Friday, January 21, 2011

The Unpublished Author's Boot Camp Manual for 2011

The goal of The Unpublished Author's Boot Camp Manual is to serve as a guide to for unpublished authors to assist them to reach not only competency, but to excel in every area of publishing and prepare them to take the next step in their career.

As you review each section and subsection, you must be able to list a measurable goal that you reached before you can consider yourself proficient.

To help you evaluate your progress each section is also scored. Add up your scores to see how close you are to passing Author Basic Training.

Passed= +55

Passed with Honors = +145

Passed with Honors and Edging To a First Sale =+200

Does The Unpublished Author's Boot Camp Manual guarantee a sale? No. But it does ensure you are prepared to take your writing to the next level in a logical and systematic manner using training tools pulled from over 1,000 Seekerville posts and other sources. We've pulled some of those posts but there are many more in our archives.

Is The Unpublished Author's Boot Camp Manual exhaustive? No, there are far too many topics to cover. This is a primer covering the basics (that's why it's called Author Basic Training).

Is every section necessary? Not at all. There will always be success stories that bypassed "traditional" methodology. The Unpublished Author's Boot Camp Manual philosophy is that the more sections you can master the stronger author soldier you become.


Manuscript Basics

Have you mastered these basics?

A. (5 pts) Point of View

Do you understand POV? Deep POV? Can you transition point of view smoothly and logically?

B. (10 pts) Conflict (Internal & External)

Can you explain the difference between internal and external conflict? Does your story have strong internal and external conflict that doesn't fall apart half-way through the manuscript?

C. (5 pt) Characterization

Characterization is how you create your characters using dialogue, narrative, pov, and interactions with other characters. Are you able to create strong and vivid characters?

D. ( 10 pts) Plot

Plot is your story structure consisting of goal, motivation and conflict. Define the GMC for your story.

E. (5 pts) Theme & Premise

Can you describe theme and premise separately?
Stanley D Williams describes theme as a universal truth.
Premise would be your story line.

F. (5 pts) Hooks

The catalyst that grabs the reader. Does your story have an opening hook? Chapter ending and beginning hooks?

G. (5 pts) Show vs. Tell

Can you define show vs. tell? Showing is expression through dialogue, action and the five senses. Showing enables the reader to see your story.



Exhibit A-The Manuscript

A. (10 pts each) Completed Manuscripts

How many have you completed?

B. (2 pts each) Partial Manuscripts

A partial manuscript consists of three chapters or more. How many do you have?

C. (5 pts) Synopsis

A summary of the story and plot outline.

One page story selling synopsis or a multiple page plot outline synopsis.

D. (5 pts)Editing & Revising

Editing is a surface polishing or the mechanical cleanup of your story. Revising is structural cleanup for consistency and clarity of the GMC.

E. (10 points) Critiques (groups, one-on-one or professional editing )

Points are only given if you submitted material.



Contesting: (scoring for 2010 only)

( 2 points per contest for entering- five points per contest for finaling-ten points per contest for winning. For section C multiply entering points, finaling points and winning points x 5. An additional 5 pts for every request generated from a contest, IF you actually submitted the requested material.)

A. Contest with no synopsis

B. Contest with Synopsis

C. The Quadruple Crown (The Genesis, The Golden Heart, The Maggies, The Golden Pen)



The Submission Process

A. ( 2 points) One Sheet

Multiply times the number you have written. Add two more points for every one you have actually given out to an editor or agent. BONUS: five points if it generated a request AND you submitted.

B. (10 points) Query Letter

Multiply times the number you have written. Add two more points for every one you have actually mailed or emailed to an editor or agent. BONUS: five points if it generated a request AND you submitted. No points for failing to submit.

C. (10 points) The Pitch

Multiply times the number you have pitched. BONUS: five points if it generated a request and you submitted.

D. (2 points per agent) Agent Due Diligence

Two points for every agent thoroughly researched.

E. (2 points per publisher and/or editor) Publishing House Research

Two points for every publisher thoroughly researched.



The Writer

A. (10 pts) Conferences

Award yourself ten points for each conference attended in 2010, no matter how small. All day workshops are 5 points each and chapter meetings are 2 points per meeting.

