Ever wonder what it takes to write, edit and sell a novel? While there are a few overnight-success stories, most authors work very hard to produce a manuscript and get it noticed. Annette Martin published an excerpt from her novel-in-progress in Understorey Magazine in 2014. But she started writing long before that—and she’s still working to revise her manuscript and find a publisher. Here’s one woman’s story of writing and selling a novel.
Many years ago, after retiring from the school system, I had the gist of an idea for a story. I doodled at it here and there but had no real plans for publishing or even finishing it. I just enjoyed writing. Always had. But seven years ago I got a bit more serious.
By 2012, the story was finished. Almost 500 pages. What to do with it? The Writers’ Alliance of Newfoundland (WANL) gave me a list of editors and said they’d pay half of the editing fee. I contacted one of the editors.
In 2013, that editor sent me a very long list of suggestions. I revised accordingly and sent it to another editor through WANL. This second one sent the manuscript back with another long list of recommendations, one of which was to “save some for the sequel.” I figured this meant I rambled too much. My story (I had trouble calling it a book) was too long.
In 2014 and 2015, I got even more serious. I chopped pieces out, twisted things around and found I really liked revising. I thought I’d like to have it edited by someone in Nova Scotia as that’s where I now live. I contacted the Writers’ Federation of Nova Scotia and found another editor. She did three readings. Many revisions later, I was ready to try some publishers.
I sent sample chapters to three publishing companies and the whole manuscript to another publisher, all in Newfoundland as that’s where the story is set. (But then, I enjoy and relate to books from Sweden, Norway—love Jo Nesbo—and other places so why did I think that way?)
Of these Newfoundland publishers, I never heard back from one (I later learned that they never received the manuscript). Many months later, a second said no, flat out. But then—a ray of hope. In April 2015, Creative Publishing emailed to ask if they could give the manuscript to an outside reader. In August, after I phoned to check in, they sent the reader’s comments to me by email. There were many good suggestions but he or she suggested I find yet another editor! The reader thought I should work on aspects like the inner thoughts and voice of the characters.
I sent the manuscript to an editor in British Columbia (I was really branching out). It was August 2015 and I was working in a more disciplined way. After two readings by this editor—and more chopping—I sent it back to Creative. They responded in June 2016: The manuscript was improved but still not ready.
Somewhere along the way, I also sent it to a publisher in Nova Scotia. They said, “It doesn’t fit with books we have in mind at this time,” or something like that. I am really not sure what that means.
Back to the revisions. I’m getting really good at revising and still enjoy, it by the way. (Teachers have the correcting gene.) I emailed another editor, the fifth, and last July her comments arrived. She wondered if I might reverse the order of a few chapters. I thought about this and decided it wasn’t necessary. She also said the opening was weak and I have to agree. I’ve changed it many times and I’m still not happy.
The manuscript is now down to 325 pages. I figure I’ve discarded enough characters and plots and pages for two more books. I do appreciate the many things I’ve learned from all the editors. (Who knew you have to leave quotation marks out at the end of a paragraph if the same person is speaking in the next one? I’ve read thousands of books and never noticed that.)
I plan to fix the beginning and send it off to a few more publishers. If nothing happens, I’ll self-publish. Or I’ll throw it in a barrel and set fire to it….