4 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your NaNoWriMo Manuscript

November is history, and so is NaNoWriMo 2016. If you’re like most NaNoWriMo participants, you’re pretty excited about ending November with 50,000 words—maybe you have the first draft of a novel, maybe only a third of a longer manuscript. Nevertheless, you’ve written a bodacious number of words in thirty days, and you’ve accomplished something pretty spectacular.

For thousands of would-be novelists, December means it’s time to start down the path to publishing.

Please don’t be one of those writers who rushes to publication. Instead, try these four ideas: Continue reading “4 Tips for Getting the Most Out of Your NaNoWriMo Manuscript”

5 Tips for Getting a Book Published in Your 50s, 60s, or Beyond

Publishing contract

Is writing a memoir, novel, or self-help book on your bucket list? Does the thought of writing your story fill you with excitement? Whether you’ve been writing for years or are just beginning to nurture that kernel of creativity, your dream of seeing your name on the cover of a published book can become a reality.

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Today it is easier than ever to make your publishing dream a reality. Whether you self publish or pursue traditional publishing, you need to think about more than just writing your story if you hope to be a successful published author.

Here are five tips for what you can and should do—beginning today—to build a following of loyal readers in the future.

1. Read. A lot.

The more you read, the more you’ll learn about the mechanics of writing, about story structure, about the standard conventions and what makes a compelling read in your genre.

If your heart is set on penning your own story, read some of the amazing memoirs that are currently on the market. Love a good romance novel? This is one of the bestselling genres today, but readers expect certain things to happen and will not be pleased if you don’t follow the “rules.”

If you plan to share your expertise in a subject you know like the back of your hand, your book will need to offer something unique. Read a variety of genres, but become an authority in the type of book you plan to write.

2. Create a Strong Author Platform

Your platform is everything you do as a writer that makes you attractive to a publisher. If you wait until your book is finished to begin building your platform, you’ll be too late. Publishing is a business, and unless your only goal for writing a book is to put it in a drawer when it’s finished, you need to approach your writing as a business too. A publisher wants to see evidence that you have the ability to sell books; a strong author platform is the ammunition you’ll need.

Begin building your platform now, so you’ll have an audience in place when your book is published. Think of platform building as a marathon, and spend a little time every week on platform-building activities in addition to writing your book.

Two surefire ways to jumpstart your author platform are to start a blog and engage in social media.

Blogging is an inexpensive way to connect with potential readers, improve your writing skills, and even test book concepts. Regardless of whether you write fiction or nonfiction, blogging is a powerful way to connect you with potential fans while experimenting with writing styles.

Engage in social media to connect with other writers, readers, and ultimately publishers. Choose the media you’ll actually use and enjoy; you don’t have to master every social media option out there. Remember that the key word is social, so focus on engagement and sharing, not just on self-promotion.

3. Join a Writers’ Group

Writing can be a lonely business, and joining a writers’ group—either in-person or online—is one way to combat isolation. New writers can find inspiration and feedback from more seasoned writers. There’s also a great deal of incentive to write when you’re expected to present each week—sometimes that’s just the push you need to sit down and write when you might not be in the mood.

4. Attend a Writers’ Conference

Writers’ conferences are crucial to your writing and publishing education. Not only will you learn more about the craft of writing, but you may also have a chance to meet and interact with agents, editors, and other publishing professionals, learn about trends in the publishing world, and be inspired by the speakers and workshop leaders who share their knowledge.

You’ll come away with a greater understanding for how to market yourself and your book, and you’ll meet other writers who can potentially become critique partners.

5. Get the Best Professional Help

Writers are often too close to their own work to be objective about what they’ve written; even the most seasoned writers have editors to help them polish their writing. If you want to convey your message in the most powerful way possible, establish a relationship with a professional freelance editor.

Whether helping you organize your ideas (before or during writing), or fine-tuning details such as spelling, punctuation, syntax, and word choice, a good editor will not only help you polish your writing (while preserving your voice) but will also help you strengthen your writing.

A good professional editor will provide a sample edit to show you how he or she can help you, and to see if they’re the right person for you. You might even consider hiring an editor for your blog posts as a way to find one who “gets” you, and establish that professional relationship.

Seeing your name on a book is a thrilling experience! Set yourself up for success by learning all you can about writing and publishing, and I look forward to reading your book one day!

Do you have a book inside you waiting to be written? Which of these five tips do you personally plan to focus on? Which will you put to use right away? Please share your thoughts—and let me know if I can help you achieve your dream!

