Journey to a Bestseller: After Typing “The End”~What’s Next? (Series #26)

Hey everyone! I took a week off for the holidays. Actually, I was writing my newsletter and I forgot. Shhh. So, in the life of our WIP which I am going to start calling by its title: The Clockwork Pen, I now have my first draft. I wrote the whole thing and went back to read for continuity, but I did stop a lot to add and make changes, so it may still have continuity issues. That’s what I want YOU to tell me. If you are interested in being a beta reader, I could use some readers for The Clockwork Pen.

Speaking of beta readers, those of you who signed up to read for The Final Rescue need to get those sent back to me as soon as possible. I need to edit again before launch. I am focusing on getting ten reviews by February. Then, I’ll look at the ads for my launch.

At this point, launch for TFR is about eleven weeks away. If you are going to have a book signing with your launch, you need to be contacting your venue and getting on the appointment books if you haven’t already. I also contacted a local bundt cake store when I had a book signing, and they provided a huge tray of free cake samples (already ready with individual tags and toothpicks) to put on the table and invite people to stop by.

It was easier to say, “Would you like a piece of cake?” than it was to say, “Would you like to hear about my book?” When they came over for cake, they’d ask, “So what’s all this?” And I would tell them. Cake is a great conversation starter. I highly suggest it. And it cost me nothing. The cake store got free advertising out of the deal. Win-win.

If you are going to launch in March with me, you need to start spreading the word about your book. Make a couple of practice posts. Mention your book on social media. What’s the title and what’s it about? Give us some big concepts and interest those who know you. If they don’t seem interested yet, that’s fine. Don’t be pushy. Set up some spreadsheets for beta readers, guest posts, reviewers, interviews, bloggers, queries, and meeting other authors.

As for The Clockwork Pen, I have real faith in it, like I’ve never had with my writing before. I was telling my newsletter followers that I used to hand in a book, just hoping they liked it. But this time, I will be surprised if they don’t. It is pretty dark for YA, though. I can see some objection to some of that, but it isn’t any spookier than Harry Potter. I have decided the most important thing for me is for my family to think I have value as an author and I want them to see me as a success, so I will be taking this book to a few agents that I trust can sell it to a top 5 house or imprint. If they all tell me that no one wants it, I will listen to any advice I get to make changes, then broaden my search a bit. If no one is interested from that bunch, I will self-publish and make it a success on my own. That’s my plan from all angles.

*|When you finish the novel, whether you are going traditional or indie, give it a good read-through to make sure it’s consistent, there are no plot holes, the voice is strong, pluck out all the typos and run spell check. Then, no matter which direction you choose, you need readers. And I don’t just mean your mom. If your mom is a good editor, by all means, send to your mom, but not JUST your mom. At least two or three other people (at MINIMUM), need to read your story before you do anything with it. Give your readers a deadline of two to three weeks, and then follow up. When you get their feedback, do another run-through and make the suggested changes that make your book stronger.

If it’s subjective opinion, “I like this part better,” or “I think she should be motivated to act the way I would in that situation,” you do not have to change your manuscript unless you agree it makes more sense. Now if someone says, “I really think her reaction was too blasé because after she was attacked as a girl, she would have a more heated reaction.” That might be the readers opinion, but listen to it. Does it make sense? Does is make things more plausible, does it strengthen motivations? Even if not, is it a good enough suggestion to add it anyway?

It’s your decision, but don’t think you have to make every change suggested by every person. Don’t fret. When I was starting out and very thin-skinned still, it would frustrate me when people would insert a question that I answered in the next line, or that I thought was obvious. But I learned that if they are asking that question and I am about to answer it, I’m on the right track, but maybe they need that answer a bit sooner than I have it, or maybe it’s confirmation that I’m satisfying my readers’ questions.

If I think it’s obvious and someone tells me it isn’t, I don’t get mad anymore, I just say, “I guess I didn’t make that clear.” And then I figure out where I gave the information and make it more apparent. If you are writing your first book, and you get critique on your baby, don’t get emotional. Calmly say to yourself, “I guess I didn’t make that clear enough.” Then figure out how to fix it. Or if it’s necessary in the first place.

This is all part of self-editing. You also need to send it through a professional editor, I know a few who will give you a discount if you mention my name:

1|Jessica DeBruyn — (freelance editor/owner)  My referrals get 15% off regular prices

2|Amanda Rodriguez — (former editor for Touch Point Press) my referrals receive 15% off regular prices

3|Hannah Bauman–(freelance editor/owner of Between the Lines) 15% off services

*|Obviously, you would want to see an editor before you self-publish but where does it fit in the timeline of traditional publishing?

The editor comes after or during self-editing, and before querying the agent.

Agents are looking for a book that is ready to publish, or one revision away from publication. They will always have corrections for you and so will the editor, but there are always minor details that can require tweaking when anything is changed. You have to be willing to see your book as one part of the whole picture, as malleable as clay, you have to be willing to mold your book to the publisher’s vision. You do give up some creative rights when you go traditional, but to me, it would be worth it to have someone help me with marketing. Because the marketing never stops. As long as you want to sell books, that is. And isn’t that the point?

