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I am writing my first novel, and I'm nearly finished. I have about 45K and am probably looking at 10K more before I finish.

I have two questions.  First, will it hinder me in getting published because I do not have any professional training in writing? I am 22 years old and just graduated from college, but my degree is in science.

Also, I was wondering how intense the publishing process is. I am starting graduate school in three weeks and was hoping to have my novel finished before I start. Should I wait until I get my master's to start trying to get it published, or will I be able to do it at the same time?

Thank you so much for your time!


Hi, Chantal!

First, congratulations on nearly finishing your novel! No, you don't need a single professional class. There are bunches of scientists who are novelists. Lots of Religious Studies majors, lawyers and doctors too!

However, I will have to warn you that 55K probably isn't long enough to submit in today's market, unless your book is literary or young adult. Novels on the regular genre shelves (mystery, romance, horror, thriller, SF/Fantasy, mainstream) are usually 85-100K. Especially in a tight economy, publishers are trying to cut costs. One of the easy ways to do that is to buy in bulk. Cover stock is only cut in certain sizes unless it's specially ordered. One of the most common sizes is the size that fits the 85-100K books.

Now, that's not to say it's IMPOSSIBLE to sell a shorter novel (look at "The Bridges of Madison County" or "the Notebook".) But it's EASIER to sell a longer one.

Which leads us to your second question. The publishing process depends on getting to the point of publication. If you're not yet finished, you're not nearly close to ready. Most every author considers their first book as a "learning experience" that probably isn't marketable in the form it is at the end of the first draft. Yep, you're finishing your first DRAFT. Most editors suggest taking that draft and putting it in a drawer for 2-6 months before you pull it out again to start the edit process. What's going to happen is that you're going to find all the things you THOUGHT were on the page, but in reality, aren't. But there's no way to know what's missing until you forget the fine details of the book and that is just a matter of waiting.

So, in a manner of speaking, sure, you can do both at once, because a chunk of each semester should be spent with the manuscript in a dark drawer--leaving you plenty of time for studying. Then you take it out on breaks and give it a pass at editing and then put it away for a few weeks again. You'll be utterly AMAZED at how much that you truly believed was inspired and wonderful, makes you say "WTF?!" when you read it again. LOL! It's the same with every one of us!

The best thing is to take it slow. There's really only one chance at each publisher for the book. If you send it in first draft form, it's the same as turning in a term paper the morning after you wrote all night in the library. You MIGHT pass, but it's a coin toss. And a book that might well have been published by a company in perfect form, will never get that chance.

Does that help any? Good luck with your master's!


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Cathy Clamp


I'm happy to answer questions about any aspect of writing novels, from the beginning kernel of an idea through completion. I can help with writing a query letter and synopsis to an agent or editor. I can explain publishing terminology and acronyms. I can also assist with questions about verifying the credentials of agents/publishers and how to proceed once you've been accepted for publication. I can teach the rules of formatting a manuscript, creating viable plots, characterization and flow in the following genres: romance, science fiction, fantasy, thrillers, suspense, horror, women's fiction, mainstream and mystery.


I'm a USA Today bestselling author of urban fantasy and paranormal romance for Tor/Forge Books. Along with a co-author, I've published fifteen novels (combination of mass market and trade softcover) since 2003, and have contracts for four more books through 2011.

Romance Writers of America, Science Fiction & Fantasy Writers of America, International Thriller Writers, Western Outdoor Writers, Horror Writers of America.

Tor/Forge Books, Western Reflections Publishing, BenBella Books, Running Press, Wild Child Publishing. Many others.

My educational background is limited to real life experience of publishing novels commercially for the past five years.

Awards and Honors
USA Today bestseller, Waldenbooks Mass Market Paperback Top 20 bestseller, Nielsen BookScan Top 20 bestseller, RT BOOKreviews Career Achievement Award winner, 2009, Book Buyers Best Award for Paranormal, Romantic Times Best Werewolf Novel, Write Touch Readers Award, EVVY Best Historical Chronicle Award, The Lories Best Paranormal. Many others.

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