Best Book Forward?

At the Writer’s Coffeehouse this weekend, another writer asked what they should do when they have four novels, all finished, each in a different genre, that they want to pitch to agents. Should they target each book’s query to a different agent? Should they mention they have other novels when querying one of them?

The answer — which surprised me — was no to both.

Don’t mention the other novels when first querying. Save that for later, if they want to talk more.

And instead of sending out queries based on the book, pick the agents you’d like to represent you, and send them the book you think has the greatest commercial potential.

Agents will want to represent everything you have. But by querying with the book that will likely sell the best, it’ll be easier for them to imagine selling your book to a publisher, which will increase your chances of convincing them to represent you.

So now I’m confronted with the question: have I been editing the wrong book?

A frustrating question to have, when I’m only one editing pass away from being totally done. And I’ve already written the synopsis. And the query letter. And have agents picked out.

But maybe I’d be querying the wrong book? Of the three, I think my most recent one’s the strongest draft. The second one’s the best story, though, and my beta readers’ favorite. The first one is, of course, the only one that’s actually done, in the sense of being a final draft.

So which one do I query with?

The End is Near

Novel edits are coming along faster than I thought. Might actually get them all done by the end of the month 🙂

It’s weird to see the novel being reshaped under my editing scalpel. I can feel the book getting better, little by little: its characters more consistent, the world more fully realized, the pacing tighter.

I’m remembering my plans for a follow-on book, and looking forward to writing it. Can editing a novel make you excited to write the sequel?

Cranking Through

Managed to whittle the list of editing passes from twelve to twenty and now back to thirteen.

Which means I didn’t finish them by the end of March, like I wanted.

I *did* finish the biggest of the changes, though: giving each chapter to either the male or the female protagonist, swapping evenly between the two, and filling out her narrative arc so that her storyline has equal weight.

The changes I have left are much smaller: revising character appearances, adding touches to scene descriptions, and making sure everything is consistent.

Still, I’m setting weekly goals, aiming for three editing passes done each week. At that rate, I’ll be finished with the edits in early May :/

Much later than I’d like, but I tell myself that’s better than not doing them, or worse yet, continuing to tweak and edit for a year or more.

Everyone Gets a Pass

My original plan for editing the first novel turned out to be…rather naive.

I thought it would be enough to fix the female protagonist’s plotline, then make a few description tweaks, and be done.

Instead, I’m looking at making a dozen or more editing passes over the novel, each one picking out a thing to fix and make consistent through the book.

I’ve had to change character appearances, character names, city names, backstory, world history…nearly every element needs to be tweaked one way or another to line up better with what I think the novel should be.

So I’m keeping a running list of things to fix as I go, jotting them down as I find them. That way I can focus on just one editing task at a time, getting one thing right all the way through the book before going back to the beginning and starting on the next fix.

My goal was to have these edits done by the end of the month (for a total of three months of editing), so I could spend the next three months editing my second novel. But we’re a third of the way through March, and, well…my list keeps growing.

Still, I’ll push on. I’m finding I still like this novel, still like the characters. I want to do them justice, give them the best book I can. So I’ll keep working through the list, till the list is done.

Editing as Worldbuilding

We’re here! Made it into San Diego last week, despite freezing rain (Flagstaff), gusty winds (most of New Mexico), and fog (Cuyamaca Mountains).

No, we’re not unpacked yet. Yes, I unpacked the books first 🙂

So, back to work. And also back to writing.

I’ve decided to do another editing pass on the first novel. I feel like I’ve learned a lot about writing in just the last few months, and I’d like to apply what I’ve learned to it, see if it makes it better.

I’d also like to go back and fill in a lot of the worldbuilding details I left vague in the first two drafts. Flesh out character backgrounds, city histories, etc. I don’t want to add a huge info-dump to the book, but I do want to make sure everything holds together better, the various pieces of book matching up to make a more powerful whole.

And after thinking through the plot more, I’m really not satisfied with the way I’ve handled the female protagonist. That’s part of why I need to flesh out the character backgrounds, specifically hers. I realized her character arc is muted, a victim of me being unsure who I wanted to be the protagonist in the first draft.

