The Finish Line

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After four months, I’ve finally worked through all of my editor’s comments and my list of revision notes for The Muse. While the process took longer than I would have liked, I’m still basking in the accomplishment of reaching the finish line.

As I look back, I can’t help but laugh at myself a bit. When I first started this project, I thought I had a polished manuscript with my Third Draft. Ha! They say ignorance is bliss, but in this case it’s a first class ticket to the slush pile. After reading a little more about the publishing process, I had the good sense to realize I had A LOT more work to do!

I got brave with my Fifth Draft and sent query letters to five agents. Looking back I probably jumped the gun a little bit, but I still got responses from all five. Even though those responses were rejections, the fact that they took any time at all to answer me told me I had something worth pursuing. After some reflection, I figured out two things: 1. I needed an editor. 2. I needed to research agents on a deeper level.

Hiring an editor turned out to be the best thing I could’ve done for my novel. The particular editor I hired turned out to be the best thing I could’ve done for me as a writer. Not only did my novel go from an okay piece of work to a beautifully polished novel, but I got some serious insight into my strengths and weaknesses as a writer.

My editor, Kristen Fairgrieve, has an eagle eye for grammatical and word usage errors, but also for plot holes. I’m not going lie – there were a lot of grammar issues and a few plot holes. Not to mention superfluous sentences and paragraphs that she painstakingly condensed. Even now I sit in amazement at how she whipped my manuscript into shape!

While she fixed the majority of this issues plaguing my work, there were a few things that only I could address. Instead of offering a quick fix, she asked me questions or made comments to make me think. When it was all said and done, I probably spent more time thinking than I did typing. The process was enlightening and forced me to consider my characters and plot line with a new perspective. In many ways, Kristen showed me what me readers might be thinking as they work their way through the story.

So now comes the tricky part: getting published. In the midst of thinking and editing, I researched agents who might be interested in The Muse as well as self-publishing options. At the moment, I’ve pegged nine agents who might be responsive to a query package. I selected them by digging around in directories and checking the acknowledgment pages in YA books with a similar theme to The Muse.

My query letter has gone through several drafts, but I think I’ve finally got something that represents my novel in terms of voice and selling points. My ducks are all in a row, which means there’s only one thing left to do – Get brave and query!

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c.b.w. 2014

Yes, It Takes A Long Time

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There are questions every writer hears at one time or another: What’s going on with your novel? Why isn’t it published, yet? What is taking so long?! If I had a book for every time someone asked me these questions, I’d have enough to fill a library.

It’s easy to feel demoralized, but I keep reminding myself the people asking me these questions are not writers. They have no idea how long it takes to get from First Draft to Final Draft. Nor do they have any concept of how tough it is to break into the publishing industry. All they know is new books show up on amazon and bookstore shelves every week. What looks like a speedy process on the outside has actually taken years of hard work.

Aside from non-writers, my inner critic gets in on the game, too. She loves to point out that my novel still hasn’t found it’s way to print. It’s been three years – What the heck have you been doing all this time! Grrrrrr! This is one of the many frustrations I soothe with chocolate and lattes. In this instance, I have to remind myself of what I already know. Writing is a long process. Publishing is an even longer process.

To put things in perspective, the timeline for The Muse offers considerable insight into how long it takes to write a novel (when one holds down a full time job and writes on the side) and get it in publishable shape.

April 15, 2010 – The Muse shows up in my hard drive as a Work in Progress

September 26, 2012 – First draft complete.

September 27, 2012 – Revisions for Draft 2 begin.

March 28, 2013 – Draft 2 revisions complete.

August 4, 2013 – Draft 3 revisions complete.

August 2013 – March 2014 – Query packages sent and subsequent rejections received.

June 2014 – I hire an editor and send The Muse off to get gutted!

July 2014 – The Muse comes back fully edited and polished. It’s gorgeous, but needs a little more work.

August 2014 – Final edits begin based on editor’s notes.

October 2014 – Query letter rewritten. Researching agents and compiling a list of those who might be interested.

And the process continues! Here I am in November still working on those final edits. On the bright side, I’m down to the last item on my list of things to fix. Within the next month, I’m hoping to send out my new query package to the list of agents I’ve compiled since October.

It’s been long process, but I truly believe the end result will be worth the wait. Hopefully, my readers will feel the same way.

