Manuscripts are alive: never stop revising them

I know that when an agent says she wants the manuscript in near-pefect condition before she is queried she is saying she wants it complete and clean. But she’s not really expecting it to be finished.

I can’t imagine ever stopping the revision process of mine. It’s ongoing, like raising a kid.

I recently sent an agent the first chapter, on her request. Then minutes after punching the send button I promptly read through and rewrote that first chapter on my laptop.

I now have manuscripts out to a bunch of beta readers and none has responded yet. Meanwhile, I’ve done some significant revisions here and there behind their backs.

It’s not that the work wasn’t complete and clean. It’s that I keep changing every day and so does a living, breathing document like a novel manuscript. I’ve not done any research on this and I’ll not bother. I’ve been a professional writer for 30 years — albeit as a newspaper reporter — and I am supremely confident that no work of writing is ever truly finished until it is published.

In a way, publishing something kills it — that’s the day the work stops changing.

Beta Readers may be easier to find than I thought

I put out a social media call last night for Beta Readers for my The Murder Plague manuscript and was quickly met by seven excellent volunteers shouting “Me! Me! Me!”

There may be no authors or fiction editors in this mix, but there are some who are close. Several current or former newspaper writers and editors, and some English lit majors. At least three who’ve got a history of being so bluntly honest with me to really piss me off. At least three who are such voracious readers that they humble me. Some clearly are in my target audience.

I shipped Beta drafts to all of them. Now I have to bunker down and prepare myself for the incoming fusillade. Because it’s coming.

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Why exactly are we Tweeting? These people aren’t really reading tweets, are they?

My Twitter account got hacked last night and it took me until the morning to get it back under my control, but in the meantime it seems the worst the perps did was use my name to send a lot of spam tweets to my “friends.”

I’d feel a lot worse about this if I actually knew many of them.

I did hear from a couple of them. One is an old friend, one of the few actual friends following that account. Thanks very much Linda, for alerting me to the problem. The other was very sweet but it was a woman I don’t know. Like the vast majority of of my twitter follows, I don’t know anything abot her beyond her 160-character bio, what she shares, that I ever catch, in her 140-character tweets, and what she might link to, if I ever bother to follow those links.

She was paying attention, and more, she was concerned enough to send me, a stranger to her, a heads-up. But I doubt the vast majority of tweeters I’m following on that account ever bother to read incoming tweets.

Here’s something I discovered in the past week or so after re-activating this account and seeking to use it to network with other writers, agents, editors, reviewers, publishers and anyone else involved in words: Most of the people I’ve linked up with have thousands, tens of thousands, even more than 100,000 followers. And they try to follow that many.

On my professional account I’ve got about 800 followers, and I follow about 700, and I cannot keep up with what everyone is tweeting. On my writing account, the one that got hacked, I’m following about 450 so far, and have about 160 followers, and it’s beginning to get tough to keep up. I have no idea where anyone gets time to keep up with 50,000 followers. You could random sample incoming tweets, but that’s about it.

“They don’t read incoming tweets,” a colleague, another writer, suggested to me today. “It’s a one-way affair. They follow to be followed. They seek to be followed so that they can have an audience to whom they can tweet.”

But what if no one in that audience ever bothers to read their incoming tweets because they’re all following 50,000? Is it a sham? It is a new form of vanity press? Publish to write, not to be read?

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