Late last year I heard that my novel, All My Father’s Secrets, wasn’t shortlist for the Ampersand Prize run by Hardie Egmont. I was also told that my book wasn’t right for their list, meaning that they don’t, or don’t currently, publish books like the one I had written. Boo hoo me.
So what then? I’d been given really positive feedback from Marisa Pintado when I initially pitched the book to her and I was confident that as a premise and a novel it had merit. My plan was to submit it to other publishers but I wanted to make sure that it had the best chance of success. And this is where getting help comes into it.
I emailed Dee White, a published children’s and young adult author, co-founder of the KidLitVic writer’s conference and someone who had mentored me in the past. She agreed to work with me again. Already she has looked over my manuscript and given me comprehensive notes on what she sees as things to work on and I’ve started editing my manuscript based on her suggestions.
No matter where you are in your writing career, we all need help sometimes. And I don’t mean learning more or doing more research, although this may be part of it, I mean reaching out and getting help from another person. This may be in the form of a writing group, a teacher whose knowledge and opinions you respect, or another writer (to name just a few). Help from other people will undoubtedly make for a better piece of writing.
Here’s a few tips before you do ask someone else for their help:
1)Be clear on what you want help with. There’s no point having someone come back with pages of spelling mistakes when what you wanted was advice about your plot structure.
2)Know what your willing to pay. I pay Dee for her professional knowledge. I’m prepared to do this because I want to get published. Writing is my career. For you, this may not be an option but there are free ways to get help and depending on where you are in your writing career, these may be better options for you.
3)Don’t lose sight of your vision. A quick look at Goodreads will show you how what makes for a good story is very subjective. If whomever is helping you makes a suggestion that you don’t agree with then don’t make the change. It doesn’t mean either of you is wrong, it just means you have different opinions.
4)Keep respect foremost in mind. This works both ways too. Dee’s criticism is always constructive and professional and I always respond politely and professionally. If you don’t feel respected then find another person to help. And if you don’t give respect, don’t be surprised if they tell you where you can jam your story.
Who do you go to for help and why?