Tuesday, December 28, 2010


Since yesterday I've been experiencing a slow-growing suspicion. It drifts through the apartment like a bad smell.

See, I'm a member of the "I've already finished my first book"club. Have been for a while. I have a stack of ideas for what comes next. I'm already 4/7ths of the way through my first draft for the sequel. When I read agent submission guidelines that encourage writers to have their manuscripts in the best possible shape, I smile, nod my head and think of all the idiots who don't spend enough time editing.

Well, I might be one of those idiots.

Sure, my writing is clean, my characters well-defined, and the plot will make your head explode from sheer awesomeness.

However, maybe... maybe the writing is just a little... urg, well, dry. Just a tad too influenced by all the weighty, important novels that I read. Lacking freshness? Vitality? Immediacy?

My sister, who is as much of a book nerd as I am, asserted to me that, "Your book should definitely get published! It's better than 85% of the books currently on the shelves." Take it with a grain of sand, of course. She is my sister. Though, she does have her moments of brutal honesty. Here's the thing. The above statement should seem quite complimentary. It should be a sign to proceed, a sign of approval, a sign that this is meant to be.

Yet... 85%? I think I can do better.

Guitar Hero - Amanda Palmer


  1. The eternal question: Is it really done? I have yet to revise so I'm not quite at your point, but I know I'll come to the same question: Is it really the best it can be? Of course, at some point it just has to be done or it will really never get published. Ah, the fine line. Good luck walking it!

  2. Krista - I think your perfectionist tendencies might be rubbing off on me.

    Tracy - Yeah, I thought I had come to that point. I was ready to just send it off and be done, but I think the process of trying to sell it has really illuminated the aspects that can be better. I've had to look at my work in a different light and I think I'm ready to shift the words around one more time. My potential future readers deserve it.

  3. Sarah, as a creative writing teacher I am constantly encouraging my students to "say things in a way that are totally uncommon but make perfect sense". I think you are at that point in your writing process where you have to look over your work and ask yourself that question. You're really not going to be changing any of the "content" at all. What you SHOULD be thinking about is, "How am I going to say this so that the writing sticks with the reader." That, in my opinion, is one of the hardest things to accomplish in writing - writing that doesn't impress with it's new ideas (because hardly any are), but with it's style. If you can get people to read your book, read a description and think, "That's odd...but that totally makes sense," then I think you're on the right track. Get them hooked on the beauty of the thing, and the content will enrapture them.

    Hope that wasn't too garbled. It's vacation time and my "writing" brain is turned off. I think your manuscript is very well done, like Krista said, and I want to encourage you to always be striving for that uncommon language that clicks with some deep part of the reading populace. :)


  4. Eli - Not too garbled! I appreciate the input. The manuscript and I are currently locked in an epic struggle. (Not really) I'm just rewriting again, trying to perk it all up. It's a dark story, but that doesn't mean it can't be fresh. I'm trying for originality in description, but it isn't always something that comes easily to me. How does one learn to be original? Probably by banging one's head into the computer table over and over again. (That should work, right?)

    Just out of curiosity, did you ever make it through the draft that I sent you? There have been a lot of edits since then... but, if you did read it, what did you think about the story? (Feel free to email your response if you so desire)

  5. I haven't finished my first draft yet, but I feel like I've put so much effort into it that when I revise, it'll be minor! I'm scared of both the possibility of having too much to revise and not enough to revise. I don't want to be one of those people who totally rewrites their first draft. But maybe I will be? I'll never know until the time comes.

    My biggest fear is definitely sending out something that I THINK is ready but really isn't :(

  6. My plot remained mostly intact, though almost everything else got rewritten during the revision process. It isn't that the first drafts weren't good, just that every time I looked at them I saw ways in which they could be better. Honestly? I don't mind revising that much (unless I thought I was already done).

    Though, I tend to work that way. First draft is the chance to spew everything out, later drafts are what really shape the novel. I think I need to see the whole picture before I can hammer out the details.

    I am little jealous that you can approach your first draft with such care. It would be nice to finish that draft and know that I didn't still have hours and hours of work ahead. Ah well. It's interesting how everyone works so differently. :)

    Is anything ever truly ready? I imagine that if I do get an agent, they're going to suggest pages of rewrites. But, you're right. It's important to get it as close as possible.

  7. Thanks for the encouraging comments over on my blog. It's nice to have someone in the same situation to commiserate with. I do not have the problem of being influenced by big important novels. I've read a lot of them, but so many of them are difficult and although beautifully crafted, I have a hard time sinking into them. Of course, that's probably just me. I like contemporary lit and even *gasp* commercial/genre lit.

    So, I finished my novel. I was so proud. But there were things that bothered me. When the agent gave voice to some of those very things, I was at first depressed, then determined. Now I've trashed the first half and rewritten 8 new chapters which are vastly better.

    You talked about goals vs resolutions. My goal is to have this rewrite done by end of January. I might even be able to have it done before then if I push myself hard. Wanna race?! hehe.

    Good luck with yours and don't be a stranger!

  8. Mara - I love contemporary work, adult and young adult, but have always felt like a person out of time or a creature living in the wrong dimension, so I relate strongly to classic and scifi/fantasy lit. Of course, it's always going to be on a book-by-book basis. (Die Dickens, die!) (not really) (maybe)

    Isn't it funny how the first chapters are the hardest to get right? Those are the bits that have undergone the most revision in my novel. Once the momentum is in place, everything proceeds as it should, but getting the momentum going is tricky.

    Heh, regarding your challenge: I'm not certain that's a bet you want to make. I've had a few days off for the holidays and am already 30,000 words into my rewrite. I will be the champion. I will dominate. I will laugh as you cry and question the fates. I will... ahem. Sorry about that. I get a bit competitive at times.

    Thanks for stopping by!