Professional writers of all stripes will agree that writing is both easy and hard. For novelists, the challenge exceeds composing well-written content. Agents reject flawed work. It is better to create a less mistake-riddled work given the high rate of rejection by agents.
Novice novelists make a number of common mistakes. Weed out these weaknesses while drafting the novel. Keep in mind the following common mistakes made by inexperienced writers.
1. An Undistinguished Manuscript
To get out of the slush pile, the novel needs to have a concept, an angle, or a pitch that is outstanding. Think big. Develop an aspect of the novel that makes it fresh, even if you are writing for a genre in which readers expect to see certain elements in their books. If your manuscript is good, but not good enough, do not be surprised by a rejection letter.
2. Extreme or Inefficient Language or Cliché-Riddled Writing
Strong language is useful, when used with discretion. Overuse is off-putting. Make every sentence economical; make your words count. Excessive verbiage is dead weight that hampers the reader you want to impress. Descriptive language or content that is too familiar is a cliché. Keep that in mind, and you will see that agents and editors will appreciate your efforts.
3. Absent or Bland Descriptions
Readers enjoy being transported into a different world. Provide a context and setting that will engage readers.
4. Pretty Prose, Lack of Clarity, or a Literary Writing Fail
Showy language overwhelms content because the disruptive power of pretty prose impedes the flow of the narrative. Optimally, prose clearly and economically conveys meaning. Be aware that sloppy prose may signal sloppy thinking. If you aspire to write literary fiction, competence is insufficient. Literary fiction must be well written.
5. Pointless Detail and/or Distracting Research
Avoid unnecessary details to keep the reader interested. Even if you have done extensive research about the background setting of your fiction, do not smother the narrative with facts. This also applies to information about location and scenery. You are writing fiction, not a travelogue.
6. Plots, Character, and Conflict Weaknesses
Is the plot discernible? Your manuscript should not be a sequence of events affecting your characters or have bland, non-relatable characters. Add depth to your characters with insights into their inner lives or background stories. The backstory provides more information about the character. It can even just hint at the inner motivations of the character.
7. Dialogue and Pacing Weaknesses
Believable dialogue can be challenging for first-time novelists. Read each character’s dialogue to catch inconsistencies. Stick to the same points of view in a scene. Handle the transition from one character to the next carefully in a scene. Uneven pacing makes the narrative disjointed and could turn off readers.
Writing a novel is a major undertaking. The next challenge is to get past the slush pile. Avoid common mistakes to create an outstanding first novel that launches your writing career.
Are you ready to write a book? Do you think getting your book published will be the most difficult challenge? Actually, the hardest part is writing a book, as there are more opportunities than ever before to publish a book. There are also more tools available to make the writing task easier.
Before you begin writing, you need to have your writing tools ready for use. Which one will work for you? The optimal writing tools provide the support a writer needs to become productive.
Software Tools for Writers
Will you use Word, Pages, Nisus Writer Pro, Scrivener, or something else? Scrivener is made for writers and is ideal for long projects. It can also output books directly to self-publishing services. Storyist offers an alternative to Scrivener. Its iOS version enables writing on the go. Storyist also has tools that help writers who intend to self-publish their work.
If you want to use a free tool, consider the open source Bibisco tool for Windows and Linux users. Its capabilities include character development tools and book and scene organization tools. InDesign and Photoshop are useful for creating the visual aspects of the book.
Mobile apps permit writing on the go. Word for iPad, Storyist for iOS, Pages and Quip for iOS, and Google Docs for iOS and Android are all available. OneNote, Evernote, and Pocket are all helpful for research. Trello, a project management tool, helps writers track their work and become more consistent. Go ahead and see what else you can use. Novel Factory, creative writing and other software offer writers many choices.
Self-publishing Sites for Writers
If you plan to self-publish, you have several options. CreateSpace, Author House, and Xlibris are cost-free or come with charges for more supportive services. EBook distribution choices vary with Smashwords, Draft2Digital, PigeonLab, EpubDirect, BookBaby, and eBookPartnership.
Book Proposals for Nonfiction Books
If you want a publisher to publish your nonfiction book, you will need to create a book proposal to pitch your book idea. A book proposal explains why your book, or book idea, is a marketable product. It can be 50 pages or more. Seasoned writers create the proposal before drafting the book. But, new writers may find it easier to write the book before creating the proposal. Do what works best for you.