B. (2 pts each item) Author Platform

Internet Presence (Webpage, Blog, Twitter, Facebook, other Social Networking)

Branding (tagline created, business cards, stationary, promotional material, professional photos)

C. (10 pts) Career Planning

Have you created measurable goals with steps toward those goals?
Do you have a five year plan?

D. Balancing Life and Your Career.

Unscored. This is the quest for 25 hours in each day.


As your DI (Drill Instructor) I am willing to reward you for taking the time to evaluate your Author Basic Training and share your results with Seekerville. Here's what's up for grabs.

1. One query letter critique.
2. One ten page critique.
3. One five page critique.
4. One copy of The Rancher's Reunion

Offer valid until January 31st. Please specify you would like to be entered and do not enter if you are not ready to submit your pages. Winners announced in the Weekend Edition.

Now give me twenty, Soldier.


  1. That was fantastic Tina!
    I passed with honors. Thanks for compiling all that useful info. Coming to Seekerville everyday, really is like writing boot camp! Thank you all for the effort you put into this blog and for helping aspiring writers. You are all definitely paying it forward. God Bless!

    Eva Maria Hamilton at gmail dot com

  2. As long as I dont' have to DROP AND GIVE YOU TWENTY, MAGGOT!!!

    That's my bootcamp drill sargeant voice.


  3. This was great, Tina.
    Showed me a few spots I need to brush up on. Thank you!

    It also demonstrates what a fabulous bootcamp y'all run here in Seekerville.

    1 - 2 - 3 - 4 - 5....

    yes please!
    may at maythek9spy dot com

  4. Okay, I've finally finished the exam and gotten the coffee pot ready.

    This was a fantastic post and so encouraging.

    I can't believe how many point I racked up. Having 12 complete manuscripts and the partical that I'm working on, having entered a bunch of contests and finaled in two of them, and attending a conference really added up.


  5. Wow what an entry! I love how you spelled out everything that unpublished authors need to know/do to succeed. And TONS of links, very impressive. Thanks for providing so much info.

    I'd love to be entered to win one of those fabulous prizes. meghan.schuessler at yahoo dot com

  6. Attention!

    Good morning, troops.

    Keep up the good work and when you finish the manual the latrine needs to be scrubbed. With a toothbrush.

    At ease.

  7. OOHRAH!! Drill Sergeant!! Great post, Tina.

    Thanks for all the great links and information. I passed with honors, but still a bit shy of edging toward publication. Guess I better hit the obstacle course again, I didn't quite climb that stupid wall.


  8. Ouch -- I crashed and burned in sections IV and V. :-( But I passed!!!! 121. I think I need some intensive training. Ouch. I feel a pull in my writer's muscles already.

    And thanks for the great links! I can see what I will be studying this weekend. :-)

  9. It takes courage to run the course.

    I'm proud to have you all in my platoon.

  10. Tina, Great post. Wow I wish I'd had this info when I started. Took me ten years to pass. Great job.

    When we started this blog, one of our goals was to share inside information we had wished we'd known along the way. From the comments it looks like we're accomplishing our goal.


  11. Thanks for all the links in one place. I have a feeling I've read them all but they're worth re-reading.

    Please don't enter me for the drawing, though I did really well with the answers. I just can't do math this early in the day.

    I request permission to get back to work whipping my last 4 chapters into shape. Thanks Sarge!

  12. Return to duty, Marvin. YOU SLACKER!!

  13. Amazing post, Tina! So many helpful articles and I'm going to start reading or rereading them this morning.Thanks!

  14. What a recap, Tina! Useful stuff for any stage of your career.

    I salute you!

  15. TEN-HUT!!! WOW, Teenster ... uh, I mean Sarge Teenster, WHAT A GOLD MINE today!!! Almost makes me wish I wasn't published so I could shape up!!!

    This could be a book, girlfriend, seriously.

    Thanks for all the exhaustive work on this. I'm exhausted ... can't imagine what it did to you! :)


  16. Great post Tina. If my math is correct, I passed too. :) I'm looking forward to checking out all the links you compiled.

    I'd pick the 10 page critique if I happened to get picked.

    Jodie Wolfe

  17. I passed with honors edging towards publication. Hope the editor who has my MS agrees... ;)

    Thank you, Drill Sergeant!

