You may have thought all the hard work was over: goodbye to those nights slaving over plot lines and tweaking dialogue, farewell to those days building up to penning the final page, the final paragraph, the final sentence. Once it’s done, it’s done, right?
Well… not really. Now comes the searching for a publisher, the revision, the editing, correcting the appalling grammar that wormed its way in (probably during that one night – really, just that once! – that you loaded up on red wine and coffee and convinced yourself that writing til 4am on a work night was a good idea.)
So, once you’ve banged your narrative into shape and have the beginnings of a completed book, what should you do next? We’ve collected a little advice for you here to get from that first effort to a finished, polished product.
Let’s talk about addressing the technical aspects first: a writers’ group can give you the feedback and advice you need to work through a difficult patch, or help you gain the impetus to actually finish the work. We have a wide selection of writers’ groups here at the Centre which cater to writers at varying stages of development, and in different genres. We also have a mentorship program and manuscript assessments which can help you improve those messy patches and tighten up your work before sending it out to publishers.
Asking people to read your work with a critical eye can also help: they might point out plot holes you’ve missed, tell you what seems out of place, and give you some good feedback about what worked and what didn’t. Make sure you ask those among your acquaintance who’ll tell it to you straight, though. There’s no point approaching people who’ll give you only praise.
We regularly run courses at the Centre which focus on the technicalities. If you need to brush up on your grammar or just need to have some of those tricky publishing questions answered, we have Mark Tredinnick’s Getting to Grips with Grammar course coming up, and a two day seminar on the Business of Being a Writer, covering the financial aspects, copyright, pitching your book to publishers, agents and how to engage with your readers outside of your book.
What about prizes, you ask. Who will give me money for my fantastic and soon to be bestselling debut novel? If your manuscript is unpublished and you’re based in Victoria for one year prior to submission, why not enter the Victorian Premier’s Literary Award for Unpublished Manuscripts? Administered by the Wheeler Centre, the prize is a whopping $15, 000.
For a chance to be published by Allen & Unwin, you could enter The Australian/Vogel’s Literary Award. If you’re under 35, this is a great goal to set: previous winners include Tim Winton, Kate Grenville, Gillian Mears and Andrew McGahan.
The Queensland Writers Centre hosts the Hachette Australia Manuscript Development Program each year, where up to 10 emerging fiction and non-fiction writers work with editors from Hachette Australia to develop high-quality manuscripts.
The Australian Society of Authors (ASA) have the Ray Koppe Young Writers Residency hosted at Varuna, The Writers’ House. For the under-30s among us, it’s a chance to spend a week long stay at a creative retreat like no other. The ASA also run a yearly selective mentorship program for unpublished writers and book illustrators with their mentorship program.
You can also have a shot at staying at Varuna through us: our Varuna Fellowship awards a one week stay to a lucky member who is ready to take the next step with their work.
These are just some of the opportunities which are available for when you’ve hammered out that initial manuscript and want to decide how to approach the polishing, trimming and strengthening of your work so that it’s in a fit state to take to publishers and pitch them the benefits of publishing your work. Good luck!