*|Now, I heard someone recently say, “Why should I pay for an editor if the publisher is going to edit my book anyway?” Okay. There’s a big issue here.

In a nutshell, the publisher’s editor is not supposed to “edit” or “fix” your book. They are there to polish and tighten up loose ends, and find any last mistakes left before publication. If your book needs to be edited to fix issues, that has to be done before submission. Unless it is edited to a certain point, publishers won’t accept it. They aren’t looking for someone with promise, or a manuscript with potential. They want something they can sell. Small publishers have much more wiggle room, but if you want a top five publisher or imprint, you can NOT send in a manuscript that clearly needs editing and expect a contract.

This matters for you because agents know what publishers are looking for and if they see a lot of editing needed, they will most likely pass. They may give you an R & R (revise and resubmit) if your manuscript has a lot of potential but isn’t fully edited.

Where did you come out on your word count?

If you are writing Middle Grade in the realistic sense, your word count should be from 25K-60K with a sweet spot of 30K-45K.

If it’s a middle grade sci-fi/fantasy, the word count changes to 35K-75K with a sweet spot of 45K-65K.

If you are writing Young Adult realism, your word count should be 40K-90K with a sweet spot of 45K-75K.

YA fantasy/sci-fi is 50K-100K with a sweet spot of 65K-85K.

For realistic Adult Fiction your novel should be between 70K-110K with a sweet spot at 80K-90K.

Adult SFF 90K-125K (sweet spot 100K-115K)

Adult Westerns 50K-80K (sweet spot 65K)

Adult Memoir 70K-100K (sweet spot 80K-90K)

The Clockwork Pen is currently at about 82K. When talking to others in the literary world about your word count, always round to the nearest thousand. The same goes for queries, etc. When an agent asks you your word count, they just need an estimate to see if you fit into the correct category. There is no point reading your query and liking your concept and thinking your mystery ahs promise, liking your sample, and then seeing your word count is 42K for an adult book. It would get an automatic pass in most cases. It’s just not long enough.

You may remember back in Journey to a Bestseller Series #11, I spoke of Editing Like a Pro by Liz Pelletier. If you haven’t bought it, now is the time. We will be going over the three step pass. There is a lot of information and I am not going to share it all because that’s Liz’s program to sell. But let’s start out talking about the beginning of your novel.

*|When you are self-editing, make sure that you begin the novel with intrigue. Beginning with action does not mean you have to enter with a fight scene. In fact, it’s better if you don’t because we don’t know who is who yet and who we’re rooting for, or what the significance of the fight is. Begin with two to three characters MAX. Keep it relevant, without backstory, or info dumps, not too much set up, not too boring. Do not open your book with cliches, such as: the MC waking up, staring at themselves in the mirror, falling down, getting fired, in a bar, or describing the weather.

*|You need to make characters that your readers will root for and care about. Make them likeable, sympathetic/empathetic, believable/consistent, unique with perspectives, hopes and dreams. Make sure characters have unique phrasing such as the way they speak, and unique vocabulary according to their occupation, station in life, etc. A sailor may have short, staccato sentences, and relate things in life to nautical terms and theories.

*|One rookie mistake is using too many adjectives to describe the setting. I have talked about this one. You all know that I think you should only add in the details that the characters see, hear, smell, and interact with. If not, they can’t know about it. Don’t walk into a house and say, “It was a split level house with mahogany accents and cream colored walls, the kitchen full of new appliances and tile floors, the bathroom in a nautical theme with little lighthouse candles on the counter, two bedrooms big enough for a queen-sized bed and dresser, and the living room where we sat on caramel-brown leather couches.”

You can’t walk into a house and know all that. Even if they give you a long boring tour of their house, and there’d better be a good reason to do that, we still shouldn’t get a laundry list of characteristics. Try something more like this, “It was a split level house, and we entered through the kitchen, recently tiled and stocked with new appliances. We followed our host to the living room decorated in warm creamy tones and mahogany accents. The contrast was striking. From my seat on the caramel-brown leather sofa, I could see lighthouse candles flickering on the countertop of a nautical-themed bathroom. I assumed the bedrooms must be upstairs as we heard the floor creak above us.

The second example is a deeper POV.

*|Make sure to vary your dialogue among your characters. Beside the regular differences in personality types, men tend to have a more succinct, brief, goal-oriented dialogue, and women are generally more lengthy and include their emotional process. Even if you don’t agree with the generalizations, they are there and typical in fiction, so use them.

Meaning, if your protagonist is a girl who acts very “rough and tumble” and is a badass heroine, then you might make her dialogue a little more brief and talk about her plans and goals more than how she feels about things. And have those special few people that she can be her feminine self with.

