Posts Tagged ‘novel writing’

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When to submit your manuscript

March 22, 2010

Revision update: On chapter 21 of 30. I had a productive weekend, and I hope to continue and be done in a few days.

This will definitely be my last revision before I submit, but the question of when to submit a manuscript, when to know it’s done, always leaves me a bit nervous. I submitted my first novel too early, then did a bit of a rewrite and submitted to new agents. Ultimately, although the book got lots of great feedback, it wasn’t as good as it should have been and it didn’t land an agent. I don’t want to make that mistake this time around, but how can I be sure when it’s ready?

There is advice on this out in the writing blogosphere, such as agent Mary Kole‘s post, agent Jessica Faust‘s post, and one from Omnific Publishing. They all talk about revising and revising, getting other writers that you trust to read it and give you notes, leave your manuscript for a month or so and look at it again. But after you’ve done all that, how do you know if it’s as perfect as it can be?

I like agent Kate Schafer Testerman‘s advice best: If you’re down to just tweaking, i.e. fixing word choices, etc., and the main story and characters are as good as they can be, then you’re ready to submit.

I’m at that point. I’ve fixed my story holes in previous revisions, fixed plot problems, made the characters stronger. I’ve also had the manuscript read by several beta readers and gone through the book with their notes. Now, I’m tweaking. I’m fixing word choices, making sentences stronger and paragraphs clearer. So, when I’m done with this round, I’ll start submitting.

Of course, there’s always that nervous thought that maybe I’m too close to the story to see other faults or that maybe my best won’t be good enough for the publishing world. For the first, I’m trusting my beta readers. For the second, well, those thoughts will always be there, so, my advice to myself: Trust yourself. Trust the work you’ve put into this book, your heart, your time, your passion. Trust that you have done your best, because that’s the most important thing.

And ultimately, if I don’t get the attention of someone in publishing, I can always try again with another book.

What do you think? How do you know when you’re done with a manuscript?

Write On!

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Dreams do come true

March 16, 2010

Manuscript update: Started my new final round of revision yesterday. The last round was the make-every-word-great round, after going through plot and scene revision rounds earlier. So this is the polish, the I-want-to-make-sure-every-word-is-still-great-and-I-didn’t-type-something-weird-last-time round. I’m excited, and plan to be finished in a week or so. Fingers crossed.

With the economy the way it is and all the bad news that has been coming of the publishing industry the last few years, it’s great to see all the deals still being reported by Publisher’s Marketplace. But when it’s a deal for a debut writer, it’s even more wonderful, it’s inspirational.

As I was shutting down my computer last night, I saw fellow blogger Beth Revis had posted the news that her book, Deep Freeze, has been picked up by Razorbill, an imprint of Penguin, for a spring 2011 release. According to Publishers Weekly, Razorbill editor Bill Shrank “said he thinks the book will do for popular sci-fi what The Hunger Games did for postapocalyptic fiction.” Wow!

Beth also scored a three-book deal, which shows the confidence Razorbill has in her writing.

This is fantastic news for Beth, and I’m so excited for her. I also can’t wait to read the book, because it sounds wonderful.

But it’s also exciting news for all unpublished writers. It shows us that despite the layoffs and low financial quarters at publishing houses, editors are buying books, and they are buying books from unpublished writers.

Sure, I’ve heard over and over that manuscripts need to be really polished before they’ll even attract an agent nowadays — hence my new polish round — but if you put in the work, the rewards will come.

Go on, dare to dream, then get to work on making that dream a reality. It will take work, a lot of hard work, but it will be worth it in the end.

Write On!

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Querying links and more

February 22, 2010

Revision update: Working on a change to chapter 2 after my 10-page critique at the Houston SCBWI conference, then back to chapter 12. Still on track to be finished by the end of the month.

I’m holding off my coverage of the Houston SCBWI conference til tomorrow because I was doing some blog surfing yesterday and found some great posts that I wanted to share.

First, a couple of posts that again show the importance of writing a really great query letter. Agent Janet Reid details the reasons why she rejected 50 queries in an hour — such as cliches, stale or not compelling premises and queries that don’t explain what the book is about — then defends her rejections and explains why she wants to see better queries.

Agent Jennifer Jackson posted her latest Letters From the Query Wars update, reporting zero requests on 134 queries. She also details some reasons for the rejections.

And agent Jessica Faust reports the number of queries and requested manuscripts that are on her desk — showing why patience is important in this industry.

Talking about cliches, Frenetic Reader writes about some cliches she never wants to see again in a book and some cliches she’s not yet tired of.

Lisa Schroeder wrote an awesome checklist for what to do before your book launch, showing how much work is necessary to get the word out.

Anita Nolan posted author Neil Gaiman‘s top 8 writing tips and a link to more, and Jill Corcoran included links to each of the individual authors featured. Looks like there’s lots of good stuff here.

Casey McCormick at Literary Rambles wrote about tightening up your writing, part 1 and part 2.

And finally, Beverley BevenFlorez compiled another list of great blog posts, including a very interesting podcast of pacing by author James Dashner.

Got any good posts you’d like to share?

Write On!

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Win a copy of Aries Rising

February 21, 2010

Revision update: Nothing done yesterday as I was at the Houston SCBWI conference (brilliant, more about that tomorrow), but this morning I had a revision idea and have started to work that up.

Thanks to all those who entered questions for ghostwriter Laura Cross’ interview. It went so well, I’m doing another one.

