That moment where you thought you were done with a book and it turns out you aren’t.

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I’ve been shopping around THE LONG ROAD for awhile now. It’s the first book I ever finished — actually, the first fiction I wrote in my adult life was in the context of that book which my partner, Jon, first began. Really, he is how I started writing fiction, and this book is why.

Jon and I have drafted this book three times, and when I say drafted I mean a top-to-bottom raze-it-to-the-ground rewriting process. Whole species of sentient beings have wound up on the cutting room floor. Main characters have been eclipsed, secondary characters have stepped up to take the lead, and then those main characters have switched genders. The current iteration of the book is solid, and quite a different beast than where it started. Reading through the various drafts of it is like paging through a scrapbook of my writerly life so far: I can trace the change of themes, the way my skills have grown and developed, see where I struggled and what was always easy.

So, like I said, I’ve been shopping the book around. We half-assedly queried it before, a couple of years ago, and got some lukewarm interest. I polished it up a little and since I have been querying SOUND AND SONG I thought why not? I’ll send out THE LONG ROAD, too. Recently I got a very nice rejection from an agent who mentioned as she gently turned me down that the length gave her pause. And something just clicked.

I am not one to alter a manuscript for presumed marketability. I take the stance that it’s either marketable or not, and that really it will either find an audience or it won’t, and that’s all just what it is. But when she said that I took a second to think about it. It’s 120,000 words long, and I’ve been marketing it as a young adult high fantasy book. And I think it is one, and I know that’s awfully long for a YA book. But when she said it, and I thought about it, the length of the book gave me pause, too.

It’s not that kids don’t read long books. I sure as hell did. It’s more that this book doesn’t actually need to be this long. This book is, perhaps, two different books. It’s currently structured with two overarching story lines which are honestly only tenuously related. I had plans to bring them together in a later volume in a way that perhaps does not make particularly logical sense. The upshot is I think the book needs a tighter focus, needs some streamlining.

Needs to be shorter.

Needs yet another rewrite.

And the thing is that I am kind of stoked to do it. Which is a really good sign that it’s the right move, that the book will be better for it, and that it will probably be hella fun to work on.

Yay for thoughtful rejections!

Between Projects: The Publishing Hustle

Now that Assassins is finished and out to beta readers, I am between projects. And the thing is that in spite of the always glorious sense of accomplishment I get when I finish a piece, being between projects kind of totally sucks.

I think that for every writer there are parts of the process that are easy and parts that are hard. My process goes something like this:

  1. First spark: a sentence or an image or some such fleeting glimpse into what a narrative might be which seems to come from the ether
  2. First Draft: start writing about that spark
    1. plan out if need be. go with it if the story is crystallizing all by itself.
    2. take all the notes along the way
  3. YAY IT’S DONE AND THE BEST THING EVARR: send to beta readers to get some perspective.
  4. Let it sit around awhile until I can face up to the fact that it’s not actually perfect.
    1. hey look another spark! I’ll go write that for awhile (new process begins)
  5. Second Draft: rewrite this motherfucker!!
    1. go back through the first draft and make some plans
    2. burn everything to the ground and rewrite it (the story RISES like a PHOENIX from the ASHES!!)
    3. Proofread to the best of my ability (which is not all that great)
      1. convince a life partner to proofread it so I don’t look like such a dumbass
  6. Send back to beta readers & do one last round of edits
  7. Think about pulling together query materials
  8. Think about puling together query materials some more
  9. Poke around the internet looking for agents/presses/competitions the project might be a good fit for
    1. get intimidated
  10. Whine to various life partners about the publishing industry
  11. Edit the manuscript for possible self-publishing
  12. Daydream about covers
  13. Start a query letter, abandon it
  14. Repeat steps 7-13 for an inordinate amount of time
  15. Decide to focus on that cool other project I started between drafts 1 and 2

Ok. So you can see where my weak spot is: the whole getting things out there part. I’m not entirely sure why this is. Certainly, I write primarily for myself, but I won’t lie and say that it’s anything short of awesome when someone else reads my writing. Storytelling is communication, and communication doesn’t happen in a vacuum. I love sharing my work, but the publishing game leaves me cold. It’s not fun. It’s not easy. It gives me no creative high. So I have to force myself to do it.

I get antsy between projects. There is always a moment when I finish something and haven’t started a new project where I manage to convince myself I’m tapped out, that I have nothing else to write. It isn’t true, I know that rationally, but that nagging fear combined with how much I just love writing means I tend to rush into a new project before following through on the publishing part of a just-finished project. No one likes writing query letters, or synopses, or the inevitable rejections (or, even worse, utter disinterest)  from the vast majority of the agents you query. Whenever I sit down to pull together a query package I have a moment of revulsion, like I’m wasting my precious writing time for this?

But, really, I’d like my manuscripts to do something more than sit on my hard drive in perpetuity. I’d like to build a readership, publish, get a body of work out there in a more professional and overt way than passing my pieces to friends, who pass them to their friends. So lately when I finish something and get the edits back from beta readers, I’ve started forcing myself to query it. New rule: no writing something new until a query has been written and some agents ave been queried. So far so good. Here’s hoping I can follow my own self-imposed rules.