  18. And yeah.

    I have pages that could be critiqued and etc. Any of the prizes would be wonderful :).

    carol at carolmoncado dot com

  19. My brain is almost frozen this morning, but IF I did the math right, I fell just short of honors. In some areas I really slacked off last years, but not in all areas. =]

    Yes, please enter me. patterly{at}gmaildotcom

    And as I read through the post I was thinking you guys need to turn this material into a book. =]

    argh. I just noticed my captcha word: ensin Ouch. Think it's telling me something? Off to get a toothbrush for that latrine...

  20. Passed with highest honors, Sir!!! Up for #1 - #3, Sir!!!
    Anything else, Sir!!!

  21. This is a great guide, Tina!!! I need to save the link to this post to give to the people who write me and ask what they need to do to get a book published! Great advice wrapped into this quiz. And so many wonderful articles that you provide the links to. I would have aced this quiz before I got published. But it took me a long time and a lot of work to get to that point!

    Have a great morning! Can you believe we got a nice coating of snow last night? AGAIN!? IN ALABAMA!? It's crazy but nice. What's not so nice is that my kids are now NOT going to be off for President's Day and I was going to take them with me to a book signing in Atlanta that day. GRRR

  22. Great post! I bookmarked some of these to read again. When I analyzed myself, I passed but fell short of honors :( So I definitely have a ways to go. But I'd love to be entered for a Seeker critque--especially the longer one. (Gulp!) Guess I'll hit submit before I change my mind . . . and maybe I won't win it anyway . . .

    reneeasmith61 [at] yahoo [dot] com

  23. Hey! I passed! (56 points!) I'm such a newbie that I'm thrilled with my barely passing score!!!

    Thank you so much for such an informative post. I can see the road map in front of me and how I can work to set my goals. Without this information I'd still be floundering somewhere the dark, cold of the sea...not even on unpubbed island yet, let alone seeking a way off... :)

    Enter me, please! I brought cinnamon rolls for everyone, just in case a bribe might help!

  24. this should be saved and posted FRONT AND CENTER somewhere, Tina.

    Like give it the tag of MOST COMPREHENSIVE BLOG EVER!!!!
    So we can all review AND send people to it.

  25. Whoa, Sergeant Tina! You sure know how to prepare your troops! I think you just guaranteed yourself a medal!

    Seriously good stuff here. I agree with Mary--post this on its own permanent blog page.

    Now back to my post. (As in duty station, that is.)

  26. Hi Tina:

    How could anyone who has actually been to boot camp use a boot camp metaphor? I read your post last night and had nightmares! In boot camp they try to break you! “Better here than in combat where other’s lives may depend on you!”

    No fond memories of boot camp! Except I really liked firing all those different weapons. We had a sergeant who could keep a five pound coffee can up in the air indefinitely with a riot gun! When he ran out of shells a troop would hand him another shotgun. That was cool! When it came my time, I missed the can five times! The sergeant yelled at me: “What are you going to do in combat?” And I thought to myself, “I don’t think the Cong are going to be throwing coffee cans at me,” but even then I was smart enough to keep my mouth shut!

    Thanks for all the links! I can’t believe that I missed those two Shirley Jump posts! I think what I need to do is go down the line reading all those posts again!

    I’d like to enter the 5 page or 10 page review as I need to get serious on my WIP revisions.


    Vmres (at) swbell (dot) net

  27. I honestly thought you were going to announce that the Seekers were publishing a book called The Unpublished Author's Boot Camp Manual.

    How cool would that be?


    Are you writing?







  29. Newbie Newbie, don't be blue.

    I was once a newbie too.

    Write pages

    One. Two.

    Write pages.

    Three. Four.

    Write pages.

    One. Two. Three. Four.

  30. Sarge is now on break.

    So on a lighter note.

    My interview is up on eharlequin today.

  31. LOL. And soon we will read an on this very site that Tina has replaced Dr. Seuss in kid lit land and is embarking on a new line of children's books. :-)

  32. Mary - I DID post it front and center! The link is saved in the center of my desktop so that I don't forget to refer to it every day.

    and Tina - my treat to myself this week was my very own copy of "The Rancher's Reunion." It's on my to do list for this weekend (after I finish Rose's "Lily of the Field"). I love doing this kind of research....

