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Help - confused...what to do next

Hello everyone

I'm brand new to writing. I've had a story that has been rattling around and developing, then I finally started to put fingers to keyboard last year. I'm at the point now where I think I've told the story I wanted and added as much as I think I can. I've read and re-read a couple of times.

So I have this e-manuscript and I don't know what to do next. The reality is, as this is my first book, I don't even know if the story would be good enough to print. I cannot find anyone I know to even read it (I guess my circle of friends don't like Sci-Fi), never mind critique it.

I've asked other forums and been landed with contradictory answers, which doesn't help. For example, some questions with some responses I've received:

-Should I use beta readers (free or paid)? Yes; No, Cannot be trusted

-Do I need a beta reader before of after an editor? Before; After ; don't need them (I honestly got cold feet after hearing some horror stories)

-Do I need a proof reader? Maybe; Yes

-Do I need to copyright my book? Yes; No

-In which order do I look for a beta reader, editor, proof reader, publisher, etc? (Take your pick on this one)

So, as you can imagine, I'm confused. All I want is someone to say if it's worth pursuing or not. If it is, then what next; if not, I'm happy that I've been able to put something down in the form of a story. 

As for the story itself, it's Sci-Fi / AI related; approx 81k words; POV is 3rd person with some dialogue; there is violence and death involved. There is also a twist...

Blurb would be:

A small group of scientists are tasked with a project of creating the worlds 1st true AI. Having overcome some initial issues, and as the team feels it is nearing success, doubts the over morality of the project appear, as well as sinister figures who are keeping a close watch on the project.

Any guidance would be really great!

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Replies (14)
    • I can only give my personal experiences rather than advice, I'm sure someone with more knowledge than me will be along soon.

      Professional editing and proofreading can get very expensive, you want to make sure your ms is as close to the way you want it before you embark on that process. If you engage an editor and then rewrite, you may then be paying for the editing a second time once you finish your rewrites. For me being dyslexic any rewrites will need work by a professional.

      For my first book my editor, gave me general feedback, which triggered a lot of rewriting, some chapters only a few lines of original text remained. Then the whole ms was put on one side and left for 3-4 months while I worked on something else. The self edit that came afterwards I was then able to do with fresh eyes and not read what I thought was there.


      Re beta readers, I find them useful, be that friends or strangers. Be prepared for some feedback to be useful, and some to be an overall critique. My sister is particularly useful for my process as she doesn't hold back. One project at first draft stage she stopped reading at chapter six of fourteen, but her reason for doing so was incredibly valuable for me and when I go back to that project there is a few months of rewrites just from her three lines of feedback. 

      The disadvantage to having friends review your ms is they may be kind to you and not be as helpful as you require. The flip side of the coin using strangers is you don't know what use their feedback is other than a subjective point of view.

      Have you looked at the one to one sessions available here, maybe speaking with an agent or book doctor would be a place for you to work out your next move? 


      Your blub sounds interesting, having just been working on one myself I can see some room to make it more concise and hook the reader slightly more, but the premise is one that sounds like it would be a good story.     

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      • Thanks for your feedback. Interesting thought on the blurb. How much detail to add would be my next question. I guess the key is to get the interest in a few lines. So I should be asking what points would interest me as a Sci-Fi reader, I suppose.. then apply the same principle. Cheers!

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      • Hello, fellow Yorkshire writer!

        Once I'd finished my manuscript and summoned quite a lot of courage, I began by posting the opening chapters of my YA novel here - and had overwhelmingly kind but useful feedback. I've found that to be the rule here - people are kind and supportive, but honest too, and if they don't think something works, they will say so. 

        Arising from that, I found a couple of wonderful folk in the Townhouse with whom I did a manuscript swap and we gave each other feedback. We've never met in person, so they didn't have to be too worried about hurting my feelings, but they too were constructive and helpful. 

        If it's just a sense of whether it works that you need, this seems to me a good way to start - it doesn't cost you anything and I certainly found that I learnt a lot from the process - even when I didn't agree with a piece of feedback, it made me think about why, and made me justify the choices I was making.

        And (I should have started with this) congratulations on finishing a manuscript! As we all know on here, that in itself is a major achievement. Good luck with the next steps!

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        • Thanks Sue. Its quite a scary feeling - the possibility of sharing it with someone. The thing I suppose is that I'm trying to gauge if the story/concept is even that good, before it's fine tuned. If it is, that's ok. But I guess when you hear stories about theft of ideas, a new writer would get a bit nervous about sharing!

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        • Hi, well done on finishing your MS. And this is the place to make it even better; there's a lot of useful information here. My advice - based on what I've learnt on this site in the past year or so - is:

          Before you do anything, if you are a member of Jericho Writers (and you should be - I started off confused like you and have leant so much) then go to section of the website where they keep the online seminars / classes - you can watch them for free. Watch everything on editing, getting published, how to write novels, point of view. And check out the blogs too on these and any other subjects that seem interesting.

          Then sit and think about what you've learnt and re-read your book carefully. You will want to re-work it. For that I recommend doing a flatplan. It shows you what's where in the book on a few pages (eg my 270 page book - 80k words - takes up 8 pages of flatplan), so useful. It's covered in one of the editing seminars - sorry haven't got access to my notes to tell you where. It helps you work out your most effective novel structure and then you can do other things like look at clarity, and emphasis, before worrying about spelling, grammar etc.

