It would seem that more and more writers are going it alone with their Ebooks. The accepted habit of self-publishing in which you employ an expert to mould your finished script into shape seems to be fading fast. Yes, it is an expensive option and for many people outside their budget but, in such cases, before embarking on a go-it-alone course writers should have at their fingertips both the writing skills and the practical presentation skills.
Many have the necessary writing skills. Although sticking words down on paper higgledy-piggledy is not exactly what Shakespeare and Dickens had in mind when they embarked on their careers. Other are like my granddaughter. She writes brilliantly in short bursts but doesn’t have the foggiest notion how to turn brilliant prose into a book. Mostly she fixates on elaborately drawn characters with unpronounceable names living in an equally unpronounceable world and by the time she has written herself into a series of dead-ends, she gives up.
This is a whole different ball game, learning how to structure scenes and chapters and it is a skill worth learning if you wish to be plucked from the crowd and published. After-all to inject a note of frivolity, you wouldn’t exactly set out to go bungie jumping or enter for the Olympics without a soupçon of training.
Books on grammar, layout etc. should also be part of a writer’s armoury. Because my computer lives in my bedroom, I frequently find myself in bed with my dictionary while ‘How to Write a Blockbuster’ sits in my bedside table. Written by Helen Corner and Lee Weatherly, thist is definitely worth a punt, simply because Helen runs an incredibly successful literary consultancy and Lee Weatherly is a successful author.
So the script is finally written and you must, simply must show it to the world.
One of the best pieces of advice I ever received from Helen is never to be in a hurry. In her book you brood over the plot, make a chart of characters, check for plot holes before putting a single word on paper. And then when it is done you put it in a drawer for a couple of weeks before re-reading, then you check and check again looking for missed words and typos. However good a script is, if it sits badly on a page, with sloppy typesetting and typos galore, it doesn’t stand a chance and I also decline to review it, simply because I am unable to judge a story fairly when my attention is constantly drawn by sloppy grammar and editing.
Much like agents. Many receive up to a hundred scripts through the post or by email every week. It’s not possible to give them a fair trial, no matter what it says on the agent’s website about, ‘careful consideration.’ Judgements are therefore often made arbitrarily and scripts dismissed unread that are badly presented, the pages smelling of cigarette smoke, single spaced with typos and spelling mistakes.
Rule of thumb: If an agent likes the first line, they will read the first page. If they read first page, they will read the first chapter … At this point, hey, you are doing well. And if they read the first three chapters and ask to read the remainder … that is totally brilliant. So make your books as perfect as possible before submitting because you only get one chance.
One of the agents that I have dealt with states on her website: if you haven’t spent as much time editing as writing, don’t bother to send in your script.
That is the best piece of advice, I could ever give. Write your script, leave it to brew, then go back and start work on the editing. And don’t be afraid to cut away all the dead wood. That only leads to a better script.