Wednesday, March 30, 2011

From Hobby to Priority - My novel is upgraded.

I think I'm starting to remember, now, why this manuscript hasn't been published in the six years that it's been in existence. I never classified it as a necessity. I have a tendency to to that, to classify my activities as either "necessary" or "hobbies". If it's necessary, then it's deserving of all my attention, blood, sweat and tears. Hobbies are activities I do to relax at the end of the day.

And in this case, finishing a manuscript and getting it published was definitely not a necessity, it was always something that "would be nice if it happened". Well, I can be really stupid sometimes... of course it's not going to happen - not unless I do it.

So, I've changed its status. I can do that too. It's no longer simply a hobby without stresses, deadlines and repercussions. It's something that will have consequences if it is not finished.It must seem silly, I suppose, to see someone who already has so much going on actually instilling deadlines and issues onto herself... But trust me. If I leave this manuscript to get finished during my spare time, I might as well toss it now.

I don't have enough spare time to see it get done, for one thing. I'm going to have to set some time apart from other activities if I want to do this. Plus, what little spare time I do have is already getting split up between so many other hobbies. No, if I want to get this manuscript published - if I ever want to realize my dream of walking into a Barnes and Nobles or Borders and seeing my name in gold plating along the spine of a novel... Then finishing this novel and getting that manuscript finished has to become a priority.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Finding Plan B

So, let's recap a little, huh?

Sometime in February, I got a huge wakeup call that I am not doing what I want with my life. Okay, I should probably clarify that. I don't hate my job. I don't even dislike my job. But my job is not what I wanted to do. This state (six straight months of snow and counting!) is not where I wanted to be. And after this wake up call, I decided that it was about time to do something about it.

So, I found a manuscript that I had started nearly 6 years ago and decided to get it published come frozen over wasteland or high water. And, during this time, I found an article posted at Suvudu about a writing contest. So I went on a month-long editing sprint to get my manuscript ready to submit. And now, we wait.

Now, don't get me wrong; I'm probably not going to win that writing contest. I like my writing and I think I'm okay - but there are thousands of entries, most probably by people who have been honing their writing for years while I've been busy doing everything that's not writing. My possibilities are remote - and I know that.

Which is why I need a plan B. :)

And Plan B deals with figuring out how to get published. So, I went on a bit of a "research" trip. Okay, not really, I went to Barnes and Nobles online and read through a bunch of summaries, book reviews, and the like. I even picked up a title or two for my Nook! But mostly, while I was there, I checked out the books listed under Science Fiction / Fantasy...which just so happens to be the genre that my manuscript is in. Then, I wrote down the names of several publishing houses that had handled many of the books there.

Now, of these publishing houses, exactly one of them accepts manuscripts unsolicited. The rest require that you have a literary or publishing agent. So maybe Plan C will be to find an agent. I'll work on that later this week. But in the meantime, should you be interested in knowing the publishers that I found through this unconventional method of research, here is my list:

Random House Publishing - of course, this is the primary Publishing Group that created Suvudu, so it makes sense that they would have been one of the first I found. They're huge. And they require you to have an agent.

Penguin Group - Another huge publishing group. They also require that you have an agent except for one subsidiary, Daws Books, which does accept unsolicited manuscripts (at least for the time being) in Science Fiction / Fantasy.

HarperCollins Publishers - requires an agent.

Simon and Schuster Adult Publishing - agent required.

Hachette Book Group (including Little, Brown and Company) - agent required.

Of course, I have no idea how I'm going to go about getting an agent. Which is one reason why I'm leaving that for Plan C. Meanwhile, Plan B entails waiting for the official news regarding the winner of the writing contest at Suvudu, and then submitting my manuscript unsolicited to a new publisher...and lots of finger crossing therein.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

How long do I want my novel to be?

This may sound like a weird question, but I am starting to wonder just how long I want this novel to be. The more I edit and revise, flush out and refine, the longer this novel seems to grow. It truly is starting to take on a life of its own.

