09 July 2011

One Year On

Image: graur razvan ionut / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
It was my birthday on Friday, which of course reminded me of how my life was this time last year. It's been a year of changes in many ways, and one of the most important is with my writing. This time last year I hadn't written seriously in longer than I care to admit, and I hadn't been reading solidly either. We took a holiday to celebrate my birthday (it was a significant number) and I suppose it must have been a mental vacation as well. It was a relaxing, beautiful time (even though I was sick for most of it) and I did a lot of reading. When we got back something had shifted. I felt compelled to open that folder on my computer which had laid long dormant. Apart from the major project I'd been querying and a few related WIPs, I'd forgotten about all the other ideas I'd stored away for a later time. It was the time. I toyed with thousands of words on a few different ideas before one really stuck.

And now, one year later, I am putting the finishing touches on my book. Whether it gets published or not it's still my book (apart from in the most literal sense, how do we define what a 'book' is anyway?). I have learned so much, not only since the last time I went through this process, but during the last year as well. I've come a long way, and even if it just turns out to be part of my writer's education without bearing any outward fruit, it's been worth it.

So, what have I learned going through this final edit a.k.a my third draft/finished manuscript?

Chapter One is still evil
The darned thing is so important, yet so hard to get right, it takes me twenty times longer to edit than any other chapter. I knew once I'd finished the first draft that it needed the most work, but I wasn't prepared for how much. Which leads me on to...

Critique partners are really important
Even if they don't make it all the way through the book, their insights on the early pages are like gold. My flaws are my flaws, so the learnings I have gleaned from them seap through to un-critiqued chapters. Thanks guys!

Distance is essential
I've taken some time in between edits, during which I've learned more about the craft and let my critiques sink in. Now I'm less precious about my 'darlings' and more willing to sacrifice them. Objectivity, while not absolute yet, is freeing.

At some point, you have to cut the cord
I could tweak away for months longer, but I'm getting to the stage where I just have to start querying, to know if this book is actually going to fly or not. Making small changes to individual words are not going to make that much difference now. And I'm itching to get back into my next project.

I'm not going to blog in detail about the querying process I'm about to go through, because that will only make it that much harder when the rejections start to come in. I already have a long list of potential agents, which I've compiled one by one during this journey. I haven't gone to Agent Query or Publisher's Marketplace and trawled through the listings. Instead I have just bookmarked (and followed the blogs of) those agents who represent my genre and/or authors I like, and seem to be cool/smart/sweet/famous/emerging. I do have my 'dream agents' I suppose, but I know it's impossible to really know what it's like to work with someone until you actually do. It's not time for chicken-counting, it's time to take my MS out for a test run and see how it performs.


  1. Good luck with the book. I think the trick is to really go for it. I have one or two in a back drawer which I have fallen out of love with, but my new project is my new baby and I have fallen in love with it. The trick is to keep going to the bitter end.

  2. Happy Birthday! And congrats on finishing that book you started one year ago. Nice present to yourself.

    It's amazing what we can do in a year.

    Only you know when it's really time to cut the cord. It's good that you're doing research on agents before you send it out. I'm getting ready to query too...in about 2 weeks. I thought I would be ready right after the holiday, but it's still not quite there yet.

    Best of luck in the querying, and I hope you get your dream agent!!

  3. Thank you both for the encouragement - much appreciated!

  4. Charlotte. I Hope you had a super birthday celebration. I stumbled upon your blog and even checked out your old blog. I think I will be reading your blog, as I also like to write about stuff that catches my eye. I wrote a short book three years ago. It was exciting while I was working on it. The subject was an interesting elderly gentleman (age 79) caring for his wife in the later stages of Alzheimer's in their home. He was also a Korean War vet and he wrote poetry. I had included some of his poems and little bits of novel things he told me about his life and marriage over the years. Any way, I would like you to view some of my blog writings at upforgrabstoday.blogspot.com and faceforwardfaith.blogspot.com.

    I like your writing style. K