Tastes

One of my greatest fears happened the other day. Sort of…

One of my critique partners had queried an agent and sent along the first four chapters of her manuscript like four months ago. No big deal right? Now the agent has requested the entire novel.

Good for her, except we’ve been working on her novel for like 2 months. She’s completely rewritten not only the first four chapters, but almost half the book thanks to my recommendations. And who am I?

Her book was, apparently, good enough to have the whole thing requested as is. So what should she do? Send the original MS without my helpful hand? Send it with my rewrites included? What if my rewrites and suggestions are the things that make her novel no longer worthy in the eyes of the agent?

She told me she sent the one with my suggestions because she likes it better. If it gets rejected now, will it be my fault? I know she didn’t have to follow my suggestions, but I can’t help but feel responsible.

It scares me because what if one of those lines I crossed out was the line that spoke to that agent? I mean what the hell do I know, right? I haven’t been published.

Then again, two of my last three critique partners were picked up. If she gets picked up is the common link me? Am I the man behind the curtain or do I just have phenomenal luck when it comes to critique partners?

I mean, let’s be real here, I don’t want to be an editor. I only do it so that someone will read my manuscript and poke all sorts of holes in it. The end goal here is to either get published or self-publish a novel that so that when Sally gets home after her dog bit her, her boyfriend dumped her, and her boss fired her, she can escape for just a few minutes into my world.

Still, I can’t help feel responsible. I hope this agent likes her book, because I’m going to feel like it’s my fault if she doesn’t. Which, I agree, is totally stupid.

Jealousy

I’m a bad person… possibly evil. I’m coming to terms with that. Yesterday was a silly day for me. It was silly because I’m silly. Let me tell you why.

I had a thought as I was cruising the blogosphere yesterday. I wondered what happened to my old crit partners from 2011/2012 and, like an old lover, I decided to google them. I knew one of them was a published author now, so it wasn’t a surprise. What I didn’t know was that the second (of three) was getting the book I helped critique published by penguin in 2015.

I had several completely separate reactions about it.

Happiness! Because she worked damn hard on her book, probably harder than anyone I’ve ever met… and her book started out really good.

Excited! I have critiqued a book that is now being published. I feel sort of proud even though I contributed like .00001% to her success.

Blinding jealousy! That’s the rub. It took me a long time to shake it yesterday. I wondered to myself how these two people, who I worked so closely with, managed to get published when I can’t even get past the query letter stage with an agent.

I know she had a good query letter; I sat in “internet query workshops” with her where the agents helping us would request her book because the idea was that good… From the workshop…

The agents always told me my query was perfect, was good, but none ever requested my book.

When we had last spoken, I’d just suffered a blinding stream of 12 rejections, not one asking for pages and she had 9 separate agents asking for her book.

So, clearly, she had something special. I am happy for her, and I’m not just saying that. I really, truly am.

But I sorta wish one would just pick me. I think that’s the problem. Getting chosen is like a 1% chance, actually less than that according to some statistics. Still, it is hard to not feel your self-worth start to chip away under an onslaught of rejections… especially when the people you worked closely with are getting there.

I know… I know I shouldn’t define my worth based on:

A)     Other people’s success for work I had nothing to do with. We are totally different people with totally different life circumstances and totally different books.

B)      On what other people think of my work. I can’t base my happiness on what other people think of me because I will always come up short. All I can do is my best and be happy that I did my best. I need to choose myself as it were.

 

Those are two things that make no sense to get upset about and I understand that… but it still bugs me.

Head Pictures

I recently got a critique back that made me want to just throw my entire novel in the trash. Don’t worry, I didn’t, and it doesn’t take a whole lot to make me think this way. It’s because I’m starting to get a case of “maybe there is too much soup in the pot.”

For those of you unfamiliar with “the soup in the pot” it comes from Jennifer Eaton. I’m deciding to steal it and use it here. The idea is basically if you are writing a scene and more than one person says the same thing about it, then maybe, just maybe, you should go fix it.

The problem is… I don’t know how to fix this particular thing. I think it’s because I’m not writing a graphic novel, or a movie, or a short story. Let me elaborate so it makes sense.

I have a spell. It is a very particular spell that looks a certain way. It is intended to be a signature spell. My main character uses this spell in a very particular way in chapter 4 of the book. Later, in another chapter she uses THE SAME SPELL. She calls it the same thing. She casts it the same way. The effects are nearly identical.

Three separate people have commented on the second usage of the spell, saying stuff along the lines of:

When did she learn this new spell or why didn’t she use this spell before.

She did use it before. That’s the whole point. There’s like two spells in the whole book with names and this is one of them.

This makes me think there are two problems. I am not making a significant enough impression on the first usage of the spell. It is either A) being forgotten or B) There are too many spells/neat things that the reader is getting overwhelmed.  

In previous drafts I had a lot more background, more named spells, more world building. It seemed like every time I added some cool piece of flare, readers got bogged down. It is sort of a necessary evil to some extent because the main character comes ready to go out of the box. She has her own abilities and this is the time for the reader to be like… wow she knows cool stuff. Which she should, she’s been trained to do this sort of thing.

That being said I am going to go over both usages one last time. I don’t have much more flare I can eliminate before I just have a generic story where the main character uses “knife” and “magic” because I have to keep in the back of my mind one key question: “How important to the overall plot is this piece of flare?”

If this was a graphic novel I could physically show you a picture and you’d be like “oh that’s the same spell, I remember seeing it.” Same thing with a movie. If she pulled out her sword, it would always be black with purple polka dots because it would be drawn/ filmed that way… every time.

I have to make you remember she did this spell with my words almost ten chapters later. It’s hard to do that. I can barely get people to remember the names of her weapons and I repeat them virtually every time she uses them.

