fun with reader questions

Dedicated reader and writer Steph K. asked the following questions:

1. Exactly how long should a novel be?

I’m not sure if there’s a quantifiable cutoff between the number of pages in a novella versus a novel, but I think this more has to do with the writer’s style. Some YA authors have written several books under 150 pages and others only write novels that are over 300. My first drafts tend to always be 283 pages for some weird reason. By the time the manuscript goes through all of its revisions, this turns out to be about 310 book pages.

Your book should be as long as it takes to tell your story. That said, keep in mind that most YA novels are less than 300 pages.

2. How is the review and editing process done?

Once you have an editor, she will read your manuscript and most likely write an editorial letter to you. The editorial letter includes her suggestions for how to improve your book and can be anywhere from 2 to 20 pages. It is very important that you incorporate as many of her suggestions as possible without feeling like you’re compromising the story. This is because your editor knows how to make your story a lot better!

When I received my first editorial letter for When It Happens, I felt a lot of internal resistance to some of my editor’s suggestions. I couldn’t imagine changing the story in some of the ways she suggested. But after letting her comments marinate and applying those changes, I realized that she was right and the story improved immensely. So it’s a good idea to sit with your letter for a few days before making any drastic decisions.

After your manuscript has gone through enough revisions (decided by your editor and publisher), your editor will do a line edit of your manuscript. This is where she writes comments directly on each page, suggesting final ways to improve the story with a more detailed focus. After you submit the revised manuscript, it goes to your copyeditor, who will make grammatical and stylistic corrections and do fact-checking. You’ll apply these changes.

Then it’s time to check the first pass. This is the printed version that looks like galley pages. You wouldn’t believe how many tiny details and even some typos get overlooked up to this point! You’d think that by the time you’ve read your manuscript a billion times (and yes, you will get sick of it) you’ll have seen these errors, but there they are. Sometimes there’s a second pass if a lot of changes were applied to the first pass. Then the galleys are printed (or they could be printed before the first pass – I think it varies) and about six months to a year later, your book is finally published! This is a good day.

As for reviews, I’m not really sure. Some reviews come out before the book’s pub date and some aren’t done until months later. There’s an air of mystery about this.

3. I wrote most of my story on Microsoft Word, is that acceptable?

Sure. But I recommend switching over to the magical Apple land, where everything is puffy hearts and sparkly rainbows. Mac saved my world and I worship Steve Jobs in a godlike way.

4.  How exactly do I go about contacting publishers and sending my novel?

You can find contact information for publishers in the writer’s trade section of any bookstore.  Some houses accept unsolicited manuscripts during certain times of the year, but most do not accept manuscripts unless they’re submitted by an agent.  I used Writing for Children and Teenagers by Lee Wyndham for help with the submission process.

And reader Catt wants to know:

Are you going to write anymore books or are you going to take a break?

No breaks for me!  My third book, Waiting for You, will be released next summer.  I’m not sure which month yet, but I will keep you updated here.  My fourth book will be out the following summer.

Do you have any advice to aspiring authors?

Read and write.  Do both of these things every day.  Read all the time.  Always have a book with you so you can read while you’re on the train or waiting in line or when you’re bored.  The more you read, the more you learn about writing and the better your writing becomes.

When you finished writing When It Happens did you just immediately think, “Oh wow, now I’m going to publish it!” or did you wait a couple of years?

Sometimes in life I have a knowing.  That’s where I know, under all of the doubt and fear and anxiety, that something specific will happen.  I had a knowing about having my book published.  There were hard times and major challenges and many rejection letters, but I never gave up.  I never stopped believing.  I guess that’s what creative visualization is all about.