What happens after ‘The End’

What happens after ‘The End’

Last week, I delivered my fourth novel to my publishing team…two and a half months after writing the words: THE END . It was a long process, with late nights, bleary eyes and times when the edges of my mental health were pressed, but it’s done, and I’m so proud of it. But the truth is, getting to The End is only half of the story – there’s a lot more to come before your book is anywhere near ready! If you’re an aspiring author, currently writing your book or simply want to understand the publishing process, this is for you.

First things first

Congratulations! Getting to the end of your story is a massive, enormous achievement. There are so many people who want to write a book, but much less who actually do. And of those, there are even less who get to write: THE END. So give yourself a pat on the back, take a few days off, celebrate and let your mind recover. If you have a publishing contract then the next part will be taken care of for you, but I will say that if you’re self-publishing, investing a little time, effort and in all likelihood money, is absolutely necessary. I’m talking about editing.

Editing: Do you really need it?

The answer is yes, you do. At least, you do if you want to actually make a career out of writing and earn some money and reputation with it. You’ve written your novel. You know it inside out. You know every singe character, what makes them tick, what they’re afraid of, how they develop over the course of a story, what they look like, their mannerisms – everything. And you also know your storyline inside and out – every curve and shock and revelation and trajectory. You know all this because it has come from the amazingness of your mind, not to mention because you’ve spent countless hours tapping away on your keyboard to alchemise your ideas into story.

And this is exactly the problem.

When you’re so close to something, you can’t see the places where there might be gaps or discrepancies, or things that just don’t make sense. While it might be obvious to you that Jack is controlling in relationships because he grew up without any control over his life at all, it might not be clear enough for a reader who doesn’t know more about Jack than what’s written on the page. Editing is necessary because it’s a fresh pair of unbiased eyes who can help tighten up your story, make sure pace is maintained and shape it to be the best that it can be.

Step 1: Self-editing

I know that by the time you’ve written your novel, chances are you’ll need a break, which is why I said: celebrate and take time off. Before you send it to your structural editor, it’s a great idea to have a thorough read through yourself first. Take care of discrepancies, move things around, spellcheck – whatever you need to do to make sure your editor is getting the cleanest version they can so they can get on with their job of making your book even more amazing.

Step 2: Structural edits

This is the part that always has me quaking in my boots, because it’s the first time anyone aside from myself will read the manuscript. A structural editor is there to check for plot holes, tighten up character development, make sure the pace is right and most of all, ensure the story makes sense. I personally had three rounds for this, which meant, the editor sent her comments back to me and I had two weeks to make my edits, and then two weeks break, a further two weeks for more edits followed by one week break, and then one last final week to get everything in order.

What the edits look like will be individual to your book. For me, it was a lot about actual structure for All We Left Unsaid (working title), because it follows two protagonists. We also had big discussions about whether or not Ivy needed to die (I fought for her dying because a, I believed she should and b, can you imagine the amount of storyline changes if she didn’t?!). The second round was about character fine-tuning -making sure the things they did made sense and were in line with the story. The third and final round was culling – fifteen thousand words worth. Of course it hurts to lose certain chapters and scenes, but in the end, it’s all about having an engaging story, and absolute trust that editor knows their stuff!

Step 3: Copy and line edits

Once you’ve got your structure in place, it’ll be read through by another editor (or a team of them!), this time to check for time consistencies, spelling errors, grammatical errors and so on. If you’re self-publishing and you want to skip structural edits (which I don’t advise you do!), then this is the absolute minimum you want to publish with. Spelling errors are going to be in your novel. It’s guaranteed. Making sure that someone other than you is there to fine-tooth comb them out is absolutely essential.

What comes next?

While your edits are being made, there’s the book cover design process, finding a title, your marketing strategy and back cover blurb to work on. Even if you have a publishing contract, you’ll still be involved in this, though to what degree will depend on your publisher. How long this takes will also depend on your own circumstances but, for context, All We Left Unsaid was handed in, post structural edits, in mid April. It won’t be released until November. The process can feel long but it’s necessary to make sure that all those steps are made.

