The Revenge of the Words

I’ve now written six novels. So far, Nowhere Wild is the only one of those six that I’ve even gotten close to attempting to sell, and it took about twenty full edits of that one before I met with any success. And next week, I start another full edit of it (this time with the help of my editor), to fix some major plot issues.

A couple of weeks ago, I got some feedback from my beta readers on one of my other books. It wasn’t pretty. I had a lot more work to do on it than I thought. I had been hoping for a quick, line-edit sort of edit, but parts of it needed a full rewrite. I wasn’t mentally prepared for that, and it sent me into a spiral of doubting my writing and doubting this whole author as a profession thing. The experience was eerily similar to the shock I got while trying to sell the initial version of Nowhere Wild which was about 60000 words longer than it should have been. I found that out at my first PNWA convention, and I didn’t take it too well then, either.

I spent part of last week transcribing the reviewer’s notes into the manuscript, and cleaning up the quick fixes. I could only do a chapter or two at a time, not because there were a lot of notes, but because each note felt like a stake through my heart. Part of me wanted to disregard the worst of the notes. The devil on my shoulder told me this was only the opinion of one reader. He almost convinced me the story was good enough to try to sell. “Besides,” he said, “You’re bound to get bad reviews at some point in the future. You’ve got to learn to deal with them, and not take them so much to heart.”

But the angel on my other shoulder was calling the devil a lazy-assed idiot. If there are things that are wrong with the story, fix them. They’re just words. Fixing it is your job, you stupid writer. Do it! So it takes three weeks longer than you initially planned. Better to go through the pain now, than to have it somehow reach the printed stage, and then get crapped on by all the book reviewers out there.

It took about a week for the angel to win out. After I finished transcribing the notes, I set the book aside for a few days. At first, I didn’t want to do anything writing related. Then, slowly, the story started creeping back into my head, and I wanted to read it from the beginning, and to see if the adjustments weren’t as bad as they first seemed.

So yesterday, I dug back in, from the beginning. I’ve worked through the problems in the first twelve chapters. Fixing the issues there weren’t nearly as bad as I had first thought they would be. Sure, there may be problems I find in the latter half of the novel that dictate I go back to the beginning and fix other things. I may have to rewrite the beginning altogether. Who knows? But on a chapter by chapter basis, the problems didn’t seem so overwhelming. Sometimes writing is like that. Sometimes, changing a few words here, or a paragraph there solves a major problem in a subtle way.

At least that’s what I’m hoping. And that hope has allowed me to sit back down and get started on the work. Looking at the whole manuscript all at once was just too daunting. But one word, one sentence, one paragraph, one chapter at a time, the work gets done.

A Small Note on Nowhere Wild

I know I announced the sale of Nowhere Wild to HarperCollins Canada back in September, but now it’s listed on my agent’s site http://cookeagency.ca/news.htm.

There isn’t any more news pending on that front (and I don’t expect there to be for quite a while), but to see it on someone else’s site is pretty cool.

Now, back to work. The books, they don’t write themselves.

Frequently Asked Questions Regarding My Book Deal

So it’s been a few days since I made the announcement regarding my book deal with HarperCollins Canada for Nowhere Wild. For about an hour after I posted that original blog entry, I had the shakes. My hands wouldn’t stay steady, and I had a hard time talking. The shaking has now gone away, but the excitement is still there. I can’t wait to get back working on that book!

I’ve had a few questions that have popped up, and I’ll answer them here, as best I can.

Question #1: When is the book coming out?

I don’t know the answer to that one yet. It takes an incredible amount of work and coordination to get a book to market, and I still have some work to do on the book itself (i.e. more editing). As soon as the date is locked down, I will definitely post an update here.

Question #2: Are you quitting your day job to write full time?

No. It may come as a bit of a shock to people not familiar with the publishing industry that most writers don’t make very much money. And the money, when it does come in, doesn’t come in consistently until you’ve got a long tail of books earning royalties and a bunch more in the write-edit-publish pipeline. Unless I win the JK Rowling lottery, I will continue to earn the bulk of my income writing software for the foreseeable future.

Question #3: Is the cover image for Nowhere Wild on the site going to be the cover image for the published book?

Probably not. That photo was taken by my Aunt, Anne Stratton. She graciously allowed me to use it to help make my site look more professional. The cover design was done by Jerome Petteys.  I think it looks fantastic, and fits the book really well, but the publisher will decide what they want the cover to look like.

Question #4: How did you get a publisher?

Like I said in the original blog entry, my agent, Sally Harding did all the hard work. I just wrote the story. Once we agreed the manuscript was ready for an attempt to find a publisher (which is a huge step from its first draft), we talked about what approach we wanted to take—what market we thought it fit into, what kind of a publisher we wanted, what kind of an editor we wanted. This discussion is just one of the many valuable aspects  of having a good agent. Sally did an amazing job of walking me through the process, and presenting options. I think she found the right fit for this book, and for me, with HarperCollins Canada.

Question #5: When will the book be available in <insert country name here>?