A Novel Synopsis for Publishers
Agents or publishers want to see what happens in the novel. The synopsis contains the narrative arc of the novel from beginning to end. A novel synopsis is useful because it reveals weaknesses in the plot, characterizations, and/or the structure of the novel. The synopsis also reveals how unique or interesting the story is.
Writing is a process that begins with the basics, before the writer’s creative skills are exercised. Being organized, knowing how you want to publish the book, and preparing what is needed will make the process productive for you.
Establishing a routine is an essential tool for most writers. Routines are invaluable for writers because they provide structure and allow them to focus on writing. The difference between unrealized potential and being a published author is the commitment to make it happen. Establishing a daily routine is a part of the process.
Learning how to establish a routine that works is a personal choice and depends on the person’s daily activities. If you are a busy person, establishing a routine will make you consistently productive.
Choose a Comfortable Workspace
Writers need an organized and inspirational workspace that is as distraction-free as possible. Your workspace can affect how often and well you write. The ideal workspace will help you to be a productive writer.
Establish a Writing Time and Its Duration
Productive writers often make writing a part of their daily routine. A writer may elect to write for the same amount of time each day or establish how many words or pages get written daily. Sometimes it is better to create a space during the day, either before the daily grind begins or at nighttime before bed.
Select a Playlist for Writing Sessions
Some writers like using playlists. Music can affect the written word, inspire writers to create, and help set the mood. You can stick to the same playlist or change it up. What you choose should make you feel inspired and relaxed.
Keep a Notebook or Virtual Tool for Notes on the Go
Writers get inspiration at unscheduled moments. Even if you have an established routine, a notebook for jotting down ideas is a useful tool. A notebook helps writers make productive use of their established daily writing periods.
If you do not want to carry a notebook and writing utensil around, consider using an online tool like OneNote, Evernote, or Pocket to collect your ideas. You can write when you get the inspiration and not just during your designated daily writing period. When you are in the zone, you should keep going while it lasts.
Keep Material for Reading Inspiration
Keeping other writers’ work handy provides a ready source for inspiration when you need it.
Repetition of a set routine can mesmerize the writer into an absorbed state of mind. Writers who do not have other distractions can get in the writing mode by following a daily routine like writing at a certain time, doing some form of exercise before or after the writing period, or doing something that gets the juices going like listening to music or reading.
Nevertheless, do not become a slave to a routine that does not serve you. The purpose of the routine is to provide you with the space to write productively. If you cannot establish a routine, write whenever you can.
A query letter is a one-page document sent by a writer to his or her literary agent. Its primary purpose is to lure the agent’s interest in the manuscript. Since many writers are engaged in the same goal, a successful query letter makes for an outstanding pitch.
Each query does not have much time, or space, to capture the interest of the literary agent. Experienced agents get thousands of queries every year. This is why novice writers sweat over the challenge of writing a captivating query letter.
Creating a List of Prospective Agents
There are several resources that help writers locate agents that specialize in their genre. These include databases like the publishersmarketplace.com, literarymarketplace.com, the Association of Author Representatives, agentyuery.com, querytracker.net, and writersmarket.com. After finding potential agents, writers need to visit the agents’ websites to obtain submission guidelines, find out what types of books they are looking for; and whether they are still accepting submissions.
Following Submission Guidelines
Submission guidelines specify the acceptable method of submission, as well as what should be included in the query letter’s contents and/or attachments. Some elements do not change even when the contents vary according to the agent’s specifications, the work being pitched by the writer, and its genre.
Printed/Email Formats and Content
If the agent wants the material submitted by mail, then the letter should have the writer’s address, right justified, at the top of the page followed by the left justified agent’s name and address. If the letter is being submitted by email, the subject line should indicate it is a query and the signature should have the writer’s name, address and other contact information.
The agent should be addressed courteously; and, the main portion of a posted letter should not exceed five or 6 paragraphs. Emailed queries should not exceed 300 words because agents read and discard emails quickly.
The first paragraph should capture the agent’s interest. This is the paragraph where connection with the agent maybe personalized by for example mentioning authors represented by the agent, or any meeting with the agent, or knowing someone who knows the agent. It can include the word count of the book, its genre and title.
