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Old 08-27-2010, 12:15 PM   #1
abigsmurf
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Writing my first story

I've always enjoyed writing. I operated an ultra niche website and personally wrote something like 300 reviews for it. Never done something 'professionally' though.

I've had a great idea for a horror story and it's been floating around in my head for years, begging to be put down on paper. It would probably somewhere between a longish short story and a novella.

I've a few questions:

Given it's going to be a horror I'm not too keen on the prospect of showing it off to family and friends (I doubt Clive Barker for example would've given some of his stories to his parents to read). What's a good option for getting a solid opinion on if the book is great or unreadable rubbish?

As a fairly poor person, what are my options editing wise? I'm hopeless at proof reading my own work.

Finally, self publish or professionally published?

Self publishing is a lot easier with e-books but I've heard that self publishing is a good way to ensure you will be shunned by the big publishers in the future. You also don't get the professional services a publisher would provide you.

I've also heard that getting your stuff picked up by a publisher can be a pretty soul destroying experience.
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Old 08-27-2010, 01:45 PM   #2
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Good to have your company, Abigsmurf. Let's look at what you can do without spending money ...

When you've completed your first draft, you should self-edit to hone the ms. Belonging to a good writer's site, you can then appeal for readers (developing authors will often be happy to do this if you offer to return the favour by reading their work).

If your current site doesn't help in this direction, I can recommend another to you privately. Because membership costs $12 a year, it would be inappropriate to name it here -- so drop me a pm if you're interested and I'll explain it to you. I have no connectio with it, by the way, but I do know many authors who are members and they tell me it's been a priceless resource.

Once you have some suggestions in, weigh them up, and incorporate those ideas that are useful into a new draft, carefully adjusted accordingly.

Next stage is to pull in volunteer proof readers (avoid friends and family -- they are not always impartial and might rave about your work for the best of reasons, but not helpful reasons. You need cool, impartial reading at this stage.)

Again adjust your ms according to errors spotted.

Self edit the ms again yourself.

You're now ready to either self-publish or to tout the ms around to carefully targeted agents and publishers. That 'targeting' is vital. Submit only to those interested in your genre. And, before submission, ALWAYS read the publisher or agency submissions guidelines. If you spam, your email approach will be deleted without a second thought. And that, I feel, is a perfectly fair decision.

Self publishing in PoD print or ebook can be painless and even free. But I always advise first-time authors to exhaust all possibilities in the mainstream of the industry before considering the independent route. If you hit lucky, you'll then have free and professional editorial advice and a whole heap of other important pro help.

And you needn't and mustn't let your soul be destroyed, Abigsmurf. Approach the job realistically with the odds against success always in mind.

You will have rejections, of course, that's inevitable. But depending upon the acquisitions editor who declines (and what side of the bed he got up from that morning), you may get a short note of advice along with the form rejection slip.

Learn from rejection rather than being hurt by it. The most powerful qualities of a developing author are the weapon of sticking power and the armour of a thick skin.

Only when you're sure you've tried everything in the mainstream do you carefully consider the self-publishing option. And it's not a bad option at all.

There are many self-published authors here at MobileRead who went DIY, not necessarily because they'd failed in the mainstream, but because they so highly value their independence. I can understand that.

Good luck and very best wishes. Neil
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Old 08-27-2010, 06:36 PM   #3
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Thanks for the info.

Compelled me to write the opening chapter, forgot how much I enjoyed creative writing from my school days. Just gotta hope the buzz I got doing the first 1500 words continues for the next 20,000 or so (and that it makes for a spooky, interesting read).
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Old 08-27-2010, 08:04 PM   #4
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Personally, I'd go down the self-publishing track. Getting a novel accepted by a major publisher isn't easy, and the rewards are small either way.

If you do want to submit to a publisher, I know that Macmillan accepts unsolicited manuscripts through their website.

As for editing, it's a good idea to get someone to read what you've written and give you feedback, but when it comes to line editing, I find it useful to use text to speech on my computer, and sit there reading through it as I listen to my words being mangled by an electronic idiot.

