Here Comes Draft Thirteen – Editing, Querying, and… Indie-ing

Editingso much editing.

Captain Hindsight on Editing Your Novel

Thank you, Captain Hindsight!

I began my blog seven months ago while working on draft six of my novel.

Since then, I’ve made so many major revisions to this manuscript that it’s nearly unrecognizable from its earlier versions. If not for the names of the protagonists, draft one and draft twelve might seem like they’re set in entirely different worlds. Place names and supporting character names have changed drastically, the structure of the plot has been broken down and pieced back together in so many different ways, and the overall pacing of the novel has (supposedly) been improved to read faster from beginning to end with a surge of adrenaline near the climax.

The process of editing this novel is already many times longer than writing the initial draft and that’s how it should be (I’ll say it again, a novel simply cannot be “finished” until it’s been edited, repeatedly—first, for plot structure, pacing, and feasibility; a focus on grammar, spelling, and typos comes later).

With every round of editing, it was clear that my MS was getting stronger and stronger. However, the feeling that the novel would never be perfect just does not go away. So, my current plan is to go for something “as close to perfect as possible, given a reasonable span of time and amount of effort” (don’t ask me how many years is too long, and how much effort is too much). Continue reading

A Good Hook or a Pile of Cheese?

Tilsit Cheese by John Sullivan - Public Domain Image

Hopping along the interwebs, I’ve seen a lot of agent query hooksthe one or two sentences that’re supposed to grab a literary agent’s attention. A few are good, some are horrible, but most are just okay (and being “just okay” generally won’t get you anywhere).

Keeping in mind that it’s in the nature of fiction to be subjective, I’ve noticed a lot of hooks deemed good by others aren’t particularly pleasing to me. If I were drinking my skinny caramel latte while reading these things, my computer would be in danger of being splattered with coffee, low-fat milk, and artificial flavoring. A lot of these so-called good hooks reek of cheesiness.

And, well, cheese seems to work. Continue reading

Check-in Post, 12/27/14

Now that you’ve had a full two minutes to marvel at the awesome title of this post—

With weddings to go to on the opposite side of California, holidays with family, a two-week cold, and planning for upcoming travels, I haven’t made much time to post on this blog or work on my novel in recent weeks. Here’s a brief update:

Traveling Again

Ray Romano and Patricia Heaton - Ray and Debra Barone in ItalyAs I’ll be going back to certain countries in Europe and Asia soon, I wanted to do some A.D.M. Was Here posts about my past trips before setting out again. That’s not going to happen, but I might write those posts while I’m revisiting those locations (I do like going to cafes in different countries and doing work there—feels a bit more like you live there, doing regular stuff while also taking in the local ambiance).

Coincidentally, as I sat down to write this, I chose a random season of Everybody Loves Raymond on Netflix and ended up with the episode where the Barones go to Italy (where I should be soon).

State of the Novel

I’m about 20,000 words into the second book of my series right now, and I’m currently waiting on some beta reader feedback before I go back and edit my first book yet again. Then, I’ll send out another batch of queries to potential agents. Hopefully, I can get some of this done on my many impending train rides, and also do some more research for indie publishing.

A Superhero, the Post-apocalypse, and World Domination

Infamous 2 - Cole MacGrath - Sucker PunchWhile sitting at home to nurse my cold, I’ve been going through a backlog of PS3 games I never finished, including Infamous 2 by Sucker Punch and Enslaved: Odyssey to the West by Ninja Theory. On top of that, I’ve been playing hours upon hours of Sid Meier’s Civilization V on the PC.

Infamous 2 has some questionable character designs and the story kind of fizzles out at the end (no matter which ending you go with), but the game is enjoyable. Enslaved is also fun, though the story isn’t as intriguing as reviews led me to believe (but it was compelling enough through the majority of the game), and there are a few glitches here and there (none of which are game-breaking, so it’s fine). Finally, judging from the many hours I’ve spent on Civilization V, it’s fairly safe to conclude that I think the Sid Meier game is worthwhile.

Waiting for Agents, Revising the Manuscript, and Milking Cows

Waiting for Agents . . .

Waiting for agents to confirm that they hate my book (or not) has been somewhat stressful. As I wait for those who have my partial/full to finish partying in Frankfurt (there’s a giant book fair thing over there right now) and read rejections from other folks, I grow more doubtful of my manuscript and query.

Not fun.

It’s popular advice for writers with novels out on submission to begin working on another projecttheir next book, short stories, poetry, or whatever. Aside from getting your mind off the wait, it also prevents you from altering the manuscript that’s currently out on submission. You know, just in case the agents you’re waiting on actually love your MS and would be appalled by changes (because that totally happens).

