PNWA Conference Day 2
Okay, it’s the morning of Day 3 of the conference, and, like yesterday, I’m a day behind on blogging. And yesterday, I was writing this at the conference where connectivity to their network was $7 / minute. Yes, you heard me right. So the day 1 article I just uploaded was written 24 hours ago. Today, I’m up early again, but writing this at home before I leave.
Yesterday was all about the business of writing. All the sessions I attended dealt with pitching to agents, writing query letters, hearing about what is going on in the publishing world. Has anyone heard of the ‘SteamPunk?’ or ‘NewWeird’ genres? Apparently they’re the next Chick-Lit. You know, once chick-lit has run its course.
In the gaps between sessions, you stalk agents. Literally stalk them. Catch them on the way to the bathroom or when they’ve got a mouthful of food. You get about 15 seconds to try to sell your book to them. I’m serious. I’ve spent 12 months working on this bloody thing, and I’m lucky if I get to the third sentence of my speech.
I can handle rejection when it’s based on “Its not an area I work in”, but the hard ones to take are the ones who say they are interested in the area, but not in your book, for one simple reason. It’s too long for Young Adult. And you look at them and say, but it’s not young adult. It’s got very adult themes. And they say ‘But your protagonist is 16. Adults don’t want to read about 16 year olds. Make him 20, and it works. Or make it YA, and cut 40% of it.”
Seriously. 40%. They want me to cut 57,000 words out of my book. Ouch. I took that pretty hard, but it is no use arguing with them, because they are right, and you know this because you don’t hear it once, or twice, but three, maybe four times in the span of a couple of hours.
So after hearing it a few times, and getting through the grief, and it is grief, because you go through the stages of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance, you have to decide what to do. I clearly can’t just just 57,000 words from my book. What I can do, is break the book into two pieces. The first two thirds of NOWHERE HOME told one story. The last third started to take the tale in a different direction to set up for what I had planned in book two.
Well, as it turns out, that first two thirds is about 80,157 words. Perfect. The second part is 57,000, but when I pull in some of the work I’ve done on book two already, I’ve got nearly the second book already completed. I’ll have to do a lot of editing yet to cleanup the ending of the first and the beginning of the second, but I know I can do it, and by the end of the summer, I’ll have two completed books: THE LONGEST ROAD, which now becomes the title of the first book, and NOWHERE HOME, which becomes the title of the second book. I’m now looking forward to making this work.
I talked to a lot of people yesterday as I was going through this process, and received a lot of advice and support. I just hope I can stay in contact with some of them as time goes on. Pam Binder, the President of the PNWA is an amazing woman, and she an I have talked a lot during this conference. She saw the look on my face yesterday after a brutal agent rejection, and spent about fifteen minutes talking with me. She had friends waiting to go do something, and held them off until she was sure we had put a plan in place to deal with the length issue. Amazing.
Last night, at the dinner, I got to listen to Joseph Finder speak about how he got his start in writing, how he had a lot of help to get going, and took a lot of risks. He developed a 3 year plan to get a novel published and then to decide whether or not to continue writing, and sold his first book just shortly before his three year deadline. Lisa and I have talked about a 3 year plan here from time to time as well, but I’m not about to quit my day job to pursue writing full time.
One of the things I do feel really good about is that people are amazed when I tell them that I turned out the original 139000 words of Nowhere Home in about 4.5 months, working mainly on the train. Agents love to hear a writer can do volume (as long as it isn’t crap). Now that I know my books should be 80000 words, I could easily turn out two books a year, if not more. I have lots of ideas in my head for books that fall into the area I’ve been writing, I just didn’t think I could stretch them to 120000 – 140000 words. Now that I know I don’t have to, that’s really going to see my output jump up.
Anyway got to go get the kids up and get ready to hit the road. Have a great day.