Tips to help Write and Edit  a 'Sellable' novel

There are millions of great (and some not so great) novels out there. Writing and getting your manuscript into a sellable book form and then published is a long hard path, with obstacles at every turn. So here are are a few tips to help you write your book. Promote and the important bit publish, and SELL it. 

A time and a place to write.

Don’t let the lack of a good place to write be an excuse not to write. Try to find a place you feel comfortable in and at peace. 

Sometimes it’s impossible to find that perfect place. However, If you have a novel in you that needs to get out, do it no matter where and when you work. No writer likes distractions. Some are unavoidable, if you have small children or a bossy partner, shouting "what are you doing in there."  Concentrate on the distractions you can change, put your phone on  “do not disturb” mode. Set and limit time you spend Googling and On-line news and other internet distractions.

One of the hardest things to do for writers is actually making time to write. If you work or have other obligations, allocate time to squeeze your writing time in around it, and stick to it. See TIME as your boss or partner and do what you are told! 

However, if you have a good idea, you wont need telling, if it's fiction and you have a creative mind, that book idea, has just got to come out, or if it's non-fiction you have always known you should and would tell and share that experience or life story, you wont need telling.

So what do you do?  learn to write in small chunks. Or if you have a long commute on a train or flight . write, write and write.

Setting goals when writing your novel.

Successful writers set a daily goal. Having a set task means you know when you’re done for the day. If time fly's by and your still writing, even better.

Most writers prefer to set their daily goal as a word count. 1,600 words a day is about right. Or set a goal to write a scene or chapter, regardless of word count.  Another goal can be carrying out Research, this can require a lot of time however, made a lot quicker these days using search.

Keep a pen and paper or smartphone handy.

You never know when you’ll come across something that inspires you. It might be a conversation you overheard, a tree blowing in the wind, a mugging you witnessed, a plot you had not considered. Even something coming into your mind when you are half asleep, or you've had one to many. Whatever it is, when you have an idea, you need to be able to write it down immediately. If you are using a phone to do this, make sure it is fully charged and doesn't simply cause a distraction.

Hiring a manuscript editor.

 You've written your manuscript, completed hundreds of self edits now it's time for the often, painful bit. Having someone outside your circle of 'sometimes too kind' family and friends to check it for grammar and spelling and the possibly painful bit, does you’re writing makes sense to others.  

You've spent a lot of time writing your book, now want to publish it. Even if you self-publish, you need to hire an editor, 'not cheap' however, essential. Choose an editor that specialise in the genre of your book. A Sky-fi editor won’t be able to help with Chick lit. or Nonfiction. Check-out the shortlisted editor's website and reviews before agreeing a deal. 


An editor will want to look at your self-edited draft to carry out an editorial review, sometimes free, often costed by word count, to determine what type of editing your book needs. And to agree the cost of the edit.


The four types of editing are:

A manuscript critique. This is a big-picture assessment of your novel. It points out structural, foundational aspects of the book that might need work. A manuscript critique might also include feedback on sections or plot points that need reworking.

A comprehensive edit or line edit. This is a little more detailed. It focuses on language, voice, tone, and atmosphere. It points out any clichés you tend to use or poor choices of sentence pattern.

A copy edit. This focuses more on the technical stuff like grammar, syntax, and spelling. It ensures consistency of style, usually using a style guide.

A proofread. This is the last step after typesetting. A proof-reader's job is to fix page breaks, look for typos, and do some copyediting.

Every type of editing can be valuable. It all depends on the kind of writer you are. If you’re great with a story arc but not so good at syntax, then you’ll benefit from a copy edit. If you are good at grammar including syntax, but not on plot development, then a comprehensive edit is right for you.

The Genre of your novel.

My editor who actually did a good job,  added this manuscript critique with the completed edit.

"If you go down the route of approaching literary agents, they’re highly unlikely to be interested unless you can accurately state your genre. At the moment, the manuscript straddles genres, and it’s not a combination of genres that naturally sit alongside each other. If I tried to pinpoint your genre, I’d say action-adventure/romance, with those being uncomfortable bedfellows. Action demands a fast pace while romance is sedate, and while changes of pace are often welcome within manuscripts, they shouldn’t be dictated solely by the norms of the genre. Some issues are easily fixed, some less so, and tackling genre concerns is a major task, probably involving a complete rewrite."


My reaction was, OMG after all the months spent writing and self-editing. I have gotta do a complete re-write.  Editing  the True love story thread from the True crime story. WHY? Criminals, Heroes  and Action men and women 'fall in love' don't they?  


Explanation of what Genre means regards  writing a novel.

Genre is a confusing minefield, If anything (other than writing a synopsis) was going to turn me into an inarticulate, sweating mess, this was it. But honestly, genre needn’t be that complicated.


The main reason I got in such a muddle is that there is a muddle over what genre “means”. Agents, editors and booksellers often include publishing or marketing categories, so we end up talking about “romantasy”, “ski-fi”, “uplift”, “book club fiction” “upmarket/crossover/accessible literary fiction” and heaven knows what else.

Many of these publishing terms actually refer to setting (e.g. modern-day / historical / fantasy / dystopia), literary style (e.g. comic / poetic / accessible ), or target audiences (e.g. teenagers / book clubs).


Some of the main Story genres include: 

Love, Crime, Action, Thriller, Performance, Coming-of-age


As with different “furniture genres”, each has certain elements and conventions (even tropes) readers will expect. 

For example, the core conventions of a Crime story include: Discovery of a crime, A detective who investigates, Clues, Red herrings, The villain is unmasked. 

Core Love story conventions include: Lovers meet, First kiss, Lovers break up, Proof of love, Lovers commit.


If I pick up a book expecting a Love story (because the cover or blurb suggest that it is), but it doesn’t fulfil these conventions, am I going to be disappointed and put the book back on the floor.


“But won’t that make my book boring, if my Love story has the same things in it as every other Love story?” No! Because just as you can create a Chair that’s the most unique and innovative Chair ever seen, you can write the most unique and innovative Love Story ever. It doesn’t matter that your chair is still fundamentally a Chair. Ditto, the fact that your story *is* recognisably a Love story is not going to put readers off — quite the opposite.

The trick is not to break or ignore the conventions, but innovate them. Here are some examples of stories that innovate brilliantly on their basic genre conventions (or tropes). (Recognise them? Answers at the end!)


Top Genre tips:

1. Be clear on the Story genre you’re writing. A clue can be the stories you love to read.

2. Read (or watch) lots of examples, especially “masterworks”. Pull out the recurring elements: these are your genre conventions.

3. Make sure you honour these in your own story. Readers will expect them, so don’t let them down.

4. Use your creative powers to innovate the conventions. What version of the “meet cute” have we never seen? How is your detective different to the many other fictional detectives? What’s a brilliantly original “hero-at-the-mercy-of-the-villain” scene (don’t tie them to chair AGAIN!)? Hope this tour of Story Genre has been helpful.


Remember my reaction when I received the Edit results, was, OMG after all that time spent writing and self-editing. I have gotta do a complete re-write.  Editing the True love story thread out from the True crime story.  WHY? Criminals, Heroes  and Action men and women fall in love don't they?   Yes they do. You can include a love story thread in a True crime story.  Just  ensure you honour the genre conventions.


Twilight by Stephenie Meyer

The Trouble With Goats And Sheep by Joanna Cannon

Alien (film)

Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Cool Runnings (film)

Dirty Dancing (film)

Finding a Literary agent and writing the Query letter next  here