You can’t edit your work well until you’ve forgotten it.
1. You have to research your book.
2. You have to gauge the potential response of book buyers by test-marketing your book in any many ways as you can: a blog, talks, articles, teleseminers, podcasts, and video.
3. Your first book may be hardest one to write or judge how long it will take, since you’ve never done it before.
4. To receive the best response to your book, style has to be as important as content. Every word has to be right. Your work has to reflect the books you choose as models for yours.
5. You have to get feedback from a critique group or network of early readers as and after you write. If you rush readers, they may not do your work justice. Offering them a meal (a potluck?) on a specific date to which they bring the marked-up work and discuss it would be an incentive for them to finish it by then.
You and your readers will understand the subjectivity of your audience if you place the marked copies of your work side by side and turn the pages to see the different things readers marked and their suggestions about them. After you get feedback, you have to sift through it, using what you can and forgetting about the rest. (A future post will list eight kinds of readers to share your work with.)
6. You need time away from the manuscript so you can return to it with fresh eyes. The more time you allow yourself, the better you’ll able be to spot what needs changing and how to do it. As the cliché goes, it takes as long as it takes to write your book. Technology fuels impatience, but patience with your talent and others’ appreciation of it is as important as perseverance.
Agents and editors only read enough to say yes or no. Your first sentence will tell them if you can write and know how to start a proposal or book. The care you take writing your book will determine its reception. So put yourself in the service of your idea: make sure your writing is worthy of it. That’s how writers perform the inky alchemy of transforming themselves into authors.
The Eighth San Francisco Writers Conference / A Celebration of Craft, Commerce & Community / President’s Day Weekend, February 18-20, 2011 / Mark Hopkins InterContinental Hotel on Nob Hill / Keynoters: Dorothy Allison & David Morrell / Pitch your book to agents and editors / Free feedback on your work / www.sfwriters.org / firstname.lastname@example.org / blog: http://sfwriters.org/blog / Open to anyone: a day of in-depth classes on Monday, February 21 / Free MP3s at www.sfwriters.info / New! San Francisco Writers University: Where Writers Meet and You Learn, a project of the San Francisco Writers Conference / Laurie McLean, Dean / www.sfwritersu.com