Win the War? Wait, There’s More!


So let’s look over everything we’ve accomplished in the series so far:

  • Proper manuscript formatting is important.
  • Let your manuscript get cold before diving into major editing.
  • Read aloud to edit, read backward, switch fonts—change it up so you can see the errors.
  • Word economize!
  • Let other people read it. Friends, family, beta readers, writers groups, conferences. Get as much feedback as you can.
  • Get thick skin. Respond with dignity and grace to feedback.
  • You’ll probably have to rewrite. Accept that as part of the process.
  • Get some cred by entering contests. Also get some professional feedback this way.
  • When it’s time, consider working with an editor—especially if you’re self-publishing.

It always kills me when published authors say, “Hey, I get paid to make stuff up.” As though that’s all that goes into it. I guess they’re smiling at what they get to do for a living. But make no mistake, as I’m certain those of you who’ve been through this process already, writing is hard work. It’s some of the hardest work you can do. It’s an emotional rollercoaster ride of chaos. It’s probably like giving birth and then raising the kid to maturity. There will be moments of joy and moments of pure hell. But in the end, it’s worth it.


Suppose you’ve done all this and then some. Now what? Well, if you’ve really been through tons of drafts and had multiple people look at it, it’s time to get this thing published.

Self-pub. If you’re self-publishing, it’s time to study other self-published authors and see how they became successful. It’s also time to learn all you can about marketing your book to bring it the most success possible. It’s going to take a ton of work, so please don’t think uploading a novel to Amazon will score you instant success. You’ll have to get the word out. But plenty have done it and been successful, so learn from them.

Traditional. For those sticking to the traditional route. Now comes the fun bit we call querying.

Oh, Luke! How’d you get in here?

Anyway, if you thought all this stuff was hard, wait until you get into querying. It’s not unlike novel editing, only more intense because you have to be clever on one page instead of several.

But there are places that can help you out. Visit Janet Reid’s Query Shark blog to see the good, the bad, and the ugly—often the ugly. Learn what not to do so you do it right in your own.

I also recommend an e-book that Brian over at Descent Into Slushland pointed out to me which you can grab here. It gives you lots of good info on how to construct a great query—with worksheets too.

I once ran across a certain formula that went something like this: (BLANK) is a (BLANK) who more than anything wants (BLANK) but can’t because of (BLANK). This gives you the foundation of what your story is about with conflict so you can build it into a beautiful query.

But this post isn’t about queries, so any further info you’ll have to grab on your own.


Agents. It’s hard to grab their attention. But if you can talk about your book in succinct ways, like 30-sec elevator pitches, 50 words or less pitches, even Twitter pitches—you may just put yourself at the front of the line of their attention.

There are plenty of contests these days to grab their attention. I participated in one called #PitMad where you could tweet pitches and agents could request for more. Pitch Wars was kind of like that too. Get involved in social media and you’ll find these sort of events.

Conferences, too, are also helpful in making connections with agents. Especially if you come with strong pitches and first pages. I highly recommend conferences. I’ve received both connections and good feedback from these.

And most importantly, work hard on that query letter. Much like your novel, give it to friends, beta readers, writers groups and get it as polished as you can. If they read a query letter that moves them, they’ll request more. And trust me, if you’ve been over to the Query Shark, there’s plenty of rubbish they’re sifting through. So a well-written query will feel like a breath of fresh air to them, which hopefully directs them to request more on your book—which of course you’ll have polished like crazy before submitting.

More to do. And if you do get an offer of representation from an agent, don’t forget they’ll have more work for you to do on your novel before it ultimately gets published. Take it as a compliment, because really what they’re saying is they care enough about your story to make it as successful as possible.


And that concludes our How to Edit Your Novel series. I hope you’ve learned a lot or at least found something useful. If there’s anything you would add, please stick it in the comments below. As for me, while SHADE gets cold again, I’m going to attack query letter writing head on. I’ll update you on my progress. Thanks for journeying through this series with me. You all made it a lot of fun!

10 thoughts on “Win the War? Wait, There’s More!

  1. Great post! As you say, writing is much more involved than just “making stuff up.” Grabbing the attention of an agent sounds like a full time job, and, considering how busy everyone is already, I wonder whether it’s worth it. It seems like an increasing number of talented people are coming to the conclusion that it’s not (depending on their definition of “success”).

    • Thanks! As for agents, I think it’s probably the same amount of work as marketing your book yourself, so I guess choose which you’d rather spend your time on. But I do think there’s room for everyone, and the right path, whether traditional or self-pub is really up to that particular person. But whatever path, the amount of success, I think, is definitely related to effort.

      • True, although I have heard that the traditional publishing industry often relies on authors to promote their own work (with only a handful getting heavy promotion). So, a mid-level traditionally published book might not be so different from a self-published one in terms of the author’s time devoted to self-promotion. I don’t know much about it, though.

        Also, I agree there are many paths to success and what constitutes success is going to mean something different to every author. Some want fame and fortune, others want to sell enough to quit their day job, while others are happy to share their work with readers without any bigger writing-related goals.

  2. You’ve given some helpful information here. It’s important for new writes to realize that no matter which route is taken, when the book is written, etc., the real work begins. I’ve done it both ways. I put my first book up as an eBook in May and every day I’m studying marketing techniques to get it to sell. I’ve also published traditionally and that’s basically a “hurry up and wait” game and unless you’re Stephen King, you’ll be doing your own marketing in that venue as well. Every day I push forward and try new things to see what might be the thing that clicks. Thanks for giving such a good overview.

    • I think either option, like you said, will take lots of work, so as a writer I say just embrace the hard work and take the path you believe is best for you. Thanks for your thoughtful comment. 🙂

  3. I remember when I first started writing years and years ago I didn’t really believe in editing. I wrote it the way it was meant to be written the first time, of course…sometimes I miss those days. Poor, naive Heidi… 😉 Now I know that the writing part is only the very barest beginning before the real work begins.

    Thanks for this series! It was great seeing it all lined out like this. Very helpful!

    • Thanks. Yeah, I was definitely poor naive Jae once upon a time. I mean, I knew there would be typos, and I was fine with correcting those, but beyond that… Yeah, I know exactly what you mean. Glad you liked the series. 🙂

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