Whether you're just hearing about this contest for the first time or have done it before, this post is meant to help you decide whether you'll be ready to submit in October and, if so, what you should do to prepare.
Are you ready to submit in October?
- You have a finished manuscript. I cannot overemphasize how important this is. You cannot be almost done, or "done except I need help deciding the ending." Your ms has to already have a beginning, middle, and end. Maybe you're not 100% sold on the ending you've written or a couple other details, but you've committed regardless and the thing is DONE.
- Your manuscript is a workable length. There's only a month for editing, which means that we're limited in terms of how much ms we can take on. In March 2016, P2P editors generally agreed that "a workable length" means no more than 110K for an adult scifi or fantasy novel. 80-90K for an adult novel in any genre is ideal. If your word count is over 100K (not a typo), you might want to check out this post about the most common reasons I see for high word counts and get your word count down a little further.
- You've revised your ms at least once in response to feedback. Probably more than once. And by "feedback," I mean from a beta reader or critique partner - someone who gets stories and will be honest with you. And by "revised" I do not mean you've smoothed out the prose. I mean you've worked hard on overall structure, character development, world building, pacing and conflict. You've gone back in again and perfected your first five pages because you know that's all you have to get our attention. And then you've polished your first 50 pages a couple of times, both for the big picture and for language-level details. Do the editors expect your ms to be perfect? No. But it has to be as close to done as you can get it without a professional editor. Because I guarantee that we'll have some insight and ideas of our own that will take your awesome book and make it even awesomer. Which brings me to...
- You're still open to doing more revision. You need to be super honest with yourself right now: How are you feeling about your ms? Are you burnt out on it? Convinced that it's perfect as-is? Pitch to Publication is a contest that includes editing, so you need to be open to constructive feedback and willing to roll up your sleeves and work hard. Again. If you aren't open to hearing that your book isn't done, it's not the right time to submit.
- You will have the time & energy to work hard. In March I took each of my authors through three rounds of editing. They took time off of work, cloistered themselves away from their families, and worked late into the nights to execute the changes we'd agreed on because they understood that they had access to a professional editor for free for an entire month and that was never going to happen again. The editors who participate in this challenge are willing to give you a lot of ourselves for one month. You have to be willing to bring it, too. So time for more honesty here: How much time are you realistically going to be able to devote to revisions during the editing period? If you're going to be traveling, will need to focus a lot of your time and attention on your family/relationships, or will have a lot going on in your day job that'll prevent you from spending much time on revision, the timing isn't right. Wait for Spring 2017.
If YES to all of the above
Once you've decided that you do absolutely want to submit in October, it's time to get down to business.
- Read through the P2P submission guidelines and schedule carefully and more than once.
- Read your manuscript one more time to make sure (1) it feels done to you and (2) you're still willing to put more work into it.
- Research the editors, choose up to 3 to submit to. It's super important to understand the editors' MSWLs (we get grumpy about receiving subs that don't fit), but it's also super important for you to get a sense of our personalities. If your submissions is chosen, you're going to be working closely with one of us for five weeks, and it'll go a lot smoother for everyone if you're actually excited about the editor you're working with and respect his or her professional opinion. In addition to looking at the editors' P2P profiles and websites, show up to as many of the #AskEditor sessions as you can in the week leading up to the submission period.
- (Re)write your query letter.
- Send your submission materials to a critique partner or friend to make sure you haven't overlooked anything.
- Oct. 22-23: SUBMIT!
Q: What issues in a sub (QL, 1st 5) would be Fixable Problems vs. Dealbreakers? Which issues MUST be dealt with before submission? - @VoloCaballus
A: For me personally, a book that needs a lot of work on the language level is a deal-breaker; I expect the author I work with to already have a solid grasp of writing so that we can spend our time focused on storytelling. That said, each editor is going to have their own ideas about deal-breakers vs. fixable problems in terms of what we're prepared to take on during the editing round, so be sure to attend your chosen editors' #AskEditor sessions on Twitter the week of Oct. 17-21.
A: The ones that made it into my Maybe pile back in March had opening pages that were rooted in a scene with conflict and/or a goal and stakes and a query letter that piqued my interest in characters, plot, and/or premise. The best ones met all the criteria I talked about in my first five pages post. From there, the ones that made it onto my short list had all of the above plus strong voices and an intriguing premise or theme I personally connected to.
Tips from the P2P Twitter community
Meet other entrants. Think of them as friends, not competition. - @KyraMNelson (editor)
Definitely get involved with everyone as the contest goes on. Great connections and you learn so much in that feed! - @thought_stained (author)
First thing that comes to mind is to SUBMIT. Be brave. Do it! - @tabithabird (author)
No "major overhauls" needed since we only have a month. The drafts I loved surprised me with a loud and clear voice or twist on trope. - @Dan_Higgins (editor)
MC must be in all the pgs to connect w/reader. Show action, conflict. QL plot summary > selling me at this stage. - @jenichapelle (editor)
Be open to criticism and be willing to make changes. - @HNLeonard (author)
Voice is everything. Be open to [editor's] suggestions.
Other P2P16-related posts that might help:
Editor's perspectiveYou don't need to be a contestant in order to benefit from the amazingly supportive and enthusiastic P2P community. Even if you decide not to submit this October, you can still join the party: ask questions, favorite, retweet, shake your pom-poms for your friends, find a critique partner, and learn from the editors' #AskEditor and #tenqueries tweets. Be sure to follow @FountainWriter, the event organizer, and tune in to the #p2p16 hashtag on Twitter.
Reflections on the editing round
First five pages
First 50 pages
#P2P16 October #AskEditor Schedule
Have a question? Wanna add your own two cents? Leave a comment below!