The following paragraphs should capture the agent’s interest by giving a vivid sense of the book. If query is about a nonfiction work, the writer should explain why the writer is qualified to write the book. If the book is a novel, then following agents on social media may provide useful information about whether the agent is the right fit for the book being pitched. Only requested attachments should be provided. The signature can include links to a personal website or blog.
Bottom line: agents want projects that publishers will accept. If you want to feel comfortable about your task, check online for examples that have worked. You can also improve the odds of being accepted by sending queries to many agents.
Few major publishers take submissions seriously if they are not received through a literary agent. As revealed by the 2014 Digital Book World and Writer’s Digest Author Survey, agented authors received substantially higher median advances and earnings. Traditional publishers also depend on agents to be reliable guides for writers.
What Literary Agents Do For Writers
The main purpose of an agent is to sell manuscripts to publishers. Agents are professional salespeople but also career and writing guides for writers. To be successful at their manuscript sales job they need to have great contacts.
Agents provide pre-submission editorial work. This means perfecting the work, not fixing a half-baked project. Afterwards, agents oversee the publication process while advising their writers throughout the process.
As part of their manuscript-selling role, agents need to know which editors are suitable for particular projects, and which publishing imprints are most suitable for the works. Agents must also be able to run auctions capably. In an ideal situation, multiple publishers will bid for the work. The agent advises the best course of action, if the manuscript is unable to attract multiple offers.
An agent must be experienced in negotiating a contract that reflects the best current practice for e-royalties, reversion clauses, and related matters. This technical aspect of price negotiations requires expert knowledge. An agent should know how to organize the sale of other rights, such as foreign language, TV and movie rights, with in-house capability or through partners.
Preparing a nonfiction book proposal or novel synopsis is an important preparatory step for the process of securing an agent.
Nonfiction Book Proposals
Book proposals take time to draft and can be 50 or more pages long. Experienced writers submit the proposal before writing their book. Novice writers may prefer to write the book before drafting the proposal. The proposals explain why the manuscript, or idea, is marketable.
A Novel Synopsis for Fiction
The synopsis reveals what happens in the novel and covers the narrative arc of the story. It reveals how fresh or interesting the story is and may reveal structural weaknesses that need to be corrected before submitting the work to publishers.
Finding an Agent via the Publishers Marketplace
The database of deals at the Publishers Marketplace provides useful information about which agents to target. The database reveals which agents have sold what books to which editors. The deal information also reveals the prices the manuscripts were sold for. The available information is useful for finding appropriate agents, and as a resource that can be used to entice agents’ interest.
Literary agents bring the value of monetary and non-monetary benefits to a writer’s career. If your book is of niche interest, such as an educational or professional work, you may not need an agent. However, you will have the advantage if you are able to obtain an agent.
Bloggers have to engage and maintain their readers’ attention. A study has found that only 16% of visitors of a website read every word of its content. Evidence from consumer reports, polls, and experiments reveals that computer screens make the content more difficult to read than it would be on printed paper.
A blog writer must craft the content to hold the reader’s attention. It is harder for people to read content that winds slowly to its conclusion because reading online content subtly impairs reading comprehension even for higher-literacy readers. Perhaps this is also why online material is less conducive to learning than is content printed on paper.
The following tips will help you to hook your readers and hold their attention:
Write for the Reader You Want to Engage
Are you writing for an educated audience or a wider consumer audience? This makes a difference because the online behavior of higher-literacy readers is unlike that of lower-literacy readers. Lower-literacy readers are not text scanners; while higher-literacy readers scan the text.
Lower-literacy readers read each word, so multi-syllabic words should be avoided to speed the process for them. If they are your intended audience, do not present the material in a style that is too complicated for lower-literacy readers. Dense text loses the attention of such readers as they skip over it to save time and effort.
Grab the Reader’s Attention with the First Sentence
The first sentence is critical because it engages the reader while providing some idea of the subject matter at the same time. Consider beginning with a question, a statistic, a quote or use another way to hook the reader.
Do Not Waste Words and Avoid Longwinded Sentences
Use words that most people can understand. Because of the limited attention span of most online readers, a blogger has to focus on getting the point across as quickly as possible. The content needs to be crafted so that every part of the content—from words to punctuation style and arrangement—adds something to the product. Read the content aloud to gauge the pace of the text.
