In almost all of my research about what the best approach to getting a novel manuscript ready to query agents with, I have come across a lot of great advice. I have taken many, many approaches that have been suggested. I won’t talk about all of those in this post, but I will talk about two of the most helpful bits of advice.
One of the most common suggestions is to seek beta readers to offer critique and comments on the manuscript. I found this process to be exciting and informative and extremely constructive and helpful. I’m really grateful to the people who willingly and excitedly jumped on board to be a beta reader for me.
There were so many elements to the story and to the characters that my beta readers really helped to pull out into the open. I think that the comments and the suggestions and the considerations offered by each beta reader made the book that much stronger.
The other piece of advice that I was intent on following and have just recently come to understand the full weight of the benefits is that you should seek an author whose work you love and opinion you would respect to review your novel as a mentor before submitting to agents.
Early on in this process, I asked author Nadine McInnis to mentor me on this journey. And she graciously agreed to join the experience. In December, I sent her Draft 5 (which was technically Draft 7) to review. I wasn’t really sure what the process with a mentor was supposed to look like, but I really wanted to see what feedback she would have.
I haven’t yet started to apply the suggestions. I am still in the “rumination” stage where I am considering the suggestions and thinking on ways to apply them or on how they could best work.
Without revealing too much of the story itself, I will give a brief summary of the feedback that I think will help make the novel much stronger as well as some of the comments that really bolstered my spirit.
- Consider placing the novel in the 90s where the attitudes of the public will be better suited for the theme of the novel.
- This would involve updating the cultural references, styles, etc.
- Add more credible medical detail.
- The medical details near the end of the novel are very strong and feel very real; however, these types of specifics would benefit the story by appearing throughout.
- Consider clarifying Carol’s role within the house to be medical from the start, removing any confusion as to why she would be performing nurse-like duties.
- Deepen Carol’s uniqueness, allow her to be more contradictory throughout the story rather than having her dark side only start to show in the later parts of the novel;
- Point of View shifts. This is the big one that I look forward to exploring.
- Go through the novel to identify every time the POV shifts to determine in if the shifts are getting in the way of the narrative flow.
- The novel is told in Third Person Limited from a variety of characters’ POV. This works once the story is further along; however, it can be jarring or confusing to a reader when the shifts appear too early in the story.
- Allow the reader to become familiar with the characters’ POV before switching to another.
- Explore more of Theo’s character to perhaps make him more central to the action of the story. This character being so young could really add more to the story if he were more present.
- Make better use of the rich and vibrant downtown Vancouver homeless atmosphere for Tyler’s past. Bring this part of his history to life within the story.
- The novel was vivid, emotional and moving.
- Tyler is very clear, well drawn and complex in all the right ways. He’s feisty but wounded; funny but aggravating, and deeply ambivalent about almost everything.
- The evocation of the past lives of the residents worked well.
- The dialogue throughout the novel worked very well. These characters are very real, very funny, very moving.
- The human interactions, dialogue and general movement of the novel are all developed and effective.
- Don’t change the title!
These are the suggestions that I received from Nadine. I can’t wait to start implementing them. I feel like they are all on point and really just great. I think that the constructive comments will strengthen the story and I feel like the positive comments have buoyed my spirits and confidence in my abilities at a time when I was starting to doubt myself and the book as a whole.