Q: I am a first-time writer. I have great ideas, great storylines, and strong endings. My problem is dialogue. Is it possible to get good ghostwriters from countries such as India, since they are much cheaper than US ghostwriters? If so, where do I begin looking?
A: Writers in India do charge less, but you’re not going to like my answer. If you want to write for an American audience, hiring someone for whom English is a second language is probably not going to result in believable, convincing dialogue. In addition, most ghostwriters write nonfiction, not fiction, because fiction is a literary art, and artists do their own work, which is what makes them an artist.
If you want to write good fiction, learn to write good dialogue. Like anything else you want to conquer, it takes time, study, and practice, but if you have good story ideas, you, and only you, can create the characters and dialogue that fulfills your vision.
Read a book on how to write good dialogue. Listen in on conversations. Pay attention to how people talk. Read books that have good dialogue in them and see how other popular authors handle dialogue. Don’t hold yourself back as a writer by refusing to learn how to write good dialogue.
After you have given it your best effort, a good editor can point out any weaknesses in the dialogue, so you will know which parts to improve even more.
Last of all, know this fact: good contemporary fiction is seventy percent dialogue. Do you really want a ghostwriter to produce seventy percent of your book? I don’t think so.
If after all this advice you are still determined to find someone in India to write your book for you, you can use almost any search engine and type in words such as “ghostwriter” and “India,” and see what you can find. You can also look for international freelance writers associations; you’ll almost always find writers based in India.
Q: I had been sending manuscripts out for eons, only to have them fly back so quickly it felt as if no one could have even looked at them. Finally, after some correspondence with you, I learned to format my manuscript using Courier as the font. What a dummy I've been!
My first submission in Courier was to an editor at the children's division at [a major, top-notch publisher] and it was liked well enough for them to assign me an editor who sent a five-page letter of recommendations, the first sixty pages of my manuscript partially edited, and follow-up e-mails with encouragement, along with a "Let's see what you can do."
Finally, right around the time I was finishing up my rewrite, an e-mail came wondering if I might be getting close and asking if I needed her to look at it. I sent in the completed rewrite shortly afterward. She wrote that she wouldn't be able to get back to me for at least three months. In the meantime, I'm losing my mind.
Should I be using this time to try to get an agent? Can I nudge the editors? Ask questions? Submit other writing to them? How long does this decision process take? What are they doing with my book? What is the process?
A: Here are my suggestions:
The best time to find an agent is after you have received an offer. At that time, you have the best bargaining position to find the best agent for you and for your book. If you receive an offer by phone, thank the publishers, say you are considering it, and that you will get back to them. If you receive an offer by e-mail, do the same. The purpose of an agent is to negotiate a better deal and scrutinize the contract to ensure it is in your best interest. If the offer is within the range of the amount and conditions that you want, you may not need an agent.
I would not nudge the editors. They will take the time they need to make a decision. Obviously they have been helpful and extremely interested in your work. Be patient; you’ve been warned they would take a while.
Never, ever submit other writing while one piece is under consideration. It muddies the waters. The editors may decide they like the second piece better and not buy the first. Right now you have the opportunity to sell the first piece and then sell them the second piece as well. Be patient.
The decision process takes as long as it takes. In some publishing houses it can take up to six months or more. Be patient.
What are they doing with your book? First it has to rise to the top of the reading pile. Someone then reads it, and if it is good enough, that person approves it to go to the next reader. It often ends up going to a committee that mulls over all the books under consideration for the season. Eventually someone choosesthe submissionsthe company will make an offer on. The process takes time. Be patient.
I think you get my drift. Once you have submitted your work, patience is a key ingredient to getting published. You have gotten the attention of a major publisher. Relax. Be happy. Keep writing more books, but don't submit them yet. You don’t have to do anything until you get an acceptance or rejection from this publisher. Put your energy into other writing projects so you won’t lose your mind trying to think of all the possibilities of what’s going on. Patience is vital to every writer’s life.
When I was in my teens, one of my creative writing teachers had on his blackboard for the whole year: "Writing is long patience." Some fifty years later, I look back on all the fits, starts, successes, and failures of my life as a professional writer and editor, and I know for sure that my creative writing teacher was right.