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Archive for January, 2010

How Do I Make My Story Longer?

Monday, January 18th, 2010

From time to time, I am asked for general strategies to make a manuscript or short story longer, without boring the reader.

The writers who ask this question aren’t trying just to increase the word count of their manuscript, but instead feel like their story is missing something. However, these writers aren’t sure how to coax the additional details from their story.

I usually suggest rereading your story with your readers in mind. As a reader, what am I likely to find interesting next? Are there opportunities for adding a bit more backstory to help your readers understand why a particular character makes a specific decision?

Look at your plot. Is there any missing time? How does a reader know what’s happened?

Is there an interesting character you’d like to spend more time with? Go ahead and do so…after all, it’s your story.

Finally, sometimes your story has just come to its natural end. If you feel that you’ve done all you can to improve your story, then it may be time to submit your manuscript to an editing service (such as the editing service here at WritAnon) or a set of beta readers to get their take on the story.

Editing services or beta readers can often help you find holes in your plot or identify opportunities to further explore an interesting character or concept.

What other ideas do you have to make your story longer, without making it boring? Comment below!

Publishing Your Manuscript

Monday, January 11th, 2010

Most larger publishers do not accept unsolicited manuscripts.

What does this mean?

An unsolicited manuscript is simply one that the publisher has not asked to see.   That leads us to the next logical question:

How do I get a publisher to solicit a manuscript from me?

For most authors, you likely need to get an agent (more on that to come in a future blog post).   You may be able to submit a query letter (more on that in a moment) instead of hiring an agent, but you’ll need to follow the steps below.  If a query letter is accepted, the publisher will ask to see your manuscript.

What else should I know?

First, you’ll want to visit the publisher’s website. I’ve included several publishers below, but you may want to take your favorite books and see who published them (on the same page that lists the copyright date). If a publisher has printed something similar to what you’ve written, they’re more likely to be looking for a book like yours.

When you visit their website, you’re looking for “manuscript submission guidelines”. Follow the directions precisely: failure to do so is likely to land your manuscript in the recycle bin.

For most large publishers, you’ll need to write a query letter asking for permission first, or use an agent.

However, several smaller publishers (including some of those below) ask you to instead submit 3 chapters and a cover letter (which would be similar to a query letter). Each publisher handles submissions a bit differently, which is why it’s important to check the publisher’s guidelines.

If you’re not familiar with query letters, you should check out The Writers Digest Guide to Query Letters by Wendy Burt-Thomas from your local library, or purchase it at Amazon (link below). There are several good query letter examples you can use as a guide for your query.

When you write your query letter, focus on what makes your novel unique. This is your one chance to impress the publisher, so you want to give it your best shot.

Expect to receive several rejections (it’s part of the business). However, with any luck, and a good query letter, you’ll have a decent shot of getting a request for a few chapters. This is a good sign.

Once you get a request back from a publisher, you’ll want to follow their directions. However, you’re definitely in a good position by this point, so you should feel pretty pleased with yourself.

Here are a few publishers that may be of interest to our readers:

Baen Books – Science Fiction/Fantasy (complete manuscript with synopsis)

Boyds Mills Press – Children and Young Adults (three chapters with cover letter)

Tor Books (aka Tom Doherty Associates, LLC) – Science Fiction/Fantasy, Paranormal Romance, General Fiction, Children’s and Young Adults (submission packet, see site for details)

Best of luck as you continue on your journey as a writer!

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