Make Your Text Easily Scannable
Scanning is a technique used by readers to make the content less tiring to read.
Research how formatting, lists, headings and sub-headings, and other techniques are used to make the text more scannable. Focus on making it easier for readers to remember the content.
Readers reward bloggers who write unique, engaging, and informative content. Keep in mind that according to the U.S. Department of Education 43% of the population has a low literacy level. Present your content in a way that engages both higher-literacy and lower-literacy readers, if you are writing for a general audience.
Everyone thinks they want to be a freelance writer. You make your own hours, you set your own rates—what could be better? Getting paid, that’s what. Finding paying work online is like tracking down that pesky cricket in your bathroom at four in the morning. You know it’s there, but you just can’t find it. And just like catching that cricket, finding freelance writing work takes some skill and out-of-the-box thinking. Here are some great places to start your search.
Craigslist is Your Friend
Yes, you can find a lot of writing work on Craigslist! You just have to know how. If you only look in your particular city, there might be three or four listings a week (if you’re lucky), but there is a better way. Google’s advanced search option lets you rummage through Craigslist posts all over the country (and world) and find remote work everywhere.
Facebook: Not Just for Photos Anymore
Facebook can be used for a lot more than just gossiping about media celebrities and sharing pictures of cats. There are pages and groups galore, and a few moments’ searching will uncover dozens of writers’ groups, pages, sites, and blogs. Facebook is a great place to share tips with other writers too.
LinkedIn Will Keep you LinkedUp
For more professional writers—or those who want to be pros—the professional networking site LinkedIn is a great place to be seen and noticed. Businesses, companies, and sole proprietors prowl the forums on LinkedIn, looking for people who are bright, savvy, and able to write coherent sentences. Technical or scholarly writers do well on this site for pros.
Meetup Makes Meeting Up Merry
Not all writing can be done remotely. Sometimes you have to get out and hustle. Where to start? That amazing site Meetup finds networking groups, writing critique groups, business organizations, and social clubs—all great places to seek work. A talented writer with a little moxie can make connections, and more importantly, get assignments at these get-togethers.
The Art of Bidding Wars
Bid sites abound online these days, and they are good places for writers to hone their other skills—negotiation and price setting. Thumbtack, Fiverr, and Freelancer.com are all sites where, for a small fee, you can post your profile and then bid on projects others post. Bidding sites are not necessarily places to earn a living, but they are great for developing a portfolio, earning a little pocket money, and most importantly, getting your name and reputation out among people.
Freelancing is not a job to be taken lightly. There is money in it, but like that midnight cricket, it is elusive and takes patience to find. But the rewards of working for yourself are great and worth all that time spent hunting around cold dark tiles in the middle of the night.
The Establishment of the London Police Inspired the Creation of Detectives in British and American Crime Fiction
Until 1829, crime prevention in London was the responsibility of a cadre of men working for magistrates’ courts, parishes, or local divisions. In response to increasing crime and unrest, a parliamentary committee in 1812 recommended putting a unified force throughout the capital, although the Metropolitan Police wasn’t formed until 1829.
Before the Metropolitan Police came the Bow Street Runners, who served the magistrate at Bow Street, Henry Fielding and then his half-brother, John. The Runners pioneered systemic crime investigations through information-gathering. The Runners also had horseback and pedestrian patrols.
By the 1820s, their reputation suffered because of association with unsavory people to retrieve stolen property. They were disbanded 10 years after the police force was established in 1829.
The new force wore blue uniforms to distinguish themselves from the red uniform of the army. Initially its role was crime prevention, until a long delay in finding a murderer led to the creation of a department of crime-solving detectives. Scotland Yard became shorthand for detectives, but it was actually the address of the police force headquarters.
Charles Dickens and the Bleak House Detective
Charles Dickens created the detective character Mr. Bucket in his novel, “Bleak House.” He was modeled after a real person. The character was a hit with readers, so more stories with detectives emerged from other writers.
Other Writers Follow
Wilkie Collins’ “The Moonstone” was published in 1868, preceded in 1862 by “Ruth the Betrayer” with the female detective Ruth Trail working in a Secret Intelligence Office established by a former police officer.
Another female detective appeared later in “Revelations of a Female Detective” by Andrew Forrester. In “The Boy Detective,” Ernest Keen emerged in the penny-dreadfuls.
