As much as it may seem like you’re all alone and on your own at times, in reality, writing a novel takes a team. In this post, we’re going to discuss two very different types of teams a writer needs.
Your first team, we’ll call Team A. These are the folks who will help you whip your manuscript into shape to either self-publish or submit to a publisher. Members will need to fulfill roles as Alpha readers, first round editors, Beta readers, critique groups, and proof-readers. This team helps to make the magic happen. We really should call them the A-team.
Obviously, we’ll call your second team, Team B. These guys and gals take over after you and your Team A members have finished. They will take your novel through to publication.
If you choose a traditional path to publishing, your Team B is already in place. Your editor, layout and cover designer, proofreader, marketing expert and sales team are already on board and know their roles.
If you are planning to self-publish, you’ll need to build or hire your own Team B.
A few other people you may need to include on your team are research sources, illustrators, a literary agent, and possibly an attorney.
Let’s start with you’re A-team; where can you find members and what exactly are they supposed to do?
Your Alpha reader is most likely someone very close to you; a spouse, family member, or best friend is perfectly suited to this role. This is probably one of the toughest tasks to ask someone to take on. The perfect candidate for this job is the one person you’d feel comfortable asking, “Do these pants make my butt look big?”
My hubby is my Alpha reader and he’s great at it. He’s the first to read anything I write. He understands what I need from him, because I’ve told him clearly. His role is not to edit or proofread, although he does mark any obvious errors his finds. His job is much more important.
First and foremost he is to protect my ego, yet not let me embarrass myself; a delicate balancing act to be sure. Again, “Do these pants make my butt look big?” is the perfect litmus test when selecting an Alpha reader. The one who can answer that question for you, will rock in this role.
Because you putting someone important to you, in a vicarious position, it’s vital that you communicate your needs clearly and be open to criticism. In my next post, we’ll go over communication with your team, and I’ll share some tools I use to make communicating more effective.
Then, you’ll need a first round editor. Many new writers lump all editing functions into one big pile. But there are actually two very different skill sets for editors. Your first round editor will be looking at the big picture, some refer to this as “chunking edits.”
Unless you happen to know a professional editor, this is where you’ll want to pay someone to help you. Don’t ask mom to do it. This job is too important to leave to amateurs.
I go into more detail in my book, Strategic Rewriting, but for now, keep in mind; this person is not looking for spelling and grammar errors. You don’t want to waste your time fixing typos when you may have to change or delete large chunks of text (and you will most likely have to, I promise.)
Your chunking editor will point out problems in character arc, plot points, subplots, and point of view issues. Big stuff. Important stuff. This is the person who helps you shape your story. You’ll need someone who first, understands what these things are and how to fix them and second, has a dispassionate eye and can be completely and brutally honest about what changes need to happen. You’ll need a professional. Your book deserves it. Almost everything else you need, you can beg friends to help with, but please understand how important this round of editing is for your book.
Next, let your critique group have a crack at it. Again, in my book Strategic Rewriting, I’ve dedicated an entire chapter on how to find or create, and participate in a critique group, so I won’t go into it here. Your fellow writers can point out many inconsistencies, problems, errors and more. I’ve always found their input helpful.
At this point, you may want to consider hiring a line editor to go through your manuscript line by line looking for any grammatical, spelling, or punctuation errors as well as doing some fact-checking. If you have an analytic and detail oriented friend, they may be able to fulfill this role for you.
Finally, let’s talk about Beta readers. You can have anywhere from one to one hundred, but be aware, everyone has different ideas about what makes a good novel. The more Beta readers you have, the more decisions you’ll need to make and rewriting you’ll have to do.
People who enjoy reading the type of story you are writing make great Beta readers. Don’t ask someone who hates vampires to read your paranormal novel. Ideally, you are looking for the same type of people who would buy your book. For my first book, The Minstrel’s Tale, along with a few trusted friends, I had twenty-five fifth graders and their teacher as Beta readers. Score!
Beta readers also make great proofreaders. With so many eyes on the page, almost every mistake you make will come to light. Almost.
Now that your manuscript has been through all of that, it’s ready for either submission to a publishing house or, after several more rounds of proof reading, ready to be formatted for self-publishing. Which brings us to Team B.
If you’re going with a publisher, you’ll have to work with the team they’ve already set up for you. Otherwise, you’ll need to learn to do it yourself or find someone to help you format your work, design the cover, and proof the final work looking at EVERYTHING.
Ask writer’s groups in your area for references. Before sending anyone money, check out predators and editors at www.pred-ed.com for scammers.
Oh, and one other thing, remember to thank those who assisted you in your acknowledgements before finally publishing. Although your name will be emblazoned upon the cover, remember, your soon-to-be-published work is a team accomplishment.
Stay tuned: next Sunday, I’ll post the tools I use to communicate with my teams.