Tuesday, 9 August 2016

Submissions: What Our Editors Look For

You've written your book, typed 'the end', and are now looking for a place to publish.


Is your book ready?

Of course, you'll need to edit, re-edit, and edit some more before you have a submittable project. But there are some things you want to pay special attention to before hitting send on your submission or query to a publisher.

Here are some helpful hints that will get your book read with TirgearrPublishing:

First, every publisher's guidelines are different, so it's important that you follow each publisher's specific guidelines, even if it means tailoring your basic submission. Tirgearr Publishing strives to make the submission process easy, so be sure to take a moment to ensure your submission is not only formatted correctly, but that the story is actually what we're looking for.

Keep in mind that editors can read dozens of books per week, so the more well-presented your submission is, the better your chances that our team will look at your submission, and the easier it will be on our team to evaluate it.

Here are some key elements we look for:

"I say, that's a blood good opening line!"
A Strong and Powerful Opener

The first line or lines must pull in the reader immediately and make them ask, "What happens next?" Create first lines that grab us and pull us into the story. This can be dialogue or dramatic narrative. Just don't get bogged down by too much of either. Find a good balance and continue on that high throughout the story.

Narrative Example: Treated As Murder by Noreen Wainwright - It was all wrong, a servant bringing such a thing as this on a silver plate.

Immediately, we want to know what was delivered on that silver plate. We already sense the era, with the servant bringing something on a silver plate (Downton Abbey perhaps?), but what could that thing be?

Dialogue Example: Machines of the Little People by Tegon Maus - “I’m sorry, Ben. We’ve looked everywhere.”

Again, the drama leaps from the page. What or who are they looking for? We instantly know Ben has lost something, or someone, and that's it's important if 'we' (numerous people) had been looking for it.

However you open your first chapter, it must be powerful.

If the first line isn't overly dramatic, ensure the opening paragraph is.

Narrative Example: Bound to the Highlander by Kate Robbins - A horse’s scream pierced the air sending a chill down her spine. Brèagha. Aileana Chattan quit pacing and dashed to the window. Thank God. They were home at last.

This longer opening passage is short, but it conveys a sense of era, urgency, and personal anxiety, and that there had been a journey for someone and now that person has returned . . . and with what news?

Dialogue Example: Awakening by Kemberlee Shortland - “Take it off, Ysbail.” She stood her ground, shoulders back, gazing into her husband’s black eyes, daring him to make her.

Once more, we see how strong dialogue and narration create a powerful opening. We instantly see this is a strong woman who is refusing her husband's demand. Also, what is it she’s wearing her husband objects to?

A powerful opening will certainly ensure editors will want to read more. Good editors can tell a book's worth just on the opening pages. You don't want to spend all of your time just on the opening few pages, or first three chapters. You must have the same care all through the book, to the last page. If the first few pages are attractive, our editors will continue reading through to the end of the book. If the quality falls down after those few pages or first three chapters, our team can tell right off that the same care has not been given to the full manuscript. So be sure to edit thoroughly through all the pages.

Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch
Ensure your perspective on the story is unique

Poet and novelist, Sir Arthur Thomas Quiller-Couch. is credited with saying there are only seven plots in writing:

1 ) person against person, aka character vs character - This is traditional good vs evil story. Example: Batman vs The Joker/Riddler/Penguin/etc. This plot can also include LGBT stories with same sex protagonists.

2) man and woman - Opposite sex characters working with each other for a common goal: the traditional romance story. Also working against each other. Example: Batman and the Cat Woman.

3) person against him/herself - The protagonist has a personal conflict to overcome. Example: Clark Kent vs Superman.

4) person against nature - The protagonist alone in nature and must survive on his/her own. Example: The Grey starring Liam Neeson...alone in the woods, defending himself against the elements and the wolves who track him.

5) person against society - As above, but the struggle is with society. Example: Terminator, as Sarah Connors must struggle with society if she's going to save herself, and humanity.

6) person against God - Personal religious struggle, loss of faith, gaining faith... Example: The Da Vinci Code, as Robert Langdon's faith is tested through a series of puzzles.

7) person caught in the middle - Pawn in the drama of others. Example: Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare. This couple is caught in the middle of the feud between their family's.

We've seen these themes in thousands of books we read, but it's how we tell each story that makes our story unique. To do this, we must read. A lot. See how others tackle those seven plot elements, then see how you can make your story stand out. Make yours unique. Create a perspective in your story that no one else has done, or hasn't been done in a very long time, then refresh it with your own creativity.

Create your own time and place

If you're world-building, this needs to be apparent quickly when the first page is opened. Don't be afraid to cross genres. Steampunk is a good example. Also vampire romances, shifter stories, futuristics. Think Cowboys and Aliens is a good example of crossing genres...western sci fi! Push the boundaries of traditional writing and find your own niche, then pull in the reader with your opening lines.

One way to do this is with your unique author voice, or style of writing. Over time, with experience, and even guidance from your editor, you will hone your own style of writing. This is known as your voice...how you tell your story. It must be convincing to your reader, which makes your stories believable...even if your hero is a cowboy hunting martians, or a scientist looking for descendants of Jesus.

You also need believable characters

Your characters, all of them, must be well-fleshed. By that, we mean, they must seem like real people. That when we read them on the page, we're instantly endeared to them and care about their future. These are characters we either want to know in real life, or instantly connect with in some way...even the bad guys and characters we love to hate.

A tip on creating believable characters is to take a lesson from old school writers who will take a notepad and pencil into a public place, sit and observe, making notes on behavior, conversation, body language, etc. Bring those things back to your writing.

Be sure your work is well-structured

Think of story structure as the foundation of your whole story. Often we write down a story as it’s created in our head, but when we read it again, we may find something isn’t quite right. Your protagonist should have done this earlier in the book or said that later. Or there’s something missing altogether in the plot. Whatever it is that helps your story flow better, don’t be afraid to move things around so that the book is structurally sound. Even if you have well-fleshed characters, a unique story, and a strong voice, if the structure of the story isn’t strong enough, your project will collapse.

"This story pulled me in from page one. I've been lying here
reading for three days now!"
And don’t discount strong research

Everything in a story needs research, especially if you’re world building and creating a time and place that’s not the one you live in. And I’d bet that even if you’re writing a story local to where you live, you’ll still nee to ‘check out a few things’ before writing them. Good research will shore up your structure, so be sure to give it the credit it deserves.

Here are some other tips on getting an editor's attention:

Only when you have a well-presents manuscript that has undergone your strict attention to these things will you be ready to hit SUBMIT for any submission.

Good luck!