Monday, February 23, 2015

A Simply Novice Mistake

In 1992 I wrote a political thriller called Kiss of the Assassin. One of its subplot centres around the Soviet Union's involvement in the Vietnam War and later the union's eventual collapse.

After months of research, years of editing, six workshops, revisions, and help with my query letter, I submitted to every agent/publisher in my genre. The response back was the same, “Sorry, no one's interested in Vietnam.”

This year, because of a renewed interested in the War, I pulled Kiss from the shelf and subbed a few chapters to my online writer's group.

Footnote: In the 90s if you told me what company you served with in Vietnam, I could estimate where you were and what major incidents you may have encountered during your tour. 

Twenty years has passed since I began Kiss, fifteen years since I set it aside. Why couldn’t I, considering the initial response of my writer’s group, do a quick proofread and start querying?

Because...

One of my beta readers read an article recently first published in 2006 by a Russian defector on the killing methods of the KGB. While my research on the Soviet Union was thorough in the 90s, that article alone proved I no longer had command of my subject matter.

Information revealed in the article stated that the KGB assassins used undetectable radioactive compounds that mimicked cancer and killed within days. My assassin in Kiss of the Assassin uses an empty syringe. This is not a huge blunder by itself, but coupled with the two other inconsistencies he found would have shattered my credibility as a writer.

After two published novels, a collaboration, a silver medal for my 2nd novel, I know I can write. But had I sent out this manuscript without fixing the inaccuracies, I would have either ruined my chances of finding a publisher or proven I was an unreliable storyteller.

Before assuming your edited, critiqued, revised manuscript (no matter how young) is ready to submit, always, always, always seek the help of beta readers you trust; or better, if you can afford it, hire a professional fiction editor.

Don't allow even the smallest of novice mistakes to ruin your chances. Never submit your manuscript too soon. 

Happy Writing!







26 comments:

Christine Rains said...

Excellent advice! I'm lucky to have an awesome editor, and my team of critique partners and betas are terrific at catching things.

Pat Hatt said...

Great advice indeed. The more people that read it the more things can be caught

L. Diane Wolfe said...

You might have missed those if you hadn't set it aside.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

Test readers and critique partners are so necessary.

Susan Gourley/Kelley said...

Wow, good catch on a very small detail. I'm glad people are no longer trying to 'forget' about Vietnam. Good luck with the reworking.

mail4rosey said...

Good tip for the writers! Not something I'd have known, and I'm sure that's the same for others!

Carol Garvin said...

Good catch! It's not just killing methods that may have changed. The food choices our characters might make, their spoken colloquialisms, the technologies they use...everything evolves. Blessed are the beta readers for they shall keep us current!

Cathy Kennedy said...

Interesting post and good info to ponder should I ever write that novel within. That's highly unlikely. I don't think I have it in me, but I love reading about others who are successful at such as yourself. Of course, your point of getting the facts straight serves to remind me with my little blog that I need to be creditable in my research on what I place before my readers.

dolorah said...

Holding onto an unsuccessful original novel in a fantasy genre could be smart. Submit later, and likely nothing has changed. But a contemporary or close historical, yeah, I agree you need to do more up-to-date research. Though, I probably would not have thought of this without reading this first.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Great to hear, Christine. Thanks!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Definitely more beneficial to the author. Thanks, Pat.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I agree, Diane. Thanks.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

They're wonderful gifts, that's for sure. Hi Captain!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Thanks, Susan!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Great to hear, Rosey. Thanks!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Amen, Carol!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Glad you stopped by, Cathy. Thanks for your kind words.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

I was hoping for that response, Dolorah! Thanks.

Michelle Wallace said...

Thanks for highlighting this, Joylene.
I would never have thought about it... great post!

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Thanks, Michelle!

Cathrina Constantine said...

Joylene, great advice!!! I also wrote a YA book where the Vietnam War languishes in the background. I've been told that era is a hard sell. I sent the first chapter out for a review, and I also learned a few minor details that needed correcting.

cleemckenzie said...

Absolutely! It makes perfect sense. It's the old ounce of prevention being worth a pound of cure. Thanks for putting this information out for everyone.

J.L. Campbell said...

It goes to show just how important it is to have the research down and to look at the novel from every angle.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Well, that makes two of us interested in the era. We have to keep trying, Cathrina. Thanks.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Thanks for visiting, Lee.

Joylene Nowell Butler said...

Yes, indeed, Joy. Thanks.