I know part of it is the crit process. It requires going so slowly through a story that you lose your chance to get immersed in the world. You’re always looking at it with one hand out going, “should I tell him/her to move this sentence?”

I mean, this isn’t a novel breaking issue… but it annoys me.

Crit partners

The secret to a good novel is clever critique partners. I told this to one of my crit partners before, but I think it deserves a post.

I got back a critique the other day and it had, basically, rewritten my entire chapter. I don’t mean she rewrote it per se, but that so much of it was commented with suggestions on what to do, that it meant I was rewriting the whole damn thing… this is the second time this has happened in as many chapters.

Admittedly, I was never fond of this particular chapter. It’s one of those necessary chapters, but I was never happy with it. Flow was off, words were awkward, and it was soooooo long.

This chapter was the perfect example of a conversation I often have that goes like this:

“Is this chapter good enough so that I don’t have to work on it anymore?”

“If you’re asking yourself that, then it isn’t.”

“Damn.”

Now this chapter sings. It wasn’t me who did it either. It was my crit partner.

I love when the crits are so spot on that you rip up your entire thing to redo it. What you get afterward is something awesome. There are so many one-liners or witty lines that I wasn’t clever enough to come up with, or which came from a question asked by someone.

At first, I didn’t want to believe that my story made no sense. But, and here’s the thing, my crit partners have no reason to lie. If they don’t understand something, why should they tell me they did?

So I edit and I fix things, and you know what? I have a chapter that is way better than I started with.

Onrushing

I’m in a rush. I don’t know why because I’ve been working on this story for a long time. I feel like with writing that I’m always in a rush. I’m always trying to skip from idea in my head to Make-Poor-Hapless-Soul read my first draft. You don’t want to be that soul by the way. My first drafts are legendary for not making any sense. My story barely makes sense now. Imagine when it started…

I don’t know why I am always rushing. I know part of it is excitement. I’m hoping that this thing is really good and that my reader will think it is really good too. That part of it is easy to understand. It’s that whole justification of myself as a writer thing. I get that.

The other reason has more to do with my wanting to get it off my plate. It’s hard for me to work on my other novels (even the completed ones) knowing I could be spending time on this one. It is by far the closest one to being “ready.” It is so close that every word I write on another story actually delays this one going out the door and into the world.

I need it to go out the door, and I need it to see the world. Then I can put it to bed. Right now I’m in that heart fluttering, butterflies in my stomach pattern waiting for my crit partner to finish the latest chapter so I can turn around and punt that chapter to the other partner. Even when that’s all done, I have a Poor-Hapless-Soul all ready to go for what, I hope, will be the final read through.

Then it’s off to the races. Because I’m rushing now, and I don’t know why. Except, I do know why. This book has been hanging over my head for seven years. It needs to not be doing that. It needs to find its wings and fly away so I can start the cycle all over again.

Who knows, by novel five I might glance at the manuscript, shrug my shoulders before hitting the “submit” button and say to myself “Fifth novel.”

Daunting Realization

I have just come to the conclusion that there is a lot of stuff you need to do for a novel.

I mean I wrote the damn thing in 2007, that’s what, 7 years ago, and, still, somehow, there are more things to do every day.  You’d think that by now I would have realized that this whole “writing” thing is a lot of work.

For instance, just the other day I decided, I mean really decided this time, that I was just going to self publish this one.  I was gonna be all like “Here Amazon have my baby that I’ve poured seven years of work into…”

Of course, that meant one thing… just one more round of crit partners.  So here I am, again, criting the new novel for what the 25th time?  And, this time, like most times, I have two just fantastic partners.  Which means I am rewriting the damn book again.

That’s fine, I love writing.  I’ve been at it for a long time.  I’m not that good or anything, but I’m patient enough to hammer out a piece of stone into a semi-readable something.

However, I keep reading about self publishing… it’s a little scary. I mean, as far as formatting and stuff, I can do that.  I’m a freaking programmer by day.  I can format a kindle book like no one’s business.  (FYI I’ve formatted this book three separate times for kindle)

Then there’s finding a cover.  I need a cover for createspace and for kindle and nook and smashwords… I can’t even draw stick figures.  I mean, this is my book, and if I do it, I need to do it right, right? right! That means I need a sweet cover.

I glanced through fiverr, and if you haven’t, you really should, and I think I can get a cool cover for not a whole terribly huge bunch of money.

I’ve thought about professional editing because so many editors are offering up their services per word.  It’s really cool because they didn’t do that when I finished this draft seven years ago.  A lot has changed.   Still, it’s expensive.  With my book length I’m looking at like $1000 dollars.  I’d have to sell, what 500 copies, just to break even for one round of editing?  That’s crazy, because I’m pretty sure my mom isn’t even going to by my book.  (It isn’t because it’s bad or because she hates me.  I don’t think she’s ever read a book.)

Then there’s the “should I be exclusive to amazon for 90 days so I get prime and lending and all that” question.  Maybe, probably.

I have to make a blog.  Check!

I have to register a ton of domain names: the book title, some character names, my name… it’s just crazy.

I’ll have to engage in twitter and Facebook.  I don’t even have a twitter or Facebook.  That says nothing of Pintrist… slideshare… any number of other things.

I’ll have to solicit reviews from amazon reviewers and stuff.  Be like “hey person who has thousands of people ask for reviews, would you mind reading my book?  I’ll give it to you for free and it’s at least 35% less horrible than most stuff you get asked to do. Hell, I’ll mail you a chocolate bar.”  Then they’ll either not respond, or they will be like sure, I’ll pencil it in for January 2035.

It’s just daunting.  I have to do all this stuff that isn’t even related to writing and editing my book. Then I’ll sell eleven copies.

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