You've completed your manuscript. What comes next?
Firstly, congratulate yourself on an amazing achievement. Most people who say they'll write a book, or who start writing one, never finish. You're already ahead.
Next, no matter how great you and your friends think your book is, find someone (or a couple of someones) who know your genre and ask them to crit your work. Do not expect them to pat you on the back. A crit partner's job is to find the holes in your work and to help you make your writing stronger. That inevitably means some criticism in with the praise. But this is a whole topic on its own, which I'll address in a future blog post. Alternately, you can pay a professional to edit or critique your manuscript.
When you finally think your manuscript is as strong as you can possibly get it, you need to submit it. This is an important step. You cannot believe how many people complete novels and then never send them out into the world. Yes, you should be writing because you love writing, but you are also denying yourself the incredible opportunity to be published.
Now you are ready to hit send - but where do you send it? Research the options available for your kind of novel. Who publishes that genre? Do they accept unsolicited submissions, or do they only accept submissions via agents? Then check out the submission guidelines for the publishers or agents you've chosen to target. Many agents or editors (the people at the publishing houses who read the submissions) want a query letter, a synopsis and the first 3 chapters. But they all differ in what they want and how they want it. Make sure you give them what they want or you will be sabotaging your own submission.
Once you've hit 'send' on the email or handed the envelope across the post office counter, be prepared for a very long wait. Publishing is probably the slowest business in existence. The best thing you can do now is start work on your next project and try to forget that your little baby has left home.
What happens next?
Well this post is already long enough, so check in tomorrow for Part Two.