will take any excuse to pack my bags and climb on a plane!); support groups (I recently created a writers group with members from my writing course and personal friends).
Step 5: Polish your product
Have your work professionally edited, both copy editing and content editing. It is difficult for most of us to step back and critically review our own work. We need a unbiased, professional eye to point out the repetitions, the inconsistences, the holes on the plot line ect. Be prepared to edit and re-edit your work. Of course, there has to come a point when that puppy has to be launched, for on any given day, you could reword your whole novel if you wanted to, but the point here is to have a product that looks and read as well as you can make it, before you send it off to the market place. This is particularly true now with the advent of on-line self publishing.
Now, back to the serious business of writing!