Last month, when my publisher told me the manuscript for Counteract was headed for the printer, my first instinct was to ask for it back. What if I needed to make some changes? How could I be sure it was ready?
I imagine plenty of first-time authors contend with either impatience or perfectionism at some point in the writing / publishing process. Some rush to submit a manuscript that’s not been developed to its full potential, or that hasn’t been properly edited. Others hang back, fearing rejection, caught in the backspin of obsessive editing and tweaking.
I fell victim to both as I went through the process with Counteract. Jessica Dall, my lovely host, is the author of Write. Edit. Publish, a great step-by-step primer on how to navigate the publishing process. I wish I could say I followed all her advice and avoided the common pitfalls, but alas, that was not the case. I wish I’d read her book before I began!
Here’s some of the stuff I learned the hard way:
1. Go through several drafts and revisions to assure the story is developed, polished, and ready.
I was so pumped when I finished the first draft, and couldn’t wait to find a publisher. I rationalized that I didn’t really need to go through several revisions, because that would take forever! Off it went, but the industry professionals to which I submitted the manuscript knew it wasn’t ready yet. In fact, it probably took longer to find a publisher because I’d wasted so much time sending it out prematurely.
2. Seek input only from impartial, professional third parties.
I’d been shot down a few times, and I needed some reassurance, so I asked friends and family what they thought of the story. Trouble was, I didn’t want to take their advice. One friend suggested that what Counteract was lacking was a character based on her!
3. Hire an editor.
Most editors will do a free sample edit. I took advantage of several before I found the editor that was right for me. I trust her implicitly, and working with her has made me a better writer, hands down. Susan did a super job of cleaning the manuscript, but I sensed the first chapter still wasn’t drawing readers in like it should. So I went one step further and sought the advice of a writer acquaintance. Her critique of the first chapter was insightful and spot on. In the final round of submissions, I had six different publishers interested in the manuscript.
4. Get out of your rut.
It’s easy to see why some writers prefer to obsessively edit rather than submit their manuscripts and risk rejection. It’s safer to keep editing, rather than risk having a substandard product go out into the world. But obsessive editing is procrastination, especially when you edit a half-finished draft. But I couldn’t help it. Sometimes I needed to stay in a certain section of the manuscript and reboot my courage before I reached out into the next scene.
Once I’d signed the contract with Buddhapuss Ink, LLC, my project went into the queue, and it was several months before the publisher would be working on it in earnest. When she told me I should look it over, tweak it, and get it exactly the way I wanted, I was so relieved! I took advantage of that time, and I probably could’ve tweaked it a little more, but then I would’ve delayed realizing a lifelong goal—to see my first novel in print.
Tracy Lawson knew she wanted to be a writer from the time she could read. While working toward her Bachelor’s degree in Communication at Ohio University, she studied creative writing with Daniel Keyes, author of Flowers for Algernon. After short stints as a media buyer and an investigative analyst, she settled into a 20-year career in the performing arts, teaching tap in Columbus, Ohio, and choreographing musicals. Though her creative energies were focused on dance, she never lost her desire to write, and has two non-fiction books to her credit: Fips, Bots, Doggeries, and More, winner of the 2012 Ohio Professional Writers Association’s Best Non-fiction History Award (McDonald & Woodward), and Given Moments (Fathers Press).
Tracy’s love for writing new adult fiction is sparked by all wonderful teens in her life, including her daughter Keri, a college freshman. Counteract is Tracy’s first novel.
Two strangers—their destinies entwined—must work together to thwart a terrorist the
country never suspected. The Office of Civilian Safety and Defense has
guarded the public against the rampant threat of terrorism for the last fifteen years with the
full backing of the US government. Their carefully crafted list of Civilian Restrictions means no concerts or sporting events, no travel, no social media, no cash transactions, and no driver’s licenses for eighteen-year-olds Tommy and Careen. The OCSD has even outlawed grocery stores, all in the name of safety.
Now, there’s a new threat-airborne chemical weapons that could be activated at any time. But the OCSD has an antidote: Just three drops a day is all it takes to stay safe. It’s a small price to pay for safety. Or is it…