(This article originally appeared at SixtyandMe.com)


Candace Johnson 11 400dpiCandace Johnson
 is a professional freelance editor, proofreader, writer, ghostwriter, and writing coach who has worked with traditional publishers, self-published authors, and independent book packagers on nonfiction subjects ranging from memoirs to alternative medical treatments to self-help and on fiction ranging from romance to paranormal. As an editorial specialist, Candace is passionate about offering her clients the opportunity to take their work to the next level. She believes in maintaining an author’s unique voice while helping him or her create and polish every sentence to make it the best it can be. Learn more here, and follow her on FacebookTwitter, and LinkedIn.

Beta Readers Can Save You from Embarrassment—Guest Post by Chandi Wyant

beta readersAs a professional freelance editor, I encourage every writer I work with to use beta readers. Most fiction writers know this is an important step, but did you know it is equally important when you write nonfiction? You’ll do yourself a huge favor by gathering your posse early in the process to learn what works and what doesn’t in your manuscript.

Author Chandi Wyant, who is working on a travel memoir about her solo forty-day pilgrimage in Italy, offers another important reason to seek that valuable input.

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A beta reader is a not a professional editor, but rather, a volunteer who reads your manuscript to provide feedback before you publish it, or before you submit it to agents or publishers.

I recommend seeking beta readers who are familiar with your genre and who are not close friends or family members.

 

Why a Memoirist Needs Beta Readers

Utilizing beta readers is an excellent idea for all genres. I’m going to focus here on why they’re essential for memoir.

Many authors in this genre write about traumatic things in their lives, and this is very challenging to do without sounding whiny.

This is where a beta reader can step in and save you from embarrassment. All authors are too close to their manuscripts and need an outsider’s perspective—and a memoirist is particularly entwined with her manuscript because it’s a piece of her life.

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I have seen twice, with my own manuscript and with a friend’s, that beta readers saved us from the embarrassment of putting our book out into the world when it wasn’t ready.

My friend (who writes nonfiction like I do) was sure her book was ready for publication, but a beta reader told her, Continue reading “Beta Readers Can Save You from Embarrassment—Guest Post by Chandi Wyant”

Readin' and Writin' and 'rithmetic: Thanks for Setting a Great Example, Dad

John F. Yardas, EdD and Candace (15 months old)
John F. Yardas, EdD, and Candace (15 months old)

 

This Father’s Day is a difficult one for me. My 88-year-old father passed away six weeks ago, and I’m still trying to wrap my head around the idea.

Like all parents do, my dad influenced me in many ways, including some I couldn’t appreciate until later in my life. I wrote this letter to him two years ago (and sent him a printed version); he told me how much he enjoyed reading it.

Although my dad never embraced electronic books (see the end of my letter), he was a voracious reader his entire life and always had a book with him. I’ll always be grateful to my dad for the examples he set. Wherever he is, I hope he’s enjoying a great book.

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Dear Dad,

Because you’re a self-declared technophobe, you won’t read this today, but I’ll send you a printed copy via snail mail. I may be using all my techie toys (laptop, printer, and my WordPress blog) to write this, but the message is very old school: without you, I would never be following my dream today.

You see, I’m finally pursuing a passion I’ve had my whole life. Continue reading “Readin' and Writin' and 'rithmetic: Thanks for Setting a Great Example, Dad”

3 Perks of Editing, Or What I’m Doing on My Summer Working-Vacation

Freelance editingMy editing life has been busy lately, and my apologies for the infrequent blogging in recent weeks. Hugs to everyone who has written to make sure I’m okay—and yes, I’m fantastic! Working as a freelance editor isn’t without its challenges, but it has some real perks, too.

Perk #1:

Freelance editing has its pros and cons, but the biggest pro for me is the ability to work wherever I choose. As many of you know, I live in South Florida, which is a paradise in the winter . . . but in the summer? Not so much. But lucky me—I am in the Pacific Northwest as I write this, and until the middle of August, I can pretend I don’t know anything about hurricanes! I guess the best label for my time away from home is “working vacation,” with an emphasis on the “working” part. And I’ve had a wonderful time editing many different projects in the last several months! Before I get to those, Continue reading “3 Perks of Editing, Or What I’m Doing on My Summer Working-Vacation”

My Mother’s Hands

mother's deathWhen I was a little girl, I loved playing with my mother’s rings. I would beg her to take them off so I could place them on my stubby fingers and imagine what my own bejeweled hands would look like someday.

I remember the first time I noticed how different her hands were from mine. No longer smooth and vein-free, the skin of my mother’s hands contrasted starkly with the smooth, barely-lived-in skin that covered my own.

“Look how old your hands are compared to mine!” I announced triumphantly, as though I’d discovered some previously unknown fact of human existence. And then, just to throw a bit of salt on the wound, I mused, “I wonder if my hands will look like yours when I’m old.”