    Back to work....I hear my drill sergeant calling...

  33. Kav - we can only hope. Kid lit will NEVER be the same...

  34. Someone want to defy completed?? LOL, yes I know *gives a sad nod of head* which I ain't there yet,BUT I have submitted to contests and critters and freelance editors. If only I was made of money!! ;)

    I don't have a query letter and already have your great book, but a critique would be greatly appreciated, if such a wish were to come true. Thank you. :D

  35. Tina,
    Another wonderful post, girl! I passed with honors, who knew? I'm stoked.

    I don't print many posts off, but this one is a keeper!

  36. I was but 22 points from passing with honors. So pretty good, eh?

    this is a GREAT post. Thanks!

  37. I was surprised to pass because I am very green and still working on my first fiction manuscript (unless you count the four short plays I've written previously.) All those critique groups helped my score! Would love to be entered for the critiques you listed today- minus the query letter. If that is possible. Thank you.

  38. I stopped adding when I got to 2562

    Math is soooooo not my thing.

  39. This is for unpublished authors, right?

    Okay, forget my score. Oops.

  40. .
    While Tina is Gone


    Could it be
    you were one
    quite happy
    getting up
    for K. P.?

    A super

    One, Two
    Three, Four
    Bring it on Down
    One, Two … Three, Four

    I don’t know
    But I’ve been told
    You better not tell
    You better just show

    Write it on down
    One, Two … Three, Four

    I don’t know
    But I’ve been told
    Eskimo stories
    Are pretty cold!

    Sound off:
    One, Two .. Three, Four

    You had a good story
    But you Left
    You’re Right

    You had a good plot
    But you Left
    You’re Right

    You had a good hero
    But he Left
    You’re Right

    Write it on down
    One, Two … Three, Four


    Taps can’t come..
    soon enough
    when you just can't wait
    for more of this stuff!

  41. Thanks for the checklist, Sarge!

    Didn't do as well as I thought. Passed, but no honors. Hmmm... food for thought.

    Great links - will take me hours to check them all.



  42. Yee-haw! I passed with honors on my way to a first sale!

    Oh, sorry. I'll fall back in line now. Please, Sarge, don't make me clean latrines and peel potatoes.

    And I would love to be added to the drawing.

  43. Leave it Vince to come up with his own marching song.

  44. I'm embarrassed to tell you I was a Ducky. Division D. The Ducks.


  45. I hope this helps you soldiers get your writing goals in place for 2011.

  46. I passed. I could get Honors if you allow partial credit in some of these areas, but I'm thinking this isn't quite that sort of outfit. Sigh.

    Still, more valuable than the score or the level is all the information you've collated here, Tina. I'm proud to be a member of your platoon. (When do we eat?)

  47. Fantastic post, Tina. All those resources are so amazing. Many thanks. My calculator says I pass with honors. I feel encouraged now.
    Please enter me for either the five or ten page critique. And I do have a story in which the hero is Army.


  48. Wooorah. Your left your right your left.
    My goodness what a meaty post that is.

    Thank heaven I'm a speed reader... I be through those archives in a couple of minutes for sure. LOL

    Well done, Sargeant Tina gather the troops and head us to publishing victory.

    Tina Pinson

  49. Patricia, funny you should mention food.

    My first adventure into mess hall food was something called grits.

    I thought they were joking.

  50. Been out all week. Haven't been well. Hope you all are good.


  51. Hope you feel better, Linette. Stay away from the chicken soup in the mess hall. Master Sarg. doesn't know how to cook.

  52. Wow, this was exactly what I needed to feel better about how close I am. Thanks so much!

    contact at jamigold dot com

  53. the post looked scary to me sorry to tired to read to much but wanted you all to know I am in Hawaii now.
    I am exhausted and about ready for bed! but am going to try to survive til at least 6.30.
    I got almost no sleep 2 nights ago and little to none on the plane.
    but I know some of you are interested.
    Tina no parcel yet but they will be on the look out for me.

  54. I got 128..better than passing but I have some work to do! (I'm returning to my writing hole now.)

    Enter me in the contest Sargeant Tina. I got some pages screaming to get scrubbed.