She deserves better, so I’m going to pull out her conflicts and struggles into its own storyline, an independent path to follow while she also contributes to the central plot. I think it’ll make the book stronger, and the ending more compelling.

Some of these changes will be dialog or description tweaks. Some of this will probably end up being major surgery. But I’ve got to try.

Wish me luck.

NaNoWriMo is Coming

I really want to do NaNoWriMo again this year. Last time, it helped me finally dig in and start a novel, pushing me to get 50,000 words in before the end of November, and then finish it over the following months.

That same novel is now edited and ready for querying. I’ve spent this week drafting a query letter, one I’ll be editing this next week before starting to send out.

At the same time, I need to prep for NaNoWriMo, so I’ve also begun writing a new short story. It’s from an idea that’s been kicking around in my head for a few years. I think there may be a novel’s worth of story in there, but I don’t want to dive in to one without some prep work.

So I’m writing a short story set in that world first, to see if it has legs. It’s something I did (without knowing it) for my first novel, and skipped — because I didn’t know it was something you could deliberately do — for the second.

Since I found the first novel much easier to write, and I’ve heard other writers mention using the short story as a way to explore a novel idea, I’m going to try it out.

If it works, I’ll have something solid to work with as I build my outline for NaNoWriMo. If it doesn’t, then at least I’ve only invested a week or two (instead of months).

Query Time

Opened the novel this week to continue my edits. Flipped open my notes, looked for the next thing that needed to be fixed.

There wasn’t one.

Which means: the edits are done, hooray!

But also means: it’s time to query agents. And suddenly I have the urge to hold onto the manuscript just a bit longer, to do just one more editing pass, before letting anyone in the publishing world see it.

That won’t do. So I’ve been researching agents open to submissions in my genre, compiling a list of five to start with. I’ll find more once I’ve heard back from these five.

I’m already steeling myself for the rejections, but there’s really no choice here: it’s either face rejection, or never have a chance of it getting picked up by a publishing house.

Last Cull

Working through the last chapter that needs to be trimmed down. So far, I’ve cut about 12,000 words off the novel, close to my target of 14,000 (10% of the original length).

So this weekend I’ll be able to start fixing the multitude of other errors I’ve found in the cutting.

Thankfully my previous fixes — the patching over of the plot hole, making certain things explicit earlier in the book — have held up on this second read-through. In fact, I think trimming off the fat of the book has made the fixes better, bringing the stitched parts of the narrative closer together, in a way, so they reinforce each other.

Strange to think that deleting words not only improves the pacing, but makes the other parts stronger.

The Best Word is a Deleted Word

Trimmed another 3,000 words off the draft this week.

Only three chapters left to truncate. Then I can start in on the growing list of problems I’m seeing as I go: personality quirks that got dropped from later chapters, items whose properties changed without reason, place names that got swapped.

At this point, I’m starting to look forward to doing the final copyediting run-through, because it’ll mean all these other issues have been dealt with.

Till then, I’ll keep cutting.

We’re Gonna Need a Bigger Boat

Labor Day weekend was awesome. I spent most of each day editing: reading through the novel and hacking away at anything that didn’t need to be there. I’ve trimmed a few thousand words off the draft already, and it feels great.

Except that every time I read it, I find more things wrong.

On my way to cut down a stray paragraph, I noticed one of the characters’ dialog sounded like a really bad imitation of an accent. Had to stop and fix that.

Trimming a different chapter, another character had somehow developed a verbal tick, repeating the same phrase with every sentence, like some sort of crazed parrot. I had to stop and fix that, too.

Each round of edits is revealing more edits that are needed. I’ve had to stop changing things as I notice them, because it ends up derailing the edits I originally went in to make. Instead I’m jotting each one down in a notebook, so I can go back through later and fix them.

What I thought would be a series of nice, orderly editing rounds has become a game of whack-a-mole, where three more problems rear up with every one I knock down. At this rate, my internal deadline (Oct 1) for finishing the edits won’t be a deadline so much as the day I put down the mallet in defeat.

Until then, I’ll keep hammering away.