The topic of publishing and distribution rights is enormously complicated, and I am just beginning to get a grip on it. Be sure that Sally and I are working hard to make sure that everyone who wants a copy of Nowhere Wild, can get it legally. Again, as we work out the details for each country / language, I’ll post details here. Obviously, the more buzz the book generates in the coming weeks and months in multiple countries, the higher the likelihood it will be available everywhere, so feel free to pass the word to friends and family about my site and my book.

Question #6: Will there be a book tour?

I don’t know the answer to this one yet. I will definitely schedule readings / signings in my local area when the book is released, and do whatever I can to promote the book. But as a debut author, it’s difficult to know this far in advance if the investment in larger scale personal appearance efforts will pay off financially. If you are a bookseller / librarian in the Puget Sound Area, and would like me to appear in conjunction with the release, please contact me.

Question #7: What recommendations can you give to a young writer just starting out?

I could spend hours talking about this, but I’ll just give a few brief points that I think would help every writer (young or old):

  • Write every day. I wrote on the train to and from work for the better part of three years. There is always time to write, even if it’s for just twenty minutes.
  • Pick up a copy of Noah Lukeman’s The First Five Pages. Read it. Do the exercises. Work on your book. Read Noah’s book again. Work on your book. Sooner or later, what he says there will become old habit.
  • Find a group like the Pacific Northwest Writers Association in your own area. Go to their monthly meetings. Learn about the whole writing / publishing process. You don’t have to know everything about everything. But you should know a little about everything in the publishing process. This is a business. Make it your business, and realize that to get published, you must be good at this business.
  • Find a good freelance editor who you trust (i.e. Jason Black). Pay them for a full manuscript review at least once. Listen to what they have to say, even if it is painful to hear.
  • Read John Scalzi’s blog entry http://whatever.scalzi.com/2006/04/27/10-things-teenage-writers-should-know-about-writing/.  He usually says things much better than I ever could, and this entry should be in his hall of fame.
  • Don’t write to become famous or to make a lot of money. Write because you love it. Write because not writing for more than a few days feels like you have abandoned a puppy in a mineshaft. Save the puppy.

Question #8: What’s next?

First, I am finishing up an edit of one of my other manuscripts so I can pass it on to my beta readers. I should be done that today or tomorrow. At some point in the next few weeks, I should receive notes from my editor regarding changes to Nowhere Wild, so then the work begins on that story again in earnest. I also have another completed manuscript that needs a full edit. I have two full length book outlines for future books already done that I want to review. And I have another book that I need to do a major rewrite on. So I don’t think my next few months will be boring.

Other Questions?

If you have any questions I haven’t answered here, let me know. I love writing about writing just about as much as I love writing, so these are really enjoyable entries to put together.

Writing Update: December 17, 2011

Yes, the blog has been quiet lately. It goes through these lulls when I get busy. I did read a book last week, but it’s a book that I am reviewing as part of my writer’s group, and it’s by an author you might have heard about. It’s good. Hopefully we’ll see it in print in the near future, and then you’ll hear a lot more about it here.

Other than that, I’ve been heads-down editing since the middle of September, first on my book Labeled, and then on my book, Nowhere Wild. Both edits are now complete. The first 25 pages of Labeled is in front of my writer’s group and I plan on submitting that for the PNWA Literary Contest next year. Entries are due by 2/17/2012. I’ll spend a bit of time over the next couple of weeks cleaning up the synopsis. and getting everything ready to send out.

Nowhere Wild is also in the hands of my writing group. I’m a little nervous about getting feedback this time because my writing group is pretty spectacular when it comes to writing credits. Plus, I’m getting close to the end of my rope on just how many full edits I can do on a single book. I know I can do ‘as many as it takes’, but I’m really hoping I can get to the point of “It’s pretty damn good. But you have an extra comma on page 236”.

With both of those stories wrapped up, I’m taking a short break over the holidays to do some reading… and some blogging. I’ve got 3 other books that could use a good edit, but my brain is telling me to take a short hiatus. Only one of those three is stand-alone (Army of the Risen) . One is a book that will probably never see the light of day (To Cage the Eagle), but that doesn’t mean my OCD won’t let me try to make it better, and the other is the sequel to Nowhere Wild (Nowhere Home). I’ve learned my lesson about working on the sequel before the first book is finalized. It’s going to need to be completely re-planned and rewritten since the plot of the Nowhere Wild changed so much, and I don’t want to do that more than once.

It may sound like I’m down on writing right now. I’m really not. I want to do more of it. I’d love to be able to turn out books like Zane Grey or Stephen King. But I don’t have that kind of time in my life right now, and I need to pace myself. My goal is to become a better writer so I don’t have to do so freaking-many editing passes through each book before it is ready to send off to my agent. So I guess I am just down on editing, not writing. I wish the two weren’t so… connected.

I can’t wait to start on a new story, and I’ve been resisting looking at my “What if” file to see which idea seems to have the best legs. But I want to make sure at least one of these stories I’ve already got done is “out the door” so I can dedicate a long stretch of time to a single work without worrying one of the old ones is waiting for another turn with the red marker.

So that’s the plan for the next two or three weeks. If I can just keep that “What if” file closed, everything will be just… oooh… wait… What if there was this guy, see