Bonnie Hearn Hill headshot

Bonnie Hearn Hill

On Friday, March 19, Bonnie Hearn Hill will be on DayByDayWriter answering your questions and giving away a copy of her new book, Aries Rising, a young adult romance/fantasy that’s the first book in her Star Crossed series. Aries Rising debuts in March, and books two and three (Taurus Eyes and Gemini Night) will come out later this year.

Bonnie has been passionate about writing since she won a Coca-Cola-sponsored contest in fourth grade. Since then, she has worked as a newspaper editor and written several non-fiction books and six thrillers. The Star Crossed series is her first for young adult readers.

Here’s the summary for Aries Rising:

Aries Rising book coverWhen Logan McRae discovers a magical book called Fearless Astrology, all she wants is to change her sucky life. In order to get into the summer writing camp of her dreams, she needs the recommendation of her stubborn and irritable English teacher Mr. Franklin. Logan also has her eye on Nathan, the hottest guy in class. Unfortunately, so does popular, beyond-gorgeous Geneva, editor of the high school paper.

Logan’s two best friends, Chili and Paige, are always there to give her the advice she needs. But now that she has Fearless Astrology, Logan discovers a whole new way to overcome her dilemmas-while helping the three of them land the guys they’re crushing on.

When the Gears, a group of boys, starts causing trouble in school and out, she decides to identify them using astrology. Her goal: to impress Mr. Franklin, Nathan, and the kids who believe she is faking her newfound knowledge. The answers are in the stars, all right, but can Logan decipher them before it is too late?

Bonnie will give away a copy of Aries Rising to the  person who submits Bonnie’s favorite question before end of Friday, March 12. So, think up some great ones and post them in the comments. Enter as many times as you’d like, but if another reader has already posted a question similar to yours, please try to think of another one.

You can ask Bonnie about moving from adult fiction to young adult, non-fiction and fiction, astrology, even a favorite on the DayByDayWriter blog, how she managed to write while working a full-time job. Feel free to use these topics for your questions, plus anything else you’d like to ask.

Write On!

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Getting unstuck in a revision

February 16, 2010

Manuscript update: I didn’t get too much done in my revision yesterday. Still on chapter one today.

A reader left a comment on yesterday’s post about being stuck during a revision. I’ve been there — I’m sure we all have — and it can be so frustrating. You want to write, you want to fix the problem, but nothing seems to work.

As I told Islesam yesterday, I fell into this predicament when I was revising my first novel. The middle was way more than saggy — it had huge gaping holes. I tried loads of different ways of writing the scenes, but nothing worked, nothing felt right, and my characters didn’t help. I’d ask them what they’d do next and they’d just look back at me and shrug.

Like Islesam, I tried taking a break and started to write my current novel, but after a while, I went back to the first manuscript and was still no closer to a solution. I realized that, although taking a break from a manuscript can be good at times, like in between revisions, when you’ve got a problem, the only way to fix it is to hunker down, roll up your sleeves and sweat your way through it.

What finally worked for me was realizing why I was stuck. I couldn’t fix the middle because, even though I knew what the end of the story was, I couldn’t picture them both as a whole story. I couldn’t see the forest for the trees.

To help give myself a better view of the bigger picture — the whole story — and how each of the scenes in the book fit in, I made a timetable. I drafted out a calendar of sorts with just Sunday through Saturday and week 1, 2, etc. Then I put the chapter number(s) for scenes in the days when they occured. When I was done, I could more easily see what was missing and where my characters were going at each part.

Here are some other tricks for getting unstuck in a revision:

  • New POV: Whether you’re writing in first person or third, the chapter you’re working on is most likely in the view point of one character. Try writing the chapter you’re stuck on in the point of view of anything character in the scene. Looking through someone else’s eyes might give you some ideas.
  • New document: When you save your manuscript in a new document and then revise, you’re just reworking your old version and are influenced by the words in front of you. Try starting a blank document and writing the scene, chapter or even the whole book from scratch. Author Lisa Graff does this in her revisions. For her third book, Umbrella Summer, she wrote 18 full drafts in this way. Sometimes she will copy and paste older versions of paragraphs or scenes into the new document, but for the most part, she rewrites as if the story is new. Starting from the beginning again, whether for just a scene or for the whole book, but this time with the knowledge of the whole story in your head, can open you up to new details and allow your characters to show you new directions. This tool helps you be a writer again rather than an editor, as if you’re writing the first draft for the first time and allowing new ideas to flow.

How do you get unstuck in revisions?

Write On!

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Seven deadly sins of novel writing

February 13, 2010

Angela Ackerman (a.k.a. The Bookshelf Muse) has finished her collection of posts about her seven deadly sins of novel writing, and they’re good to read for writers at all stages of a manuscript. On Monday, I’ll be beginning what I think — hope — will be my last revision of my current novel, and as I go through the chapters, I’m going to make sure I haven’t made any of these sins.

Here are her sins:

1. Keeping the stakes too low for the characters. Conflict keeps our worlds going round.

2. Characters that don’t measure up. Characters should be unique, yet natural; likeable, yet flawed; active, yet true to character.

3. A weak voice. To quote Angela, “Voice is the song of the story, the heartbeat of the main character. It is nothing short of magic.”

4. Plot holes. Including, illogical steps, saggy middles and coincidences.

5. Bland writing. Use all five senses and choose words wisely.

6. Drowning the dialog. Too much, too little and “said” vs. anything else.

7. Giving away too much. Showing vs. telling and how much to reveal.

Thanks for these, Angela. A great guide.

Can you think of any more deadly sins of novel writing? What sins have you committed lately?