I’ve sent out draft 2 of my manuscript to my readers (thank you readers!), leaving me with some time on my hands. Rather, leaving me with some time to do publishing research. What’s next?
- review edits and suggestions from readers–implement
- create a list of agents to query
- write a query letter (which needs a synopsis and title)
- brainstorm a title (no small feat!)
- write a synopsis
I’m excited to be at this next stage of the novel-writing process. I’m trying not to be daunted by statistics I find on agents’ websites: “I reject 99% of all query letters that cross my desk.” I keep telling myself that I can’t get rejected (or accepted!) until I send in some queries.
- query agents
- wait for responses (anywhere from 2 weeks to 3 months)
- hyper-edit the first three chapters (if an agent likes my query, they’ll ask for the first three chapters)
- research self-publishing
It’s a process. There’s a learning curve. But I’m taking it one step at a time and trying not to think about that 99% statistic.
I wrote the ending to my novel. For the second time. And for the second time, it was anti-climactic. I typed in the last words, re-read the last paragraph I wrote, hit command-S, sighed, and closed my computer. And I went down to the galley and started to make dinner. It wasn’t until half an hour later when Hans came home that I realized I had finished my latest round of edits.
You’d think that when you finish editing a large piece of work that you’d feel satisfied, accomplished, proud. Nope. Not me. Not with this manuscript. I think because I know that it’s not really finished. I’ll read it through from start to finish again, find more changes to make, make the changes, pass it over to a reader, the reader will propose more changes. And I’ll make those changes. Again.
When do you know when your manuscript is finished? Will I see fireworks? Will a the lights flash? Will the 1812 Overture suddenly start playing? And if none of those things happen, when do I say: “it’s finished.”?
(As I write this, I know it’s not finished. I just remembered a small plot detail I need to add to chapter 3. Will that ever end? Or will I wake up in the middle of the night five years from now with the brilliant idea that I need to add a dagger to the green room with Colonel Mustard?)
That wasn’t nearly as hard as I had anticipated (which is good because I can’t count how many inner-monologue paragraphs filled with questions I have in the manuscript that need to be edited).
When the light was nearly gone from the sky, Sam stood up, stretched, and went into her apartment to start unpacking and getting settled into her new home. How long would it take for Green Island to feel like home? Had she made the right decision? The island was so small—1,000 people? That’s about how many people lived in her apartment building and the one next door to hers in New York. And what was she going to do with her time? Go to beach every day? Get a job at Bananas like Alley suggested? What did everyone else do on the island? Sam pushed the anxiety to the back of her mind and hoisted her suitcase on her bed. It was better to focus her thoughts and energy on unpacking clothes than on her sudden life change.
When the light was nearly gone from the sky, Sam stood up, stretched, and went into her apartment. She wanted to unpack and get settled into her new home. She caught herself—she was getting settled into her new house, not her new home. This small apartment on a remote Caribbean island of merely 1,000 people—about the same number of people who lived in her apartment building in New York City—was not home yet. It was simply a roof over her head. It was, of course, a roof with a long porch, comfortable chairs, hibiscus blooming outside, palm trees down the hillside, and an expansive view of the town and harbor. She loved the apartment, but had no idea what she was going to do with her time. She could go to the beach every day, but that would get boring quickly. Alley’s idea of working at the bar intrigued her—at the very least it would be a great place to meet new people—but she’d never worked in a bar before. Sam pushed her anxieties to the back of her mind and hoisted her suitcase on the bed. It was better to focus her thoughts and energy on unpacking her clothes than on her sudden life change.
Philadelphia got hit with a big snowstorm last night. The airport is reporting about 16″. I trudged up and down the dock around midnight and at that time it only about 8″ had fallen. I estimate around 3″ fell after midnight, so, in my very scientific opinion, I think we have around one foot at the marina. It’s heavy, wet snow. Perfect for snowmen. Not so perfect for boat biminis. Hans did his best to bang the snow off the bimini a couple times before we went to bed last night and luckily there is no damage. The whole marina is now iced in, but the sky is blue and the temperature is well above freezing so hopefully there’ll be no ice skating here.
My question of the day: how do I go from this….
the bright winter view from Stinkpot this morning
Vieques, Spanish Virgin Islands
And no, I don’t plan on buying a plane ticket. My novel is set on a Caribbean island, so on this snowy, winter wonderland-esque day in Philadelphia, I need to transport my imagination to a tropical beach in the Caribbean and write about heat, humidity, afternoon thunderstorms, surfing, snorkeling, fishing, and beach bars.
My novel has two main characters that serve two distinct and necessary purposes in the plot. One is a platonic friend to my main character; the other is a romantic interest. But after reading the bulk of the manuscript, my husband suggested I merge the two characters. I can’t do that! They are two different people! Obviously my character development is lacking. Good. I have an easily identifiable problem. But how do I tackle it? It seems daunting, to say the least.
During my sleepless night (ice knocking on the hull, baby knocking on my stomach), I visualized my two characters. I visualized two actors playing the roles of the characters in a movie. I watched them come to life. Of course I remember doing this, but since I was half asleep (and grumpy from lack of sleep), I don’t really remember what I imagined. But, daydreaming! What a great tool. I’m hoping I can daydream my way from 1 + 1 = 1 to 1 + 1 = 2.
2 names. 2 characters. 2 roles.
If you want to be a writer, you have to write.
Oh! But it’s so hard sometimes. I find editing so much easier than writing. When I edit, I have concrete tasks that I need to accomplish and the groundwork is already laid out for me. But staring at a blank screen on the computer? I stare. And stare some more. Consider making some tea. Force myself to remain glued to my seat. Staring. And…
I start typing. Slowly. Not surely. I erase two words, write one word. Tell myself not to erase. Keep typing in words.
I have a paragraph. Then two, then three.
I hate forcing myself to write. This should be enjoyable, right? But some times the ideas don’t flow as easily as other times. I’ve found that I can’t wait for that magical moment when ideas will start flowing. Soon enough, if I sit long enough, the ideas will come. And even my slow typing produces results.
Researching story ideas, researching publishing options, researching grammar questions–these are all useful. But I can’t spend time on those in place of writing. I want to be a writer. I must write!
Every writer has a toolbox–a set of pencils, erasers, reference books, software programs, and internet resources–that provides concrete gadgets and information to help with the writing process. I recently shared some internet resources I find useful and which I turn to on a weekly basis for inspiration and information. I also rely heavily on my Strunk & White as well as my spell checker and dictionary.com.
My toolbox also contains non-tangibles: ideas, inspiration, relaxation methods, motivation tricks. I’m back to work after a relaxing two-week Christmas vacation and author J.K. Rowling (of Harry Potter fame) reminded me of another non-tangible tool I need to keep handy in my toolbox: self-confidence and faith. Lying sick on the couch on New Year’s Eve, I caught a few moments of her interview with Oprah and what she said was inspiring to me–particularly for the editing task I am about to embark on. Ms. Rowling told Oprah that throughout the entire writing process of the Harry Potter books she never lost faith in herself. She always believed that her book could be published, that it would be successful, and that she was a good writer. (I bet she never imagined just how successful it would be!)
As I sit staring at my marked-up manuscript, not quite knowing where to start, I need to keep this in mind. No, I’m not dreaming of Harry Potter success, but merely that what I am writing can be good. I have the talent, energy, and wherewithal to stick to it and print out a final product that other people will want to read. Because, at the end of the day, if I don’t believe in myself, then who will?
What is in your writing toolbox? What tangibles and non-tangibles do you rely on for assistance and inspiration?