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c.b.w. 2014

That Moment You Realize You Need An Editor

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Not long ago, I wrote about how I took a little break from the grind of novel writing, (see The Not-So-Dry Spell). It’s funny how talking about a break instantly leads to a strong desire to jump right back into to fray. All it takes is one person to come around and ask, “What ever happened to you novel?”

Hmmm. That’s a good question. Part of my little break was rooted in needing to clear my head, but there was also an element of the “now what” syndrome. I’d sent out a round of query packages and got responses from all of them. Sure, they were all rejections, but as most writers know a response of any kind is a victory.

I was proud of my tiny accomplishment, but I also realized I had an issue that wasn’t easily solved. The fact that I got responses from agents told me I had a good concept for my novel, but the rejection element told me I had more work to do. The problem was I had gone as far I could on my own. I was too close to the work and I couldn’t see past what was going on inside my head. It’s in that moment that a writer has a major epiphany:

I need an editor.

After doing a little research online, I gathered a nice collection on editors who offered various services including proofreading and developmental edits. There are a lot of great editors out there, but it’s almost impossible to figure out who would be the right person for the job. Trying to find a YA fantasy editor is a little bit like trying to find one particular grain of salt in a salt mine.

Then, there’s the issue of price. Editors are not cheap and I totally understand why. Combing through a writer’s passion project is no easy task! Given my limited means, I couldn’t afford most of services I needed, so I decided to try something else.

If you follow my Facebook Author Page, you might have noticed a post where I made my plea:

 

Screen Shot 2014-06-22 at 5.14.45 PM To my great surprise someone answered me! What’s more, I knew her! And she loves YA Fantasy! It turns out one of my first blog followers does editing on the side. I was familiar with her work as one of her jobs was sitting on my bookshelf. She had done some editing work for another blogging friend and novelist, Bonnie J. James, so I knew I could trust her. Plus, I’ve had a number of interactions with her over the last few years, all of which have been incredibly positive and friendly.

Within a day I had an editor at a very reasonable price. Who knew it could be that easy? Of course, the hard part is on the horizon. Ever since I sent off the manuscript, my emotions have been all over the place. I go into fits of excitement, fear, terror, doubt, and then excitement all over again.

Even after four drafts, the journey continues. A fresh pair of eyes will hopefully help usher The Muse to next level. I’m anticipating a “bleeding” manuscript, but I have plenty of enthusiasm to stitch it back together.

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p.s. Kristen, I hope it isn’t a horrific task to dig through my manuscript! Can’t wait to see your insights.

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c.b.w. 2014

2014 Goals: February Status Report

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Sometimes it feels like I’m not doing nearly to reach my goals, but then when I sit down and reflect on the last month, I’m amazed at some of the big steps I’ve taken for my writing “career.”

1. Pitch The Muse.

February brought the annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award competition. Every year I’ve watched this competition from the sidelines because I either hadn’t finished a novel or I didn’t have enough confidence in the novel I had written. This year, however, it’s a different game entirely. Not only do I have a finished novel, but I believe in every page of it. The Muse is ready for some readers!

I wrote a new 300 word pitch, (which is leaps and bounds better than my query) and sent it off along with a 5,000 word excerpt and full manuscript. I figured I had nothing to lose by jumping into this competition, so it’s worth a shot!

2. Outline and start writing The Muse: Lineage.

My day job continues to be all consuming, but once again planning AP Art History is giving me all sorts of inspiration. As I delve into Post-Impressionism and Art Nouveau, new characters are starting to take shape. While I can’t write the story right now, it is exciting to see new faces!

3. Submit writing.

A winner was announced for the Writer’s Digest November Poem A Day Chapbook Challenge, but it was not me. However, the poets who won totally deserved the honor. Follow the link to read their work.

4. Continue to build author platform.

Pinterest continues to be my favorite place to hang out, but I have a feeling I’ll be playing on Twitter a little more as it’s been unblocked at work. Yay! Now if they could just unblock Facebook all would be right with the world.

Facebook Likes grew from 357 to 363

Twitter followers grew from 544 to 549

Thank you so much for the follows and the likes!

5. Inspire others.

As always, I hope I am a positive presence!

Let’s not forget the sixth “invisible” goal:

6. Be Flexible.

My eyes remain open for opportunities and my sense of adventure is always ready to take flight.

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c.b.w. 2014