Tag Archives: editor

Publishing: Hints and Tips

Ever wanted to know more about publishing? At the Gold Coast Writers Festival this Friday 26 October 2012, we have a line-up of authors and industry experts who will take you through various aspects from self-publishing landmines and how to avoid them to self-editing with professional manuscript assessor, Louise Cusack.

Anthony Puttee from Book Cover Cafe will speak on Writing for Profit, while Paul Higgs of Palmer Higgs Publishing Services will give us valuable insight into the Digital Evolution. The program of seminars will finish with From Manuscript to Market with Laurel Cohn, a highly experienced editor who has been involved in all aspects of publishing for many years.

For tickets and more information about these authors and presenters, please check out http://www.goldcoastwritersfestival.com.

Looking forward to seeing you there!

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On Plotting

Besides being an editor, I’m also a writer and I recently signed up for the Australian Literature Review Manuscript Development Program. There are three such programs being held in Australian cities: Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney and the initial focus of the groups was on plotting:

A debate most novelists have is whether they’re ‘pantsers’ or ‘plotters’. Many confess to only having the beginning and end in mind and then fleshing out the middle as they go. That is, they’re pantsers. And that’s how I started – with a vague idea of the direction of the story, relying on developing the characters as I went.

But with Steve Rossiter of Australian Literature Review’s help, I’ve now realised the value of plotting. This time, with my fourth novel, I’ve written out detailed character interviews and then drawn up outlines of each chapter so that I know ahead of time which direction each scene will take.

I must admit, though, that there is a certain amount of satisfaction in discovering the characters as you go along. It’s as if some part of your mind knows the story all along and was just waiting for you to uncover it. And I’m sure this will happen, even though I’ve done such detailed planning. I fully believe I’ll discover wrinkles and nuances I had no idea existed. That’s what makes writing so much fun.

At one stage I thought plotting would obviate the need to write so many superfluous words, but that was not to be. Given the detail included in my character interviews, and the detailed plot points in each chapter, I’ve already written many thousands of words.

But the value of all this planning is that I now know my characters really well. I can see them, feel their pain, laugh at what makes them laugh, so when it comes to writing the scene, I know what they’re thinking and feeling and it’s just a case of conveying that to the reader.

It sounds easy but I’m sure it won’t be. Finding that correct phrase and just the right word will still be as much of a challenge, as will be keeping the pace going to keep my reader interested.

In the first weeks Steve had us write out the main points that would be covered in each chapter. We discussed at length the motivation for each character. He reminded us of the importance of keeping description and introspection to a minimum, to keep our characters full of action, allowing the reader to interpret the thoughts of characters through what they do and say, much as one would do watching a movie or play. All good advice and something I hope I can achieve as we progress through our novels from week to week.

I’ve set myself a 5000-word target to achieve each week and this is quite a big ask. This is when I hope all the plotting and planning will pay dividends by giving me a clear direction of where I’m heading.

Although previously I’ve I always thought of myself as a pantser, in actual fact I think this plotting might suit me very well. Only time will tell, of course, but I’m looking forward to the journey.



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How do I approach an editor, agent or publisher?

I was asked to give a talk at the Robina Library some time ago and part of the presentation was on how to present a proposal to an editor, agent or publisher. There’s actually no one correct way, but if you follow the guidelines below you probably won’t go far wrong.

  • Use an easy-to-read font such as Times New Roman or Courier New. Many publishers want Courier New so maybe check their guidelines. This definitely applies to screenplays.
  • Increasingly, submissions are done online, but if the publisher wants a hard-copy submission, then print on one side of the paper only.
  • Use wide margins, that is, 3cm rather than the standard 2.54cm.
  • Check the publisher guidelines to see if your submission should be fully justified, that is, have even margins, or left justified, that is, the right margin will be jagged. If in doubt, use left justified.
  • Preferably don’t indent anything in your covering letter, and don’t use bold, italics or underline.
  • Make liberal use of bullet points in the covering letter rather than huge blocks of text.
  • Insert a header for each page with your name, the year and title of your MS.
  • Insert page numbers at the bottom of each page.
  • Start each element of your proposal on a new page and label each sector clearly.
  • Use a bulldog clip, a strong elastic band or string, or a simple document folder in a bright colour to hold it all together. Don’t use plastic covers or bind it in any way.
  • If possible, keep your presentation as professional as possible. Use a letterhead even if it’s one you make up on your own computer. 
  • Write your covering letter in the third person.
  • Use strong nouns and verbs.
  • Avoid pronouns, adverbs and adjectives.
  • Use simple language, but don’t be condescending.
  • Avoid long sentences.
  • Be professional and don’t try to be ‘clever’.
  • Make sure your covering letter is free of errors. This seems obvious, but it’s really important. If your spelling and grammar is not that good, you may employed an editor to polish your MS and then fall down because you didn’t get anyone to vet your covering letter and proposal.
  • Don’t send in your ideas for the cover art. Leave this to the professionals.
  • Take time over your proposal. Much as you wouldn’t send in the first draft of your completed MS (would you?), don’t send in a half-baked proposal. Give it time and go over it a number of times to make sure it’s right. Get feedback from other people who have your best interests at heart.

Are you an editor, agent or publisher? Any comments or feedback would be welcome.

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