I am pleased to welcome Annalie Grainger to the blog today, author of Captive and newly-released In Your Light, as well as commissioning editor at Walker Books. I’m a huge fan of Annalie’s work (she also publishes some of my favourite authors, like Lauren James and Katherine Webber), so it’s fascinating to see into the mind of someone who knows both sides of the publishing industry.
As a commissioning editor and a writer, talking about tips for getting your book published is one of my favourite things to do! I think this list could have been about twenty points long, but here are my top five suggestions:
1. Start writing and then keep writing!
You can’t get published if you haven’t finished your book. That might sound really obvious, but writing a book is hard work, and it can be very easy to put it off. My creative writing tutor said to me that the difference between those who make it and those who don’t is often down to a matter of how much time they put in.
You have to be disciplined to keep writing through the easy chapters and the hard ones. Set yourself a word limit each day and stick to it, no matter what. (Mine is 300 words – which I chose because it is manageable in half an hour, even on a really bad day when I feel like throwing my computer out of the window!)
2. Read as much as you can
I’m sure you’ve heard this a hundred times before, but reading, especially in the genre you want to write in, is essential. Joy Nicholson, who wrote one of my favourite novels (The Tribes of Palos Verdes), read books to see how authors made transitions between things. This is such a beautiful way of saying to learn from other people. See how your favourite writers create sentences, tension, plot, pace. When I first started writing, I would create plot diagrams from my favourite novels to see how they were structured – where were the high points, the low points, how was the ending foreshadowed, how did the subplots fit in etc.
3. Believe in what you are doing
Don’t try to write something because you think it will sell. Write the book you want to read and you’ll find your own voice.
4. Edit, edit, edit!
Don’t be in a rush to send your script out. Take your time to read what you’ve written. Try to be objective. If you can bear to, put it in a drawer and don’t look at it for at least three months. Then take it out again and be ruthless – what is good, what isn’t, where are the baggy bits, which character is one-dimensional etc.?
5. Get impartial advice on your script
Before sending your script out to agents, find someone you trust to give you honest (but kind!) feedback. This doesn’t need to be a professional but it should be someone who loves to read as your reader will need to instinctively understand what makes a good book. I would avoid your mum, brother, husband, beloved aunt if possible, as they might be biased or might find it hard to tell you the truth.
And a bonus piece of advice: when you’re ready to send your script to agents, do your research very carefully. Literary agents will list their other clients on their website, so check those out to make sure that your chosen agent will be a good fit for you. Also agents get a lot of submissions, so make sure you adhere to their submissions guidelines, otherwise they might not even read your work.
And of course – have fun! Yes, writing can be hard, but it should also be enjoyable. Good luck!
In Your Light by Annalie Grainger is out now (£7.99, Simon & Schuster)