How to Get a Book Published
      In 10 not-so-easy steps

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6. Rewrite

Never mind Kerouac and the precept of "first thought, best thought." Your first draft, let's face it, sucks. (Ernest Hemingway supposedly said "“The first draft of anything is shit."*)

And let's be clear about what a draft is. Sure, you've scratched and scribbled and emended your way through the whole manuscript. But that isn't rewriting — that's working up your initial draft.

Now that you have a manuscript you need to put it aside for a while and then appraise it critically. Change the point of view, move the first three chapters to the middle — that sort of thing. Manuel Puig once wrote a scene made up only of dialogue. It had three characters. In revising he eliminated one character completely. That made some of the dialogue a bit mysterious, but on the whole it was an inspired solution to a pedestrian scene.

As a translator and editor I know that the most common failing of translators is being satisfied too soon. Once your text begins to look like English there's a tendency to think you're done. You aren't. The same principle applies to original writing.

Some writers advise getting feedback from people you trust before submitting your manuscript for publication. This can be good if you have the right temperament and the right friends. (Writer Anne Lamott advises that if your friends can't find anything good to say about your manuscript you should get new friends.)

If you're worried that something might be wrong with your manuscript, it very likely is. When in doubt revise. You can always revert. But you will rarely want to.

Remember that your first couple of pages are make or break. If you don't capture the editor's attention on those you never will. So give those pages special attention.

continue to step 7



* Anyone know the source of the Hemingway quote? Please e-mail me. I'll be happy to credit you. Thanks!



Navigation — the 10-step plan:

1. Read
2. Examine your values
3. Learn about publishing
4. Research
5. Write
6. Rewrite
7. More research
8. Query
9. Submit
10. Persevere

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glossary of book publishing terms

tom's list of recommended books for writers

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