Where do I go from here?
by James Pekarek
Question: So I have almost finished my novel. I have 81,000 words divided into 23 chapters. I have no idea where to go. I have never written a book in my life, but I have had this story in my head for years. It’s somewhat true, based on a family I know. One day I decided I had to start writing it down. It turned into a massive project, but it was easy. I already knew the whole thing from start to finish. I just had to color it up and add some drama and fun. Now that it’s almost done, I’m not sure what to do with it. I would love to publish it, I don’t have any delusions about getting rich, I just think it would be neat to have something published and have some hand copies.
I think the story is great, but to someone else it may not be. I had two people read parts of it and they said it was very good, even made them cry in spots. But they are close friends, I don't know if I trust their opinions. Should I have someone I don't know read through the story to see if it flows or if it’s interesting? My fear is that I have never in my life even read a book! I know I can write well, but where do I go from here? How do I find out if this thing is worth the paper (or computer) it's written on?
You have a few options here.
If you are convinced the book is already as good as it can be, you can
try approaching publishers and agents. (See the "Getting Published" tab on this site.) Just remember, it can be a lengthy process to find a publisher, even if you have a great book.
Of course, it is likely that your book is not yet ready for that step. Most first books take several drafts and a lot of revision to polish them to the point where they are ready to be published. And many never get there.
Sadly, lots of people think they have great books when they don't. It's hard to be objective about one's own work. It's also hard to trust friends' opinions, if they are not writers.
You should try to get an opinion from a knowledgeable person or two -- for instance, a published author.
You can hire a critique service (look for ones offered by writers' associations, not independent businesses), but they can be expensive.
A less expensive approach may be to join a local writers' group where everyone reads and critiques each other's work. Look for a group where most members are more professional or knowledgeable than you.
Some major writers' associations have online critique groups too, if that is an easier option.
Some writers hire editors to pre-edit manuscripts before they send them out. But again, this can be an expensive service.
If all you want is to see the book in print, you can self-publish. However, even if you go this route, I still think you would be better off getting opinions of knowledgeable people first and making sure the book is ready. You want to have a book you can be truly proud of, after all.
Best of luck.