Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Rachelle's Question

Last weekend, Rachelle (Rose) asked: I am an 18-year-old college freshman and I want to be a writer. I've had articles published online and I write for my church newsletter. Yet, I really desire to see one of my stories published. I plan on attending a writer's conference either this summer or the next. Herein lies my question: I currently have about 10 manuscripts. Some consist of less than 10 pages and some have more than 50. I'm thinking about taking a proposal to the conference. How do I choose which story idea would be best to take?

2. How do I decide which is my "best yet?" I've heard that first time authors are best off with a complete manuscript so go with one of my nearly complete or complete stories right?

3. I also have a series in which the first book consists of a short manuscript, the second is full-length with some expansions planned, the third is half written, and the fourth is but a dream.

Hi Rachelle! I'm going to answer your questions in stage, and Chicks, chime in on the comments if you have other suggestions or opinions! =)

Congrats on the online publications and the newsletter. Those are great stepping stones. Which conference are you attending? That's another wonderful step, as conferences can open doors that otherwise would remain shut much longer. In person networking is truly priceless.

My first thought about your various manuscripts is length. If you're wanting to pursue the Christian fiction industry (known as the CBA) a ten page story isn't going to work, nor is a 50 page. You really need to focus on word count instead of page count, since printed pages of computer paper hold more words than a printed novel page in a book.

Typical word counts for the CBA include:

Romance/Contemporary: 60-85k
Historicals: 85-100k +
Suspense/Romantic suspense: 75-85k
Young Adult: 60-85k

10-50 printed pages isn't going to make those limits. Maybe for a novella? I write for Steeple Hill Love Inspired, and our stories are slightly shorter at 60k average. Heartsong by Barbour Publishers are 55k on average. Other houses are going to only be longer. Definitely go with your longest manuscript and the one that is completed or will be completed by the time you go to the conference. It helps a LOT to be able to say "this is a completed manuscript" when you pitch it to an editor or agent. Golden words, I assure you.

If you have enough time, then I would pick your favorite manuscript of the group regardless of length and work it up to be long enough for a completed submission. The book that means the most to you will help during a pitch session to an editor or agent because they will be able to see your excitement and passion for the story. That's another key factor in a pitch at a conference.

So that sort of answers your #2 question - go with the story of your heart and it will be your best.

As for #3, I'm not entirely sure what to say but to reconsider my advice about word count and maybe decide which House or agent you are targeting and go from there. Different publishing houses have different guidelines and rules, and I'm sure that if you were to pitch a series, they would require a proposal that was outlined according to their rules (which can be found on most publishers websites) A fourth novel in a series that is nothing but a dream is probably not going to go over. Not to say you can't have a dream sequence within the story, but its going to need more than that to be published traditionally. I would definitely advise following the rules of the House you are most wanting to publish with and then formatting your stories to match their guideliness. Does that make sense? Also, be sure to read a lot of novels published by that House to see what they typically go for and publish.

I hope this helps!! Let me know if you have any more questions or if I misunderstood something.


  1. I have had those kinds of (pun) crappy days myself. All I have to say is talk to someone, have a cup of coffee, and find a good book! (Erynn's Lauren Holbrooke series always makes a good day better :)

    When anybody else writes, do your moods go into the characters? I mean, like when you are cranky, your main character is?

  2. Do you think as a beginning writer it's wiser to start with a simpler story line? I've been having trouble tryingn to decide where to go with all the ideas I have for my characters & I just realized that maybe I've picked something to BIG for my first novel. I had wanted to switch perscpetives between four people & maybe that's the problem? I should only use one main character & build from there?

  3. Tonya, I'm working on my first novel too and I have three characters and I alternate between the perspectives. Sometimes it's a lot to keep up with but it's more fun that way. At least for me. I think it also helps to give depth. I've read many books where there's only one or two events happening the whole book and it gets kinda boring and the characters often don't have as much development. But, again, that's just my opinion...

  4. Courtney, you definitely have a point on the boring thing. Another possibility for would be to write just one characters story & so on then blend them together! I tend to be a linear person so I want to do it straight through but that may not work in writing!

  5. Thanks for answering my questions! I'm thinking about attending the Proverbs 31 conference called SheSpeaks (I hear it's for writers too :)
    Thank you for the encouragement...I'm going to go with my favorite story.

  6. Emma, you are so right. Erynn's books rock =) And yes my moods do that! lol Too funny.

    Tonya, it just depends on the story and your targeted publisher as to whether or not 4 point of views would be okay. An editor might suggest toning it back to 3 but I've read a lot of stories especially lately with multiple points of views. So just go with your gut and what you believe makes the story better, and see what happens. I'm sure if an editor said "we'd like to publish this but can you narrow it down to 3 POV's?" you'd be more than willing ;)

    Rachelle, so happy we could help! Keep us posted on how things go =)