4.1 STARTING AT THE END
In this seciton you will learn:
- Establishing distance from your work.
- Reading your manuscript like a reader.
- Writing sales and marketing copy to crystallize your vision for the book.
So you’ve finished your manuscript. Time to get editing, right?
NOPE. Back away from the manuscript! In fact, put it in that metaphorical drawer and leave it there for AT LEAST two weeks, preferably a month. I mean it. Work on something else in the meantime if you must write, but ideally just take a break – read some good books, watch some TV, spend time doing hobbies you love and basically just refresh. You’re about to put on a different hat: your editing hat. And that means you’re going to have to channel a different kind of energy. You need distance from your work, and that means stepping back from it for a while.
EXERCISE ONE: READ LIKE A READER
Once your distancing time has passed, it’s time to dust off your manuscript. This is something every editor does first and foremost: reading!
Print out your manuscript if you can and, ideally in one session, simply read it. Have a cup of tea and a biscuit (or a packet of them, if you’re anything like me). DON’T overthink it. DON’T sit there with a notebook and write down your thoughts. Read this book as you would any other.
Allow yourself to enjoy the good bits – and be bored by the boring bits (in every first draft, there are always some!).
Allow yourself to be annoyed by characters that aren’t working, or general inconsistencies.
Gloss over spelling and grammatical errors – however much they irritate you, they’re not important right now.
Once you’ve finished reading, it’s time to reflect. Now’s the time to whip out that pen and notepad. It’s important to do this while the experience of reading is still fresh in your mind – directly after, or maybe the next day when the experience has had time to percolate.
What bits did you really enjoy? What bits lagged? What did you think of the characters, their relationships, the world or setting, the story?
Jot down your overall thoughts in rough form as a simple list of impressions. Set this aside for later.
EXERCISE TWO: WRITING COPY
Next, it’s time to think about your intentions for the book. As an editor, I have to write all sorts of sales and marketing copy for every book I work on, and I find this to be a really useful way of crystallizing our intentions for the book. The three main bits of copy I have to produce (quite early in the process) for Advance Information sheets which we offer to retailers are as follows, and I’d like you to do the same.
A long blurb – approximately 90 words, this explains in simple terms what the book is about. This blurb aims to read like the copy on the back of the book, although in reality it often changes as the book is edited.
A short blurb – approximately 50 words, this is an even more succinct ‘elevator pitch’ for your book designed to hook the reader’s attention.
Sales points – this is aimed at retailers and tells them the basic information about the book and the author, explaining what it is and what sets it apart. Usually there are 3-4 points in total. The tone is much more professional and detached than in the blurbs. Don’t be shy – imagine you are a member of a sales team pitching your book to Waterstones. For instance, the sales points for my novel might look something like this:
– We Are Blood and Thunder is a debut YA fantasy novel by an exciting new talent, Kesia Lupo
– A tightly-plotted, dark story of magic, revenge and discovery with an incredible twist, told from two female perspectives
And so on!
A one-page (single-spaced) synopsis – a despised task by writers and editors alike, this nevertheless forces you to condense the story down to its important elements. Remember, when writing a synopsis you should try to include all the major events of the book, including spoilers!
Personally, I find that writing all of this copy really focuses my attention on my hopes and vision for the book, what it’s about and who it’s for. But of course, this will also all form the basis for future submission material. You may have to adjust it after the novel is edited, but it’s something to work with and later on you’ll be grateful for it!
Kesia Lupo studied History at Oxford University and Creative Writing at Bath Spa. She lives in Bristol with her husband and works as a children’s book editor, writing in the mornings before work.
She is a Senior Editor at Chicken House publishers.