  55. It's Preslaysa again. I forgot to add my email addy for the contest


  56. I finally had time today to stop by and say "Hi"...I want to be clear that in no way did I go AWOL because the last thing I need is to be thrown in the brink....

    Unless there is an Alphasmart, laptop with fully charged battery or just plain old pen and paper...that would be okay because I might actually get some writing done!

    Great post, Tina!

    RRossZediker at yahoo dot com

  57. Jenny!!! Welcome to the USA.


  58. Jami, welcome to S Troop.

    Preslaya, nice score!!!

    Rose, aren't you one of the culprits in jail with Mary recently?

    I've got your number, soldier.

  59. Hi Tina:


    You know very well that they didn’t call them grits!

    . . . - - - . . .


  60. LOL, Vince.

    I had basic at Fort McClellan, Alabama. Trust me they were grits. I am from NY. I never heard of them before. They're awful.

  61. Haha, Vince!

    GREAT post, because now I feel much better after that beat down from Camy's post on 18K words in 13 hours. I guess I'm really close, with all those points, haha!

    But I'd like to be entered into the query letter contest because I REALLy have trouble with that one.

    Going AWOL to check outyour interview...

  62. I'd love to be entered in the contest.
    Thanks Tina.

  63. Ack! I'm very late--guessing I'll have to pay for that with pushups--but I just wanted to say how much I loved this post, Tina!

    You always manage to give great info in the most entertaining (or in the case of this post, scary!) ways.

    Thanks for the boot camp and all the great links. Off to fall in line, now . . .

  64. Tina was in Alabama!!! How cool. Even if you didn't like the grits. They probably didn't fix them right.

    Truthfully, I'm not that crazy about grits either, even though I'm from Lower Alabama. There isn't anything more bland than plain grits. You have to put tons of butter, a little salt, and some cheese in them to make them really edible.
    I hope you weren't at Fort McClellan in the summer time. Two words: SO HOT. It must have seemed like hell after growing up in NY. LOL!

  65. Thanks for the welcome. Fun conversation!

    Never had grits, but my husband, an Alabaman(?), wouldn't have minded them. I'd have sneaked in oatmeal.

  66. Hi Tina:

    One great thing about the service is that they never made you eat anything! Much better than a mother!

    I’ve just bookmarked this post in a folder called: Boot Camp. I want to be able to work my way through all those links.

    Having someone in the know select and arrange links into a theme is very valuable. Thanks.


  67. Passed with Honors and Edging To a First Sale =+200

    Now, let's throw a little luck in the mix too.

    Thanks for the boot camp. Yes, enter me into the contest.
    Now I have to get writing - before Sarge catches me...

    Lynn C.

  68. I was in Alabama in the summer, Melly.

    My favorite story is taking a break on the edge of a forest clearing and sitting on a little hill.

    The hill began to move. It was a hill of fire ants. SERIOUSLY.

    Ants as tall as a hill.

    This was just bizzaro land.

  69. Thanks, Vince!!

    You and me both Virginia.

    Congratulations on the points, Lynn!

  70. Okay, Anne, you and Pepper have KP for being late!!!

  71. Thanks for all the nice comments, folks. Glad this was a helpful post.

    Just bookmark it for when you're doing revision!

  72. Oh, Tina! I'm so sorry about the ants. Fire ants. They're horrible. But they aren't native to Alabama. They stowed away on ships and gradually made their way up from the coast. I hate them.

    Boot camp probably isn't the best way to get acquainted with a new state. You still love ME, right?

  73. LOL, yes I still love you but I cringe when anyone says the word..(alabama).

  74. No surprise there.
    I ALWAYS have kitchen duty :-)

  75. What a great post! Lots of information there. Ha! I passed with honors++++

    But need brushing up on a few things.

    Yes, enter me for critique. I have the Ranchers Reunion!

  76. Jan!!! How did I miss your comment??? So sorry. You actually BOUGHT my book.

    Oh, my don't tell Sarge..but I'm hyperventilating.

    THANK YOU!!!!!

  77. I should have responded on this after receiving and digesting it, but I got sidetracked by errands. Good gravy, that was a good post(s). That needs to be spiral bound for future reference. Thanks for putting it together.

  78. Surprisingly, I passed with honors. So why aren't I published yet? 8-)
    Maybe if I win, your critique will help me get there!
    Marie at