Back at the Beginning

It’s been a long time since I last wrote a blog post. That’s partly due to the fact that I struggle with them. I can’t seem to get it out of my head that blog posts should provide value to the reader. But what value can I provide?

  • I’d offer writing advice, but I don’t have any major writing credentials, nor am I an authority in the writing community.
  • I don’t have a unique skill or knowledge set that I can share that hasn’t been covered to death already.
  • I don’t have time to be an aggregator of other people’s content.
  • I don’t have a hobby that compels me to share it with others, besides LEGO bricks and writing.

The only thing that I can share at this stage of the game is my journey, which brings me back to why I’m posting.

My journey has changed.

For over a year now, I’ve been submitting my novel to agents without much success. I’ve reworked my query many times, based on feedback and real examples, but that doesn’t seem to have helped. While I did get requests, no one ultimately wanted to represent my work.

After 41 rejections, I was beginning to wonder if my manuscript was the problem.

I decided to go to the Atlanta Writer’s Conference to network with other writers and see what else I could learn. It so happens that I got more than I bargained for.

DAY 1

I met several writers at different stages of their career. Some were just getting started; some were right where I am, and others had several traditionally published books out. CHECK!

I got the opportunity to meet with agents from some of the top agencies and ask questions. CHECK!

My big takeaways:

  • Publishers aren’t looking for trilogies anymore, especially from new authors. We’re not worth the risk.
  • Both publishers and agents are looking for solid standalone stories from new authors.
  • We shouldn’t worry about genre or what’s popular. We should write the story we want to write.
  • My query, while well written, was average. (ouch)

Later that day, I attended an intensive manuscript polishing session by a freelance editor who used to work for Simon and Schuster and got a serious reality slap. CHECK!

What I thought was a polished manuscript that I had been sending out had lots of issues, most notably: passive voice, filler words and a distinct lack of tight use of nouns and verbs.

My sample pages looked like they had bled to death.

I went home that first night knowing I needed to pause on further submissions and rework both my manuscript and my query. Okay. I could deal with that. It’s just a flesh wound!

DAY 2

I got to meet editors from both small publishers and the big five publishing houses. Like with the agents, I got to ask questions. CHECK!

My big takeaways:

  • Books in a series should be standalone but tied together by characters or at least the world.
  • Feel free to plan your next book in the series, if that’s what you want to write but don’t write it. It’ll be a waste of time because the edits on the first book will have major ripples to subsequent story lines where you’ll likely have to rewrite it anyway.
  • If you’re going to work on a new book while on submission, write something totally new in that same genre.
  • Several editors said that my trilogy arc should be just one book. My story, in particular.

FUDGE.
So, not only do my manuscript and query need help, but my whole trilogy should be condensed into one book?
FUDGE. FUDGE.
Did I mention I already wrote the second book and was about to start edits on it?
FUDGE. FUDGE. FUDGE.

(deep breath)

I learned a lot from the conference, but it felt like a firm punch to the gut delivered by Jean-Claude Van Damme. I’m still in shock, but after a week of letting it sink in, I can see their points.

Time to start over.

I need to combine all three books into a single standalone novel and then polish it using the new skills I learned.

It sucks to know I’m not as far along as I thought but I’d rather have the truth, and the chance to still get it traditionally published than put something out that was subpar.

So, back to the whole blog thing. I’m still licking my wounds a little, the day job has gone from light speed to ludicrous speed, and life itself is just crazy busy. I need something to keep me on track and accountable. I’m thinking a weekly blog post about my progress could help me there. There’s no obligation to read them, of course. I’ll likely cut back on the frequency of posting my poetry too so that I can make time.

Wish me luck!

2 thoughts on “Back at the Beginning

  1. I hear you about feeling like one might not have anything of value to share on a blog (have the same feeling).

    But you did!

    I’ve never been to a writers’ conference, and your post was quite informative.

    (Though I may have said FUDGE right along with you.)

    Don’t write the second? Well, I’m only 27k in. Don’t do a trilogy? Well, I planned on splitting book 1 into two maybe. It’s at 160k, though I know it has fat to trim. (Why is everything with fat so yummy?)

    Did you hear anything about word count? I’ve heard agents and publishers want 100k for a first book. But standalone? Personally, I don’t often read a standalone.
    And so many are series these days because a) publishers want to sell and b) writers love their darlings.

    And I don’t know if I could write one. It would have to be a very tight plot and characters that I wouldn’t see having any sort of life or continuation of struggles after the climax and resolution.

    **crickets**

    So like maybe they all die, lol? 😆

    Have you figured out how to condense your plot? I’ll be checking your updates to find out!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Aww. Thanks, Meghan! Ah, you’re pretty much where I’m at. Congrats on finishing the first one and getting so far along on the second. That takes a lot of work and commitment.

      They did talk about word count! The word count will depend heavily on what genre you’re writing for. For Fantasy, they said 80k-110k is the ballpark they want to see. For bestselling authors, publishers don’t mind longer works because they feel more confident the extra cost will be made back. But for new-ish authors, yeah, we’re a risk apparently.

      I’m right there with you. I don’t normally read a standalone either. Based on what I heard, they want a standalone, BUT if the book does well, they’re likely to ask for sequel or more. But only if it does well. I got the feeling, that if you did write a standalone, that your character should still have room to grow over a series, should you end up writing one but the there still should be good growth in the standalone.

      Ha! I’ve been thinking about how to condense, but I don’t have a solid plan yet. I know how it should start, the midpoint and how it should end but I’m still struggling which darlings I should keep or kill. I plan to figure all that out over the next little bit and then hit it hard.

      Thanks for following! You’ve got me curious about your journey too. Time to go check out your blog.

      Liked by 1 person

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