So there you have it – a peek of what happens when you get to The End. I’ll be posting updates about All We Left Unsaid as we go along, so stick around for that by dropping your email address below and signing up to my mailing list (and you’ll get a free copy of my short story, Pull).

Natalie Martin is a bestselling Women’s Fiction author with a passion for empowering women through story. She writes about love, life and the tricky parts inbetween. All We Left Unsaid is her fourth novel and will be released in November 2021.

How to become a successful writer

How to become a successful writer

One of the things people most often say when I tell them I’m a writer, is “Oh I’ve always dreamt of writing a book, but I don’t know where to start.” Or, “How did you do it, can I pick your brain?”. Or, “Can you actually make a living writing books nowadays?” Or, “My husband/wife/daughter/niece wants to become a writer, can you give them some tips?”. So instead of addressing all these things individually I thought, why not write a blog post! Here are my answers to these FAQs:

1. How can I get started as a writer?

Usually followed by, “I don’t have a writing degree/similar”. Well, neither do I. Yes, you can learn how to write a book in terms of structure and plot devision, but you can’t learn how to be a writer (in my opinion). All you can do is hone the skills you already have. So no, you absolutely don’t need a degree to become a writer, but what you DO need to do, is write. The only difference between an aspiring writer and an actual writer, is that the latter puts pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard). It doesn’t have to be perfect – that’s what editing is for, but just write words on the page and keep on doing it. If you want to write, start writing!

2. What’s the best writing process?

This is going to be different from person to person and, for me, book to book. I’ve written a book with no structure at all and others with half a structure. My new book as the full structure and outline from start to finish. I started my new one by fleshing out characters and mood using Pinterest for visualisation boards and Spotify playlists to get into their minds and hearts. The writing came afterwards. If you’re someone who wants to feel secure in knowing where to go, having a chapter-by-chapter breakdown will maybe work better than free-flowing but bear in mind that inspiration can strike at any moment. Having flexibility to add unplanned plot twists or even new characters can be a good thing, too.

3. How can I keep myself on track? I’ve never finished a book.

Personally, I like to use word count goals. For each writing day, I total my word count so I can see the progress day by day and it gives me the motivation to continue (believe me, it really works). Also, the Pinterest and Spotify things I just mentioned aren’t just there as part of the writing process. They also make the whole thing more fun. Look, you probably won’t sit down and write every single day, and that’s ok! Inspiration comes and goes and real life gets in the way (plus, if you’re a person with a menstrual cycle you might find you have ALL of the writing vibes one week and then zero the next). Having music to listen to or a Pinterest board to refer to on those off-days will keep your book-world in your mind, so you won’t fall into the trap of leaving it to one side and never getting back into it. Another alternative might be to find a writing buddy. This can be a real, 3D connection or someone via social media who you can share progress with. They don’t have to be writing a book, maybe it’s a dissertation or something else, but having support can go a long way.

4. Should I self-publish or try and get a contract?

This question always throws me because it’s such an individual choice. First off, let me say, it’s not so easy to get a contract with a publisher (JK Rowling will attest to that) so I’d reframe the question as should you self-publish or submit to an agent. I’m going to write the process for each separately but for the purposes of answering this specific question: it depends. If you self-publish, you have all the freedom in the world. Your content, cover, book title, pricing – all of it is decided by you and you alone. The marketing will also fall to you alone, which can be a tough one to crack. When you go the ‘traditional’ route, you have the power of a (hopefully good) agent who can get your manuscript under the noses of publishers. And if you get a contract, you’ll get an advance which is always helpful, and deadlines to meet. Ideally your books will be in all the bookshops and so on. You’ll get the editor, the book designer and the marketing, but you’ll likely not have final say on things like cover, title etc. So, as I said, its personal preference. So, with that in mind, I’ll break down the publishing process next…

