The Rough Draft

I’ve done it. I’ve finally reached the light at the end of the tunnel. Of course, when I got there, I found out it was more like a suggestion of a light. The burning ember on the tip of a match stick. Because, let’s face it, as an author, your work is never really done. But that’s not the point. The point is, I’ve finally reached a point with my previous manuscript where I can’t do much but sit back and wait. Yes, I’ll continue to send out query letters, but my work on the piece itself is at a standstill. I could probably continue revising, changing, fixing and rearranging, but I’m honestly afraid I’d never stop. So I’m moving onto the next project.

Whatever you do, DON’T TELL MY HUSBAND! He thinks I spend too much time writing. And I probably do. This blog post is a perfect example. I should be packing, getting things ready to go camping, but I’m sitting here writing instead. Anyway, back on track. Over the last couple weeks, I’ve been working on the first draft of my newest work in progress. If you’ve read my last blog post, you will remember her fondly as Phoebe. Phoebe and I have had a rough couple of weeks. I keep deleting and rewriting. I’m not 100% happy with what I’ve written, so I change it, which results in not enough time to move the story forward. And it’s frustrating.

It shouldn’t be. A first draft is a ROUGH draft for a reason. I think part of my problem is the fact that my last first draft was written during NANOWRIMO. For those of you unfamiliar with Nano, it’s a contest held in November in honor of National Novel Writing Month. The challenge is to write a 50,000 word novel in 30 days. It forces you to ignore your inner editor and just get words on the page. Oh, how I miss that. Apparently I need that to help me get my ideas down.

I’ve only managed about 5,000 words of my current draft, and it’s rough. It’s rougher than washboard on a county road at 50 miles per hour. Rougher than sandpaper on bare feet. Rougher than . . . Well, you get my point. It’s not very good. But I need to get over it and get the story down. Because as I write, I learn my characters. I learn to write in their voice, what they would do, say. How they’d react. And until I really learn who they are, it’s not going to be very good. That’s what the next draft is for.

So wish me luck. Phoebe and I will be out of contact for the next few days. I won’t have a computer. (My husband would be suspicious.) But I am taking a good ol’ fashioned pen and paper. Maybe then I can make some progress and learn who Phoebe really is.

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On the Rebound

Rebounding is never easy. After being in a long-term, committed relationship, trying to slip into a new one can be like trying to slide into a pair of skinny jeans (well, at least for me.) I am currently in a rebound relationship, and while I really want to make it work, I’m just not as “in love” as I was the last time around.

The biggest problem with the rebound is that you’re constantly comparing everything to the last relationship. Your ex wouldn’t have worn that shirt, or picked that movie. Good or bad, it keeps your old relationship alive. You may even catch yourself referring to the rebound by your ex’s name. It’s not fair that people take that personally. When you’ve spent so much time and energy devoted to one person, it’s hard to reprogram your brain for somebody else. 

I’ve been on the rebound several times, and it’s never easy to move on. Samantha and I were in a committed relationship for years. I didn’t write about anyone else when I was working on her. Eventually, I moved onto Abby. Then I left Abby for Sadie. Sadie and I . . . There’s so much to say. I’m still stuck on her. Every time I sit down to write, I write her name. But our relationship has moved onto a new level. It’s kind of like the interoffice romance. We had our fling, but now our one-on-one time is over, and we’ll see each other on occasion when work demands. (Hopefully because an agent is interested in representing the story.) So now I’m trying desperately to make something work with Phoebe. I like Phoebe. I really do, but my mind keeps drifting back to Sadie.

When you write a novel, you fall in love with your characters, and it’s hard when it’s time to move on. But, unless you only have one novel you ever plan to write, inevitably you have to. I’ve heard of people experiencing book hangovers after reading a series, or even a particularly captivating single book. A book hangover is that feeling where you just can’t think of anything else. It sends your world spinning out of control, and you just have to give yourself some time to recover. Think of that times infinity. Well, maybe not, but I’ve always liked to say times infinity, so we’re going to go with it.

Finishing a novel is, in some ways, the ultimate book hangover. After spending so much emotionally charged time with Sadie, it’s time to let her go. She will forever be in my heart, my mind, and my manuscript, but I have to move on. I need a palate cleanser. I should probably read something to help get Sadie off my mind. A quick one night stand that I can just forget about later. But Phoebe and I have already started something. Will it be as magical as what Sadie and I had? I hope so. Hopefully it won’t be just a rebound, but something more.

I Take It Back

There was a time when I thought that, as an aspiring author, nothing was more painful than the rejection emails flooding into my inbox. I was wrong. 

A few months ago I started my querying journey. I didn’t send out large batches, partially because I was planning on attending the Pikes Peak Writers Conference to meet with some agents at the end of April. So I only sent out a handful of queries. Most of them were rejected. But I did get one request for a full manuscript. My excitement level went through the roof. The request came in in the morning, and I emailed her the requested material that afternoon. Her website states that it can take 12 weeks to hear back on a manuscript, but that didn’t stop me from watching my email like a hawk within hours of hitting the send button.

I shared my excitement with a select few people for a couple of reasons. On one hand, I wanted to soak it in on my own. But, at the same time, I didn’t want to have to share it if my manuscript was subsequently rejected. Getting a rejection on a query letter is one thing. There are so many reasons the agent may not have been interested. They could be too busy. They may not like the idea. Who know? But once you get past that initial hurdle, if they reject it, it’s because of the manuscript itself. Does that mean it’s flawed? Not necessarily. But it certainly feels more personal.

A couple of weeks after I sent the manuscript, I left for the conference. It was an amazing experience. Everyone I talked to was so friendly and supportive. I expected to spend the entire time as a loner, but I made several friends while I was there. During breakfast one day, I went to sit at an empty table because I didn’t recognize anyone. As I set my stuff down, someone at a nearby table said, “No, you’re not going to sit over there alone.” Like I said, the whole experience was just amazing. Anyway, after sitting through a few sessions (which were chock full of great information) I realized that the manuscript I’d sent out was not really ready. The story was good. The characters too. But it needed some work.

So I was faced with a serious dilemma. I could do the revisions and just hope the agent that already had my manuscript liked it the way it was, which seemed unlikely. Or I could send her an email and pull my manuscript from her consideration. After discussing the situation with an agent who was speaking at the conference, I knew what I had to do. It was with a heavy heart that I emailed the only agent who had my manuscript and admitted it wasn’t ready.

It was a hard decision to make, and an even harder email to send, but it was the right decision. It needed to be done. Luckily, the agent was understanding and thanked me for letting her know. Also, I had two more agents from the conference request to see at least part of the manuscript when my revisions are done.

So for now it’s back to the grindstone to finish these revisions. The best part is, I know I’m only making it better.