In 1840s, the First Detectives in America Emerged in Boston
Boston detectives were modeled on what had been introduced in London, but the Boston police department was established later, in 1854.
Poe Inaugurated Crime Fiction in 1843
In America, the first crime fiction was “The Murders in the Rue Morgue” by Edgar Allan Poe, published in 1841. In 1855, Emile Gaboriau’s crime novel, “L’Affair Lerouge” was published and became very popular. The first American-based story, “The Leavenworth Case” by Anna Katherine Green was published in 1878. Her book was preceded by the translated French book, “The Widow Lerouge” in 1878.
A deluge of detective fiction followed the 1887 story by A. Conan Doyle, “A Study in Scarlet,” published in The Strand, a popular magazine. Since then police detective fiction has become a global phenomenon.
Completing a book typically requires a lot of rewrites, so what is the value of the first draft? The first draft can be the most important draft, depending on the final product. The National Novel Writing Month, after all, was started to get people to write at least 50,000 words.
Since 2006, more than 470 books have been written during this month that were later published with traditional publishers, and more than 100 books were self-published. Some books written in this period have reached the New York Times Best Seller List.
How the First Draft Benefits the Completed Product
The Writer Writes It Down
This is the first step of every effort. In the writing of the draft, the creative process unleashes the characters that will live in the story and may even develop a life of their own that was unplanned at the start.
The Draft Enlightens the Writer about What Works
It is where the writer tells the story but after completion may find it is imbalanced in some way. Imbalance can reveal, for instance, that some of the characters do not belong in the story, or that the story is missing a character, or a character needs to become more dominant.
In the writing, the writer may decide to change the intended story line or the point of view, and add more or less background information. To keep the writing going and creative juices flowing, it is better to make notes about changes and keep moving forward to tell more of the story.
In the First Draft, the Writer Decides the Book’s Genre
The writer may decide the story is one genre, but in writing this draft may decide to change it. It is an explorative venture that enriches the process of refining the final product.
After the First Draft
In completing the first draft the writer becomes an author, even if not a published one. An important milestone is passed en route to the final product. A completed first draft means it is not a false start, even though this draft is still an imperfect product.
The potential to be a writer has been realized; the story has been told. Next, the first draft needs to be refined through the editing process and however many rewrites and content discarding that involves.
After completing the draft, the writer should take time off before coming back to edit to make this process more effective. Yes, some writers edit during the first draft, but for other writers editing dampens the creative process.
A business plan is a written description of a company’s present and future. It lays out what the business is, what its chief executive plans to do and how he/she plans to accomplish it. The strategic document presents a roadmap for success. It projects three to five years ahead and outlines the intended path for revenue growth in that period.
The business plan reveals the current position and capacity of the business, and then how it plans to expand its revenue base, capacity, and associated factors between the present and the projected future.
How to Make the Business Stand Out in the Business Plan
What makes the business unique? Presenting this effectively will help you differentiate your business from its competitors and show that you understand the value of the business to the market or markets it is targeting.
Essential Elements of the Business Plan
The Executive Summary
Readers see the executive summary first, and it summarizes the business plan. In one or two pages, you emphasize the positive and play down the negative (when pitching to investors nor creditors). It can include vision and goals.
It should include a brief presentation of the main elements of your business plan:
Description of the Business
The business description provides information about the business, what differentiates it from others, and the market or markets the business serves or intends to serve.
Every business is structured differently. Discover the optimal organizational structure for the type of business and compare how yours stacks up against that model. Discuss the pros and cons.
Services or Products
What does the business offer? How does it benefit its current and potential customers? What is the product lifecycle of the products, if any? These are some of the important elements to include in this section.
Here research about the business industry, markets, and competitors is presented. Thorough research is needed to show you understand the market and the value of the company’s services or products.
Marketing and Sales
How does the business plan to market itself? What is the sales strategy? How many sales people does it have and what are their specialties and experience? These are some of the elements you need to include in this section.
If the business is seeking funding, include the necessary information investors want.
If funding is needed, providing financial projections to back up the funding request is essential. Find out what information you need to include in the financial projections for the business.
An appendix is not an essential part of a business plan, but it is a useful section for including specific backup documents, such as resumes.
The business plan functions as a roadmap for the business and as a pitch for funding from investors. The amount of information you include in each section will depend on its intended readers.