Many of the characters and scenes have even started sneaking their way into my dreams. Which, actually, has been a big help since when I wake up I think to myself "Wait a minute, it worked out much better in my dream than the way I wrote it" and gives me a sort of fresh look on this scene.

And while I realize that there's no set formula for determining the length of your novel, I'm just starting to wonder how long people - in today's world of iPads, iPhones, and iBooks - will sit and read a real book. And how marketable is a book if there is no market for it?

One site I read regarding writing a novel mentioned that an average length to shoot for when writing a novel was 70,000 words. Well, pfft... NaNoWriMo is 50,000 words, and they call it a novella. My novel, as of right now, is roughly 122,000 give or take a chapter heading.

And perhaps I should mention that this is just book one of a trilogy? It just started to grow so long that I took my outline of ideas and drew two lines through it. Now, however, even each section of my outline is outgrowing me. How do you know when it's getting close to that line of "this is long enough". It seems to me that a good novel is never quite finished... I can come up with questions and loose ends on nearly every book I've ever read.

So how do you wrap up those loose ends, tie together those plot twists, and answer those questions without drawing out the novel too far?

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's not over yet.

Of course, as I wrote earlier, I succeeded in completing a huge milestone. In about a month, I managed to edit and refine my 437 page manuscript until I felt comfortable submitting it to the contest at Suvudu. And in that month, here is what I accomplished:

  • My manuscript grew from 437 pages and 78 chapters to 451 pages and 79 chapters.

  • I am now cross eyed. (Not really)

  • My husband and I grew even closer (if that was even possible) as he helped me through the editing process.

  • My cat learned that she cannot balance very well on my keyboard. (Yes, really)

  • My nails are virtually gone.

Pretty good, right? But it's not over yet.

In my quest to get published, now is sort of a "lull". Sure, I can continue editing and refining my manuscript even more - and I will, but I'm still faced with the same problem as what faced me before. Without a concrete deadline, I will have a hard time maintaining my focus and getting anything done.

Since the writing contest is over, I can't use that. And for as long as my manuscript is being considered, I can't even try submitting it to any other publisher. Since winners will not be announced for another two months, that leaves me with a lot of time to lose my ambition and set my manuscript aside in favor of something more immediate.

So, my husband and I have come up with an idea. In May, two very good friends (well, technically three, since two of them are a couple) will be coming to visit for the first time since we moved to Minnesota. And I thought, you know what... no matter what the subject was or what the genre was, I bet they would each like a copy of my unpublished manuscript.

Both were such a huge inspiration to me. Of course, there were other inspirations as well, and I'm not in any way trying to diminish their contribution to my esteem in this accomplishment. But since these people will be coming all the way up here, battling through the snow and slush to see me, I'd like to give them a physical token of what their friendship and inspiration has meant to me.

So here we go! Two months to get my manuscript further refined, polished, edited and printed!

Rock on :)

Friday, March 18, 2011

Submitted and on its way...

Finally, with ten minutes to spare... The manuscript is as complete as I could get it and still submit it to the Suvudu writing contest on time.

I'm sure there are still mistakes, areas that need improvement, and more than likely the powers that be judging over the contest will be able to tell that the end of the manuscript was a bit rushed... But all in all, I'm fairly happy with my submission.

So what's my next step? Well, winners for the Editorial Review won't be announced until May 18 - two months of agonizing while I wait to hear my fate.

In the meantime, I think I will continue working on the manuscript, though I'll be able to take my time now. If I win, it'll be great and whatever advice I gain from the editorial review I will gladly apply. But there are a lot of other applicants - and a large chance that I won't win.

Which means that by May 19, I will need to make sure this manuscript is ready to be submitted to other publishing agencies...


Thursday, March 17, 2011

48 Chapters in 24 Hours.

Maybe I'm not in such a pickle after all?

48 chapters to go, and only 24 hours to finish them in. On the one hand, it sounds so close... That's just 2 chapters an hour.