*|Make sure your scenes, or chapters, begin with a hypothetical question and end in disaster. the chapter should shift mood as well. If it begins happy, it should end hopeless, and vice versa. Also remember to leave chapter hooks.

Here is my personal formula for making great chapter hooks:

Each chapter is about the length of a scene. Every scene has four parts: 1. the beginning status quo, 2. the action starts, 3. action ramps up to a head, 4. little climax/resolution. Instead of writing in order (1, 2, 3, 4), structure your chapters 2, 3, 4, then 1.

Hear me out. Most people write their first chapter and start with action (#2), let it ramp up (#3), then play out to the scene’s natural end (#4), then they stop the chapter there. They begin the next chapter with the beginning of the next scene. This is why a reader will say, “I’m going to read to the end of the next chapter.” Because by then, the situation should be wrapped up nicely and provide them with a nice lull to stop at.


You want your reader to keep going till 2am because they can’t put the book down. Here’s how to make that happen…

You begin your first chapter with action, true, and let it play out (2, 3, 4). But then, go ahead and lead right into the start of your next scene. Just as soon as the action starts and things get good, BAM! end the chapter. You don’t even need to make a chapter hook.

As humans, readers want to end the chapter only once it’s complete, but they have an equal need to end the scene when it’s completed, too. With my formula, once the chapter ends, the reader is already invested in the next scene, so they must read on to the following chapter see what happens. Only, by the time that scene is over, they are deep into a new chapter and a new scene seamlessly begins. Before you know it, you are involved in a new conflict and the chapter is ending again. See how that works?

*|Get rid of words like: just, that, only, suddenly, sometimes, nearly (I have a list of 28 words to cut if you’re interested).

*|Get rid of: felt, heard, wondered, thought, decided –they distance the reader from deep POV. You can say, “he felt the heartbreak like a stone in his stomach.” Or you could say, “the breakup was a heavy stone in the pit of his stomach.” You could say he wondered it, or she decided it, or you could just have them wonder it, or decide it. Show it to us. Show us how it happened, what was said, how it felt, how it smelled, how it sounded.

*|Trust your audience. Don’t use repetition in things where you are not trusting your reader to catch the hint, like, “She covered her mouth shyly when she smiled.” Just have her cover her mouth every time she smiles, the reader will get it. Or saying something in one sentence, and then rewording the same sentence over again, like I did right here for you.


good* He looked at her and sighed.

better* He noticed her sad expression and sighed.

best* Her smile was gone now and he sighed.

*|No more than two to three exclamation points (!) per manuscript. That’s my own personal preference. Liz Pelletier says no more than one! So, if you don’t like my rule, beware. Lol.

*| Use “said” as a dialogue tag whenever possible. Said, asked, whispered, shouted, yelled, screamed, and cried out are dialogue tags. Laughed, smiled, sighed, snorted, giggled, shrieked, etc. are considered action tags.

*|Cut character names from dialogue, and cut names in dialogue tags down to around one per page.


–1, 2, and 3. (Comma after the two)

–(NOT) 1, 2 and 3.

–He did one thing and two things. (NO COMMA) He went to the bank and the library.

–He did one thing, and he did two things. (COMMA) He went to the bank, and to the library.


When someone passes by, you follow them with your gaze, not your actually eyes. Your eyes don’t pop out of your head and follow them around.

*|In spite of vs. Despite:

“Despite” and “in spite of” are the same thing; “To spite” and “In spite of,” are not.

Liz’s teaching says that “in spite of” means you are trying to purposefully hurt or annoy another (which is “to spite”), while despite means “regardless” as in, “Despite the rain, we had the picnic.”

BUT the definitions of “despite” and “in spite of” are interchangeable synonyms. I could also say, “In spite of the rain, we had the picnic.” The argument here is that you aren’t trying to spite the rain, to make it upset. But I argue that if you were trying to make the rain upset, you would say, “To spite the rain, we had the picnic.”

If you do something “in spite of” someone, you are not intentionally trying to spite (Hurt, annoy, offend) them. If I tell my kid not to eat any of the candy and he eats ALL the candy in spite of me, he’s going to be sick and in trouble. But he will not have eaten it to “spite” me but “in spite of ” me. which means aside from what I’ve said.

*|And the last point she made was that body parts do not move independently. Your hands don’t wander without your knowledge, just as your eyes don’t roam out of control, and your mouth doesn’t speak without your permission. Beware of cliched sayings that don’t necessarily make sense. Especially in the romance genre.

{*}Well, that’s all I’ve got for now. Check on all the above issues. For the Clockwork Pen, I need to really delve into editing: words to cut, deepening POV, unique phrasing, finding quotable moments, varying dialogue styles, sentences with differing cadence and structure, making sure I’m trusting the reader, and fixing commas. What are you working on? What’s your word count? Is your novel a NaNoWriMo success story? Tell us about you in the comments- and how we can help you reach your goals!

See you next week! Keep Writing!


3 thoughts on “Journey to a Bestseller: After Typing “The End”~What’s Next? (Series #26)

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