          Then, when you have got the book where it needs to be, there's stuff on how to publish yourself and via a publishing house, get an agent etc etc. That's the point when beta readers, mentors, professional editors etc might help you further.

          It sounds like a lot of work and it is, but it's fun and there are plenty of others like you on this site who can give support and ideas. And many who have done all of this and been published. Not me, yet, but I know it's more possible now. (And I'm not on commission.)

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          • Thanks Maggie. I think I'll be poking around the seminars and blogs. Like the idea of a flatplan as well. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself getting someone to take a look! I suppose a new writer doesn't know what they don't know... 

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            • Some of us who have been writing for years still had to learn all of this and more. Enjoy!

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            • Well done on completing a first drat. That's a great achievement.

              As Maggie says, investing time and money in JW's library of videos is a must. It will help you with the craft, and later with the industry. 

              What's the point of writing if you're not going to share? Just posting an opening 1000 words for comment in the peer-to-peer forum, or the SFF group, will get both positive support and tough love!

              For example, your elevator pitch: 

              On the plus side, it has the ingredients an SF fan will want to see: AI, ethical dilemmas, and someone who wants to use tech for nefarious ends. 

              On the negative side, what the pitch lacks (I can't speak for the novel as a whole, obviously) is a hook. Who is the protagonist? What's at stake for them? And what is the twist that marks your story out from the thousands of others that have exactly the same set-up? 

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              • Thanks Glyn, much appreciated. I see what you mean about the hook, and ask myself what sets my story apart from the others...!

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              • All good advice above. I'll throw some extra bits/duplication in.

                The first thing to do is refine your craft. Learn as much as you can about writing, about storytelling, about structure. (Books, courses, other… whatever works for you.) Learn enough that you can gain a more realistic perspective on your own work. (Impossible to do completely, but new knowledge after the writing can be somewhat objective.) And post a chapter for feedback here. Or start by looking though feedback others have received and analysing that; try to understand the perspective that led to the comments. Any suggestion for improvement, look to apply the same logic to your own work. (Assume that every failure found in others' work will be in yours.)

                You are far too early in to process to be going to any kind of paid editor. Assume you'll need several rounds of heavy edits from your own learning, then the same based on feedback from beta readers. Only once it's as good as you can possibly make it should you think about spending money on it. Because if the structure is no good, fixing the prose won't fix the story.

                The order is learn, beta readers, learn, beta readers, learn, (repeat ad infinitum), agent, publisher. editor, proof reader, copy editor.

                You don't need to do anything to copyright it; that you've written it means it is automatically protected by copyright.

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                • Thanks Rick - I think I'm getting the main themes of the feedback - thankfully, they're very similar! Also, perhaps I'm not as far forward as I first thought! 

                  Nonetheless, I'm chuffed that I was able to write something of an 'ok' length, that at least has the bones of a story with a start, middle and end!

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                • HI I'd echo the above comments - you might be a brilliant writer whose first manuscript is a slam dunk hit, but chances are you're like the rest of us, where a first draft is very much that, a first draft. The sage advice has always been finish the draft which you have done - well done many many people never get that far!

                  Don't look at it for a week or two (Start something else) very few writers ever get their first manuscript into print it's part of the process I'm afraid, then go back to it and start again - shorten long sentences, create the tension at the end of each chapter that makes the reader want to read the next one and generally rewrite the whole damn thing. If you're anything like me you'll need to do this three, four or even five times before it's at a stage to share with anyone else. 

                  Then, as above share a few chapters on here for dissection - we are usually gentle enough - bearing in mind once you get to the stage of sending to agents etc the feedback might be amazing but might also be quite brutal and you need to develop the rhino hide that writer need to wear...Good luck and well done for finishing a manuscript quite an achievement believe me!

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                  • Cheers Danny - A good idea to leave it alone for a bit then return to it. I did start to wonder if there was scope for a sequel, but that needs more thought, I think

                    It's interesting that a few others have suggested sharing a portion of the book to get a flavour. At this point I'm pleased that I got it all captured before I forgot it...!

                    As for having rhino hide, I'd rather that the feedback was honest and constructive; without it, I cannot learn!

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                  • Hi all

                    I've been thinking about the comments and I'm going to see what I can find on this site to help. In the meantime, I've been having a rethink on the blurb/pitch (is that a technical or literary term?!), and came up with the below. Both Richard and Glyn mentioned this...

                    Comments welcome!

                    A small team at MIT are working towards building the world’s first true Artificial Intelligence.

                    For Professor Jack Reynolds and his wife Doctor Alison Reynolds, this journey represents several years researching, sacrificing, building… obsessing, even. With the help of two brilliant graduates, the team eventually feel that they are nearing their goal. 

                    But a sudden, perhaps unhealthy, interest in the project by a USAF General, and a realisation that someone else has access to the lab, makes them uneasy and doubts of the morality of the project arise. 

                    Who else has access to the lab and what's their objective? 

                    Is it the Colonel? 

                    Is it someone else working for MIT? 

                    Is it one of them?

                     

                    …Or someone else…?

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