Note, this post contains asterisks. Not necessarily because I think you'll need them, I just LOVE asterisks.
Because nothing grabs you like an Austen (or indeed, Black Adder!) style title. But Katherine, why so D&D*? Well, I've spent some many, many hours reading book blogs by editors, agents, writers, and interns and holy crap, it's depressing.
They say it pays to find out about the industry before you try to enter it, and I can see why. I am now D&D-ingly wondering how many agents laughed at the friendly postcards I naively sent out almost two years ago when I was just a young fool with dreams and a knowledge of how to approach art editors (lesson one, we learned, postcards) and thought 'Hey, I could do that for books! Nobody will have seen it before and I will immediately have a book deal!'
Needless to say, here I am, a receptionist. Many thanks to the kind and lovely agents who actually took the time to look at my website though before saying they weren't interested.
I tried NaNoWriMo but it led to un-editable tales of incest. I tried writing a serial but I ran out of ideas and ended up with some too-serious and badly planned dross that might be salvageable but I'm not sure I'll bother.
And don't get me started on my first full length manuscript, written sporadically between ages 18 and 20. This rambling draft switched between solemn acres of description and fluffy, light-hearted attempts at misplaced humour. The sort of thing that, if you could visit your younger self, you'd give them a slap for.
Regular readers (Hi, Ma!) will know I've recently started my fourth** attempt at something novel-length and readable and am trying it the meticulously planned and researched way, rather than the slap-dash and stupid way I have previously favoured. Part of this research is finding out as much as I can about the industry. I've realised it's not just the craft of writing a book that's important, it's approaching an agent or publisher, too.
If you've never researched any of this, and are as clueless as I once was (and really, still am), DO IT, DO IT NOW. I can't begin to tell you how much I've read that points out that what you see as going against convention is seen by others as unreadable and irritating. (hides manuscripts and postcards under the bed)
It seems to me that the publishing industry is much like every other. If you're professional and GOOD at your job, you'll do well. Thing is, you never know if you're any good until you try.
Disheartening though it is and has been, and ashamed as I am of my past work, not only do I know it's bad but I know not to do that again. As much as I cringe at my naivety, at least I'm further on now than I ever have been. Better equipped to write a book, even if it still isn't much good.
Having read a range of opinion from successful and lovely writers and agents, as well as from some not so lovely, jaded people, it seems there's no formula for doing well. This is the plan of action I've formed based on all I've read:
Once you've honed your manuscript to perfection, get someone unbiased to read it, then rewrite, rewrite and rewrite. Even though you've poured months/years of your life into this, you have to be disconnected and able to accept criticism.
Now it's honed to perfection again, start approaching specially selected agents using a killer query letter that's professional, grammatically correct and doesn't mention the phrases 'will change your career' or 'bigger than Harry Potter'.
Cross your fingers and wait. Hope you're as good as you were that time you dreamed you were on the local news telling Harry Gration about the film adaptation. If you're not, or they don't like it, consider re-editing, and try again. If you realise you're flogging a dead horse, move on, learn and try again.
Hmm, simple. So yeah, that's my plan. I may well waste years of my life pursuing this, but heck, it's worth a good go.
Good sites I've learned a lot from are Bubble Cow, Pimp My Novel and Jody Hedlund's blog. Of course, there's loads of info out there, but they seem a good place to start.
** ok, make that eighth