My writing journey continues. I started submitting my manuscript to the first publisher on my list which I had compiled in March. If you missed this previous post, you can read more in my post My Memoir Writing Journey: the Publisher Pitch. This week, I thought I share three successful strategies that I followed during the past 15 months to get feedback on my manuscript.
Strategy number one: Form or join a writing group
It is nothing new, and I know there are many writers’ groups around. However, I believe, the recipe for success is persistence. After finishing my first life writing class in January 2015, I initiated a memoir writers’ group with initially five people. We started meeting monthly and worked out a format the suited us best. I would invite to the monthly meeting, and, depending on who was going to come, I asked the participants to distribute their work. When we first started, we only shared a couple of pages with the other members. Later on, as our writing had improved and we had amassed many more chapters, we agreed to distribute entire chapters for critiquing and feedback. Our life writing teacher, Patti Miller, had guided us into this process which seemed a bit daunting to me initially; over time, however, we all had gained confidence in commenting on our fellow writers’ work. Although a few people could not commit to the monthly schedule consistently, the core group is still meeting. The writers I met in the advanced life writing class formed an additional group, and we decided to offer two meetings per month for everyone to join – providing a second opportunity to meet and get feedback on your writing within a month.
I can’t stress enough how much this group means to me, and apart from getting constant feedback on my work I have met some lovely people through my group and made new friends along the way.
Strategy number two: Become a member of your state Writers’ Centre
I joined the New South Wales Writers’ Centre (NSWWC) at the beginning of 2015 to connect with other writers and stay up-to-date with industry developments. As the centre is a 45-minute drive from where I live I focus on full-day events or workshops that interest me most. I enjoy the broad range of courses and events they offer. When their half-yearly brochure comes out, I usually choose one or two events to attend. Last year, for example, they ran a one-day non-fiction festival with a panel of journalists, magazine and newspaper editors, and non-fiction authors including memoir. At this event, I connected with a biography author and got a glimpse behind the scenes of the daily jobs of a newspaper or magazine editor. Additionally, those events offer the opportunity to start a conversation with other writers and authors.
At the end of April, I attended the Pantera Press Open Day at the NSWWC where I had the opportunity to receive feedback on my memoir manuscript. Although I had only a 15- minute slot with one of their submission editors, I can not stress enough how valuable this session was. The editor provided me with two A4-pages of general comments plus detailed suggestions how to improve specific parts of the chapters he had read. He also handed me a one-page document with 10 tips to submit your manuscript to a publisher and asked me to submit the entire manuscript when I was ready.
Strategy number three: Find beta-readers
Early 2016, after I had written around 70,000 words I engaged a memoir editor for a structural edit. The feedback from the editor resulted in the second draft. At this stage, I started to look for a couple of beta-readers. Searching for someone who represented my target market I asked one of my best friends – an Austrian immigrant – to read the manuscript. Luckily, she agreed. My second beta-reader came out of the Facebook group from the AWC Build your Author Platform. When the group was established in February with the first students who had done the online AWC course, everyone started to introduce themselves. One writer from Adelaide mentioned that she does a lot of beta-reading of novels. I asked her if she would read my memoir, and she said yes. Although memoir was not her favourite genre, she made some comments that made me change the introduction of one of the four parts of my book. Interestingly, she had exactly pointed out what I was feeling did not work in this opening of part four.
Considering the feedback from my two beta-readers and the comments from the editor of Pantera Press I finalised the third draft of my memoir manuscript – ready to start the submission process.
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