5. How can I self-publish my book?

Self-publishing is surprisingly easy but if you want to do it properly with any hope of making money, you’ll need to do it well. So firstly, you’ve written THE END. Well done. Now the work begins. I would highly recommend finding a good editor to (at the very least) proof for grammatical/spelling errors. In the best case, someone who can do a structural edit too. You’ll also need someone to design your cover (I always used the amazing Naj Qamber) because even though you can do them yourself pretty easily these days, a crap cover won’t get you any sales. When Kindle first launched, self-publishing had a bad rep because of the huge number of poorly edited books with clip art covers. Nowadays, that won’t work. Invest a little money in getting your manuscript in top shape. For the tech aspect of formatting your e-book or paperback, as well as info on how to set up newsletters, social media etc, I can massively recommend Catherine Ryan Howard’s Self-Printed. It’s an amazing, easy to use guide that covers everything. You could pay someone to do all of it for you but, personally, it was empowering to do it myself. Marketing-wise, you could contact bloggers for blog tours, local newspapers or anything else that springs to mind to get your book out there. There really aren’t any limits to what you can do, so if you’re someone who’s great with marketing or social media – go at it! People usually feel short-changed when I tell them all this, like they expected it to be super-duper hard to self-publish. It’s not. Challenging, maybe. Frustrating, certainly (especially with formatting) but impossible? No.

6. How can I get a contract with an agent and publisher?

Ok, so you still want to see your books in Waterstones and WH Smith’s. You’re going to need an agent. A lot of agents actually scour the online charts to find self-published books that are already doing well and offer contracts that way. There are a whole lot of agencies out there, some great and some not-so-great. It can feel like needle in a haystack syndrome, so my advice? Who are your favourite authors (within the same genre you’re writing in)? Their agents (if they’re agented) are a good place to start. Most agencies have a number of agents who then specialise in different things. There’s no point submitting your steamy romance novel to someone who deals exclusively with detective thrillers. Check websites and the agents to see if they’re a match, and if they’re open to submissions (many have full lists already). If you find your perfect agent and they’re open to submissions – GREAT. Now you can begin. They’ll likely have submission guidelines online but the general rule is to send a letter/email introducing yourself, the first three chapters of your novel/book and a synopsis (this is an outline of your book detailing plot and characters). These three things will help them to find out who you are, what you write and most importantly, how you write. It goes without saying, what you submit must be flawless – proof thoroughly for mistakes because that just isn’t a good look. Generally speaking, you shouldn’t submit to all of the world’s agents at once. It’s not only impolite but you might find yourself in a jam if you get multiple call-backs. Bear in mind though, it can take weeks to get a response – they’ll usually say how long it’ll take on their website. Oh, and super important, you will never ever ever have to pay anything to an agent. If you get an offer for representation and you’re being asked to pay something in return, give them a very wide berth. Your agent will make their money by landing you a contract and taking commission on the contract total and royalties (around 15%).

7. My book keeps getting rejected. What should I do?

Well, the practical thing to do is to look at your feedback (if you’re lucky enough to get it). Is there a fundamental flaw in your structure? Or is it a super typical storyline that’s been done to death? Maybe it’s too ahead of its time or fits into a very small niche. These are things that can be worked on or, if you don’t want to work on them, you can simply self-publish instead and continue to submit as you go. But the absolute best thing you can do with each rejection, is to throw the letter away (or keep it if you’re into that kind of thing) and not take it personally. Publishing is super competitive and unless you’ve got something that’s brand new and never been seen before or an exceptionally strong story, it’s going to take a lot of dedication, perseverance and thick skin. And those aren’t bad qualities to develop, really.

Is there anything else you’d like to know about writing? Drop me a comment and let me know!

Natalie Martin is a bestselling Women’s Fiction author with a passion for empowering women through story, embodied yoga and self-development and mindset coaching.

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