But then I remember other things that continue to call my attention - work, sleep, food.

Can I really afford to go without these things for the next 24 hours as I near the end of my sprint? Would anyone want to be around me if I did go without these things for the next 24 hours?

I'm willing to bet that by this time tomorrow, I will be a mess. My hair will likely be thrown together in a make-shift bun, my nails are already all different lengths as I've ignored the chips that come from pounding away at a keyboard, and I am covered in a weird blend of cat and puppy fur. Add to that mix a lack of food and sleep...

LOL, this manuscript so better be worth it ;)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Three days and Counting!

Ah, I just want to scream right about now. Three days to go and my little marathon sprint of editing is not exactly going as planned.

I'm still only about half-way through the manuscript. I had no idea how unpolished this manuscript even was until I started this sprint.

So now, I'm tired and cranky and dreaming in fonts. I have roughly two to two and a half days to get this finished and ready for Suvudu. I really wish that I had seen this article regarding their writing contest earlier. But, if I had, I wonder how well I would still have been able to get through this?

I have always been a procrastinator - which is probably why this manuscript has been sitting around for close to five years already. If I have time to do it, I will likely take up just about every bit of time available to me. Chances are, even if I had found that article in January rather than February, I would still be sitting here today stressing myself out at failing at my own deadline.

How sad do you have to be to fail at your own deadline?

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Plugging Right Along

The good news is, I've managed to edit and completely flush out the first 65 pages of my manuscript. According to most of the sites and advice that I've found online, many literary agents and publishing companies ask for the first 50 pages with your submission. So, in the very least, I am at least capable of fulfilling this requirement should I decide to submit this manuscript to a new literary agent or publisher.

The bad news is, at 438 pages, I am only 14.8% completed with the final editing and polishing of this manuscript to have it ready to submit to Suvudu for their writing contest. With 373 pages to go in only four days, this means I need to refine and polish an average of about 93 pages a day between now and Thursday to have this manuscript finished in time to submit to their contest.

Well, this might be a tall order. This requires me to reach page 158 by tomorrow.

Here we go... Can I get a second wind, please?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

A New Way to Edit...

Finally, after days of reading and re-reading this manuscript for grammatical errors, spelling errors, and obvious mistakes, the technical part of the editing is done.

Thank goodness I have a husband who doesn't mind that I can become a rather neurotic pain in the butt when I'm under pressure :)

Now, with just a few days to go, we have decided to take a different approach to flushing out some of the ideas and flow. Starting yesterday, I began reading the manuscript out loud as he listened. I stopped every few paragraphs or so and he would give me his initial reaction.

This way, if he had a question, didn't understand something, or found that something didn't really make sense, I could pause my reading, adjust what I needed to adjust, and then re-read the newly written section for him.

Although I probably wouldn't recommend this particular method for writing, it does really seem to help with speeding things along for this project.

I assume (possibly incorrectly) that a lot of writers out there aren't comfortable with reading their unfinished manuscripts out loud to someone else. I know that even just a few short months ago I probably wouldn't have felt very comfortable. In fact, even just yesterday it took me a little while to get started because I was uncomfortable. But I am so glad that we started this method for this project. It really helped me smooth a lot of things out rather quickly.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Ideas Reborn

So, as you can imagine, my fingertips have been flying through the pages of this manuscript... Looking for mistakes, flushing out ideas, deleting issues from one area only to re-add them in another area.

Perhaps choosing such a tight deadline for the initial rewrite of this manuscript was a bit overambitious? Most likely. But, I am determined...

Come hell or high water, whatever is finished by the deadline, March 18, is what will be getting submitted into the Suvudu writing contest. I'm thinking that despite the fact that Chapter 68 is one sentence long: "Lucien Escapes..." So long as the grammatical and spelling errors are taken care of by the time I submit this manuscript to the powers that be at Suvudu I will have plenty of time to go back in later and figure out how I want Lucien to be able to escape.

At least for now the idea is there... Right?