Against this advice and my earlier wishes not to revise, I’m going to begin outlining and implementing major revisions for my novel.

Revising the Manuscript . . .

The plan is to condense, combine, and excise entire scenes; save the awesome, and replace everything else with more awesome. The current ending will be altered to become part of the rising action. Then, I’ll add a new ending which I came up with while listening to music in my car (a scene of unprecedented awesomenessyou can verify this claim after you put some money in my wallet).

And, well, I could always revert back to an older draft if an agent actually likes it.

Milking Cows . . .
Continue reading

Pitching Fiction without a High Concept

One Does Not Simply Meme High Concept VS Low Concept Fiction A.D. Martin

Thanks to the recession and other factors in recent years, many literary agents and publishers now have a more vocal preference for novels with a high concept. High-concept work, to put it simply, is work that’s easy to pitch effectively.

To define high-concept less simply . . .

To be high-concept, a work must be: (1) highly original; (2) widely appealing; (3) easy to visualize; and (4) easy to sum up in three sentences or less while demonstrating the first three elements.

Continue reading

Pitching the Novel – Agent Query Draft #7; Synopsis Draft #4; Manuscript Draft #8

The POTUS and Ms. Maroney are not impressed with your pitch.

The POTUS and Ms. Maroney are not impressed with your pitch. Photo by Pete Souza.

I’ve been re-drafting and cleaning up my query, synopsis, and novel quite a bit in preparation to pitch my book.

With my first writers’ conference coming up next month, I want to focus on improving all my pitch materials to get some feedback from fellow writers and other folks in the industry. My stuff needs to be awesome before mid-September (or at least awesome-ish).

Over the last month or so, I’ve made a few observations which taught me (or reinforced) the following lessons:

1. You cannot write a good query without first having written a proper synopsis.

Alright, maybe you can, but it’s very unlikely. I found that after revising my book numerous times and writing multiple synopses for it, I was much better able to condense the more-interesting bits of my novel into the form of an agent query.

If you can’t condense your work into two pages and make it sound interesting, how can you possibly condense it into half a page?

If I may say so myself, my current query is many times superior to my original. I’m not surprised the six agents I queried sent me rejections (yeah, I only sent queries to six agents; that was about a month and a half ago). Well, four of them sent rejections, the other two just ignored me altogether.

2. Your work will never be good enough for you.

Every time you read through your manuscript, query, or synopsis, you will inevitably spot a bunch of things to be improved.

However, this doesn’t mean you should just say “@#$% it” and submit it to agents as is. It means you should revise repeatedly for a “reasonable” amount of time until things are very solid (maybe draft 7 of the query, draft 4 of the synopsis, and draft 8 of the manuscript), but don’t wait until you think it’s perfect.

There is no perfect (unless you’re somewhat delusional). Continue reading

Novel Revisions – Substantive Changes and Proper Planning

Photograph by Tomasz Sienicki, distributed under CC BY 3.0.

Photograph by Tomasz Sienicki, distributed under CC BY 3.0.

It’s 7:42 PM on a Sunday, and we all know what that means: It’s time for another writing-related post to bore and alienate people.

On my first WordPress post ever, I was starting on draft six of my novel which was a little over 75,000 words (and the title to my first post was misspelled, as evidenced by the perma-link—I’m awesome). I’m currently halfway through draft seven and the word count has gone up to 79,000. Still fluctuating.

[UPDATE/NOTE: Check the comments for other WordPressers’ thoughts on planning out your novel.]

Substantive Changes in Later Drafts

Since I started this novel, I knew that I would immediately have to make huge substantive changes when I started editing: adding, removing, and changing entire characters and events. This was somewhat anticipated because I wrote my novel in a don’t-look-back method where I would avoid editing my chapters too much as I went. My priority was to reach my word count goal. So, it was a given that I would need to make important changes to the novel.

However, I didn’t expect that I would still be making major substantive changes while working on draft seven. Really, I thought by the time I got this far, I’d simply be tweaking prose and correcting grammar and spelling mistakes.

This problem likely resulted from not starting with a detailed outline; I just created the world and a few characters with certain psychological profiles, and nudged them forward to do whatever they wanted. This resulted in a whole lot of mundane crap that had to be cut and altered.

Benefits of “Proper” Planning

I don’t think there’s absolutely correct way to plan a novel. Between the many successful authors out there, I’m sure they’ve used just about every method conceivable. That being said, I think there are a few things I could’ve done to help me write a better novel and avoid making substantive edits so late in the game: Continue reading