It's a pain, but it works.
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Old 08-28-2010, 12:51 AM   #5
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It is PanMacmillan UK that is accepting manuscripts through their website.

They accept submissions from anywhere in the world.

The link to their submissions page is:

http://www.panmacmillan.com/features...%20information
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Old 08-28-2010, 06:56 AM   #6
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My first reaction is, "Can you trim it down to 4500 words?"

At that length, you would have several options for selling to a genre magazine, at roughly 5-to-9 cents a word... which doesn't sound like a lot (maybe a few hundred dollars, depending on exact length and rate), but will usually be more valuable exposure than self-publication with no professional track record.

At the length you propose, you have a tough sell. It would be unlikely to be a viable stand-alone, unless you were able to sell it as adolescent/teen horror. You might be able to place it in an anthology, and there are a number of horror anthologies professionally published on an annual basis, so it might help to scout out the names of those working on such projects.

21,500 words is a lot more difficult to place than 11k, which is more difficult to place than 9,000, which is still more difficult to place than 7,000, etcetera. A few weekends ago, one of the best editors and anthologists in the field looked me in the eye and told me that if I could master 4,000-5,000 words, I would be able to sell everything I write. That was good advice, and I freely pass it along.

- M.
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Old 08-28-2010, 07:33 PM   #7
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Based on what I've written so far, there's zero chance of me trimming it down to 4500 words the way I'm writing it. I've just done the opening scene and started expanding on who the main character's background and I'm already at 1800 words.

I'm going for a slow build up of tension and can't see it making 4500 really.

If I retooled the format, altered the central premise and stripped the story to its base scares I could possibly do it but It'd make the story a bit more cliched as I'd have to remove its USP.

I'll see how with how I'm writing. Can always give it a go over and trim sections if it's bloaty or too much of a hard sell.
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Old 08-29-2010, 10:34 AM   #8
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You've gotten some good advice here. And good for you to realize your dream of being a writer. I'd suggest you find a good writers' organization. If you know others who write horror, maybe you can form a critique group and critique each other's work. I write romance and belong to Romance Writers of America and also have a critique group. Perhaps there is a group out there for horror writers. Keep at it. Write your first draft, put it aside for a few weeks (Stephen King says put it aside 6 weeks), then read it all over again and revise. Stephen King has a great book called. "On Writing." I suggest you read that and read other books on writing, such as from Dwight Swain and Kirt Hickman. It is very difficult to find an agent or a publisher nowadays. There was a time when publishers looked down on self-pubbed books, but they don't so much any more. If you self-publish and do promo and your sales are good, a publisher will be interested in your work. Don't give up.

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Old 08-30-2010, 02:03 AM   #9
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King's "On Writing" certainly is a great book, and very inspirational. It was his advice to battle through the first draft without stopping that finally got me to finish one of my novels for adults.

Before then, I'd always got stuck, trying to make things perfect.
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Old 08-30-2010, 06:16 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Luke King View Post
It is PanMacmillan UK that is accepting manuscripts through their website.

They accept submissions from anywhere in the world.

The link to their submissions page is:

http://www.panmacmillan.com/features...%20information
That looks terrible. It pays on net not gross, no advance at all, all world rights with no negotiation, and the right to publish the second book on the same terms.

The whole thing just looks like a way of controlling the slush pile and offering a bad deal to any authors it does decide to publish.
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Old 08-31-2010, 06:31 PM   #11
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Just write it. Consider it practice, if nothing else. I don't know anyone who sold the first story they ever wrote.

Enjoy the process without worrying about publication first. I'm sure there are places to post it online if you just want to share what you've written.

Good luck!
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Old 09-02-2010, 12:12 PM   #12
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Quote:
What's a good option for getting a solid opinion on if the book is great or unreadable rubbish?

As a fairly poor person, what are my options editing wise? I'm hopeless at proof reading my own work.
Try critiquecircle.com -- these aren't experts on whether a piece of writing is publishable, but they're other writers trying to hone their craft. If you get critiques where people say they can't find many flaws, you're ready for the next step.

Try using the Windows Narrator to read it out loud to you. I catch things all the time with my ears that I missed with my eyes.

Good luck!
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