Years later that conversation was repeated, only this time I was the mother, and my own daughter was announcing her own revelation. Continue reading “My Mother’s Hands”

Wrapping Up the Details: Step 10 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps

nonfiction book proposalI’ve been blogging tips for writing a nonfiction book proposal, and here we are at the last step. As we’ve been discussing, the purpose of a nonfiction proposal is to sell an agent or editor on the concept of your book. Writing a nonfiction book proposal is all about marketing yourself, your writing, and your idea. Each section of your proposal answers the questions, “Why will this book stand out in a sea of other books about this subject?” and “Why are you are the perfect author to write this book?”

Over the previous few weeks I’ve covered each part of a proposal and offered specific ideas for what should be included and why. Today I’ll focus on tying up some loose ends by giving you tips about details that can be the difference between a proposal that’s ignored and one that agents and editors can’t wait to read. Continue reading “Wrapping Up the Details: Step 10 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps”

Table of Contents: Step 8 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps

How to Write a Nonfiction Book ProposalAuthors often forget the importance of the table of contents when they construct a nonfiction book proposal. Some authors treat it as an afterthought, but it is actually an important part of the proposal package.

A complete proposal actually has two tables of contents, and each serves a different and important purpose:

  • One for the proposal itself
  • One for the actual book
A #nonfiction #bookproposal actually has two tables of contents, and each serves a different and important purpose Click To Tweet

Let’s begin with the TOC for the proposal itself. Continue reading “Table of Contents: Step 8 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps”

Sample Chapters: Step 7 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps

how to write nonfiction book proposal
Sample chapters need to grab the readers imagination.

You’re coming into the home stretch of writing a book proposal. If you’ve been following this series, you’ve already learned about writing your author bio, the information that should go into your chapter summaries, how to handle competitive titles, identifying your target audience and how you’ll market to them, and how to make agents and editors sit up and take notice of your platform. If you’ve missed any of those previous articles, scroll down to the bottom of this post for links to the first six installments.

If you’re like most writers, you’ve probably already drafted a sample chapter or two; when the idea for your book first strikes, it’s difficult not to begin writing it. Now it’s time to take out that draft and polish it up until it sings. As the Bradford Literary Agency writes, “Draft the chapter that ‘puts your best foot forward’ so to speak. Write the section that is the most interesting, the most compelling and the one that you feel most passionate about.”

Tip: If you’re a new author, I strongly suggest you write your entire book before you query agents. Although it’s perfectly acceptable to shop an idea with a proposal and a few sample chapters, you do not want to be in a position where you are asked for an additional sample chapter or two and you have to hurry to write them. In addition, publishers plan their seasonal lists many months in advance, and if there is any doubt about your ability to finish a manuscript in time, your proposal will most likely get a pass.

Remember that in the end, everything boils down to your writing. No matter how original your book idea is, how spectacular your platform and marketing plans are, or how creatively you’ve compared your book to the competition, it’s all a foundation for the real star of the show: your sample chapter(s). As the Strothman Literary Agency recommends, “If you have not published a book, a strong writing sample provides essential evidence to the editors that you have the ability to attract and engage readers.”

Use the minimum number of words to generate the maximum amount of excitement about your manuscript; choose a chapter (or two) that not only conveys the idea of your book but also leaves an agent or editor wanting more. Revise, proofread, and go over your sample with a fine-tooth comb to be sure it’s the best it can be—a misplaced comma won’t get you a rejection, but pages filled with grammar errors and spelling errors might. You’re a professional writer who is an expert in your field, so put your best work out there.

Here are some FAQs I get from writers about sample chapters: Continue reading “Sample Chapters: Step 7 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps”

Your Author Bio: Step 2 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps

author bio for book proposalYou have a fantastic idea for a nonfiction book (or perhaps you’ve already written one), and because you want to publish traditionally, your next step is to write a proposal to sell agents and/or editors on your idea.

When I was an acquisitions editor for a traditional publisher, I read hundreds of nonfiction book proposals. Like every other publishing professional does, I read those proposals in a certain order—but not necessarily in the order the author presented the material. (Find a list of the other sections of a nonfiction book proposal here.) When I write a book proposal, I begin with the author’s bio because this is the section I think of as the hub of the wheel; all the other sections are spokes on that hub.

In fact, there is no “right” way to order the sections of your proposal, so I’m going to present the remainder of this ten-part series the way I actually read and write book proposals.

First up: Your Author Bio Continue reading “Your Author Bio: Step 2 of How to Write a Compelling Nonfiction Book Proposal in 10 Easy Steps”