Getting Your Work (Paranormal Romance etc.) Ready for Submission -or- Why I have Lost My Mind

If you are new to the publishing world, getting ready for submissions is maybe something you have yet to experience. In this case, I would like to explain the process.

Crazed Paranormal Author Beware

Writing the manuscript: First, you will spend months/years of your life writing a (Paranormal Romance, Contemporary Romance, Mystery, etc.) novel. This is an undertaking that will leave you forgetting how to spell your own name, and often what your name really is. Once this step is completed, you wander into the foggy world of self-editing.

Self-editing: This is the step where you initially think, 'Man, I did such a good job on the first draft of the paranormal romance novel that the editing should be easy. I loved it all.' And then you start reading your work...

Quickly you find that author Anne Lamott (Bird by Bird) was right. You can safely call this work the 'shitty first draft.' (And if you have luck like mine, the ideal paranormal romance editor will ask for it at this point...And you respond like a deer in the headlights and hand the slop to her with a sincere apology.)

After reading through your paranormal romance work once and fixing oh, just about everything, you SET IT ASIDE: Yes, I mean stop working on your beloved/loathed paranormal romance manuscript. Let it marinade in its own juices for a while. During this time however, I am not saying that you should stop writing paranormal romance. No, far from it. Instead, this is the time when you write those paranormal romance short stories, poem, magazine articles, and/or letters to your relatives that you have put off doing while you have been pouring your heart into your novel. In other words, forget about your paranormal romance novel for a bit. Once you have submitted your fresh short work, pick the manuscript back up.

If you can read the first line without cringing, you have a manuscript that you should spend more time with. If you look down and hate everything on the first page, rip it off and put the manuscript back down for a little bit longer.

The Second/Third/Fourth Round: This is where you re-read and edit your paranormal romance manuscript for the subsequent mistakes. Hopefully in the first round of edits you have revised most of the conceptual issues, but undoubtedly you will still find a few in these drafts. Make sure you haven't started every sentence with 'She,' 'He,' or 'As.'

For me, I also like to make sure I check my coordinating conjunctions. I have had a few people point out that I like to write in long sentences and break them up and then place 'and' where there should be a new sentence or idea. I've learned to look for this, but only after a fair amount of time changing what turned out to be a major error in my early writing.

Beta-Readings: This is the tough part. This is where you need to find at least 3 people to read your paranormal romance work and point out all the problems. Basically, you are giving people your baby and asking them to tell you if it’s ugly. Make sure that your beta-reader is someone you like and respect. If the wrong person tells you that you have an ugly baby, they're only going to beta-read once (those black eyes take a long time to heal) (see my article Using Criticism).

After making the required changes, and applying a wine bandage to your ego, you must read it through again—without hating every word.

When you have finished and are satisfied with your work, let the manuscript rest again.

For now, the hardest labor is done, but next comes the most emotionally draining part of the process—Getting your query, pitch, synopsis, and body ready for the beating that is—the act of Submission.  More on that next week...