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:
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.