Friday, November 16, 2007

Telling Right From Wrong (Part 17)

Don't Go Round And Round In Circles

Photograph copyright: DAVID McMAHON

While I was finishing my second novel I took a break from this series of posts where I answer questions from writers. But I handed over my manuscript a fortnight ago and today I've had a query from an Australian writer called Shane, who has almost completed his first novel. This is what he said:

I've written about 80,000 words and estimate that I am about 80 per cent finished. I had a look at your blog and noticed that you have had some real success with your published novels and was hoping you might be able to spare a couple of moments to give me some advice on getting my novel published.

Yes, I'm always happy to help. There are two ways you can jump here, depending on how thoroughly you've edited the 80,000 words. I'll come to your options in a minute, but I choose to edit AFTER I've finished writing. I'll explain why in a forthcoming post.

Option 1. If you've edited the 80,000 words, and you're reasonably confident that the edited version is good to go, you could consider getting in touch with publishers and agents. Generally, Australian publishers prefer that rookie (ie: unpublished) authors go first to agents.

If this is what you want to do, you now need to write a synopsis of your novel. Some people write synopses that are 10,000 words long, but my synopsis for my first novel, Vegemite Vindaloo, was just three sentences long.

The process of contacting agents and sending them your synopsis and the first three chapters of your novel is described in an earlier post in this series, A Monopoly On Query Letters.

Option 2. Finish the entire book, give it a complete edit and polish and then send the synopsis and first three chapters to agents. The choice is yours.

Bear in mind I'm only an email or blog comment away and it would be my very great pleasure to mentor an up-and-coming Australian novelist. I was extremely lucky to find a major publisher the wrong way, even before I'd finished my novel, but I would like to use that experience to guide other promising novelists.


Luke said...


Cool picture. And, for what it's worth, I think it's pretty cool that you take so much time trying to help other people with their writing and/or photography.

Very admirable.

david mcmahon said...

Thank you, Luke,

Nice to hear from you, my friend. I know that you enjoy giving back to others too, so you know how rewarding it is.

Perfect timing too, because I only just published that post and hey, your comment appeared almost immediately!

Keep smiling


Helena said...

Still don't have my results!
Should get them by Christmas, they reckon!
Haven't written a thing since packing off the final assignment in October.
Not so much writer's block, more stasis.
Had several more peeps saying Bob should do a book.
(It could go to his head.)
Wonder if to find an agent- would one look at his blog, do you think, or should I work on a paper version, a diary, maybe? What d'you reckon?!

Lisa said...

Hi David,

Just wanted to say that I love your positivity and willingness to help other writers. I'm launching my freelance writing career, and I really enjoy reading your tips and 'questions answered' sections.



david mcmahon said...

Hi Helena,

Book? BOOK? Did you say B O O K? I'm grinning from ear to ear, because that is music to my ears.

I'm sure you (and Bob) remember what I said in the review of your blog a few months ago.

I wrote that you would surely be the next Beatrix Potter - with your powers of acute observation, your creativity and your art skills.

I have never wavered from that declaration.

Why don't you spend those long winter evenings choosing Bob's best writing? Try and pick them by themes or groups - and let's take it from there.

I think Chickenhouse (based in the UK) deal with this sort of literature, but you'd also need to scout as many agents as possible.

I'm delighted. Let's keep talking about this ....



david mcmahon said...

Hi Lisa,

How nice to hear from you. I have to say, I really enjoy helping other writers.

It brings a smile to my face ....

Do keep in touch


Melissa said...

Hi David!

My daughter loves these rides at the fairs! I think it's wonderful that you try to help people out as much as you do with their writing.

captain corky said...

That's very thoughtful and selfless of you. Most people are really selfish and it's cool that you're not.

Anonymous said...

Hi David, not sure that you got my comment on here! Apologies if you did and I'm just repeating myself!

Was trying to say how much I appreciate your blog. Together with the advice and patience you have for fellow bloggers like myself wanting to get on. It's so good to have a site to go to for advice and such good advice at that. And thank you for visiting my blog today.

Crystal xx

San said...

Love the carnival ride image!

And I want to read your post more carefully, when I have more time.

Akelamalu said...

It's so good of you to give your advice so freely. :)

Cuckoo said...

Hi David.. the selfless gentleman,

How're you doing ? :)

I have a question to ask you. I am not a novel writer, at present I only blog, mostly in English.

The question is
Sometimes while writing we want to use a phrase/quote or saying that is very apt for the situation but is in our mother tongue, say, for example it is in Hindi for me.
How fair or justified it is to use such quotes keeping in mind that some of the readers won't understand it ?

I try to give the translated version in brackets but the impact it has in original language, goes away. It is evident from the readers who know both the languages.
It is something like if you translate a quote of French in English, it won't have the same impact.