Progress Report: Good News/Bad News.

Good news: I’m a prophet. I said in my last post I might not make it through the pitch round of ABNA this year and I didn’t. I know the future! The disappointing future!
Bad news: see above re: ABNA. I’m not gutted. As I said in my previous post, the contest is unpredictable, particularly in the first round where everything hinges on 300 words or less. I’m happy with the pitch I wrote. It’s not much altered from the one I wrote last year which resulted in the same book reaching the semifinals. It didn’t help my odds that this year there was only 400 available slots in YA as opposed to the 1000 of last year. I think I likely got a perfectly decent score on my pitch, but it wasn’t enough to squeeze into the top 400. I’m okay with that. And echoing again my last post, there is much to be gained from ABNA that doesn’t include winning or advancing in the contest. This year I got another awesome critique partner (outside of my regular critique group), who already has a great YA book out. I’m looking forward to reading and possibly helping with the sequel, as well as getting her take on Random Acts.
Good News: several of my friends from the board and members of my critique group did make it past round one. I plan on cheering them along to the final round.
Bad news: I heard back from the three agents who had requested the full manuscript of Random Acts. They all passed. Two said they were open to reading it again should I revise and would look at my future projects. One of those two rejections made me cry. Not because it was mean, it was anything but. The agent said they loved the manuscript and thought long and hard about offering to represent. But they didn’t think it was ready.
I wept bitter tears. I wasn’t expecting to take it so hard, I’m usually pretty good at brushing off disappointment and soldiering on.
Sometimes it is hard to see past the “no” and absorb the helpful and positive things the agent/editor/ critic said along with the rejection. All I could see when I read the letter was that I’d come very close to succeeding but it WASN’T GOOD ENOUGH.
After indulging in a tiny pity party, I could then take in that this agent had said they loved my work. That they wanted to see more of it. And had given me good advice on how to improve it. Yes, they’d said it wasn’t good enough, I just hadn’t been able to see the “yet”.
Good news: an editor from a small press saw a twitter pitch* for Random Acts and asked to see the first few pages. Not long after sending the requested pages the editor responded and asked for the entire manuscript. I don’t know if anything will come of it, but just having it looked at by a publisher is a big accomplishment.
Good news: I finished my fifth manuscript, The Living UnDead. It is the final book in a trilogy. And the farewell to characters I created in my very first novel. It’s also my longest book, coming in at 126,000 words (in the first draft. The count is bound to change once I start editing.)
I started it in the summer of 2010, making it the book it took me the longest to complete. I also started and finished both Outlook Grimm and Random Acts of Nudity between starting and finishing this one.
Bad news: I’m not writing. For the first time in two and a half years, I don’t have a work in progress. I know what my next project will be, but since my critique group is planning on doing our own not-National Novel Writing Month in April, I’m waiting until April 1st to start drafting. I plan on using the time until then editing Living Undead to send to my beta readers and on planning the new book.
Good news: I made a chocolate mousse cake!
I got the recipe from the One Pot Chef YouTube channel. It’s probably the got best ease of prep to decadence ratio of anything I’ve ever made.
Bad news: My elliptical broke about a month and a half ago and I haven’t been doing my daily hour of exercise as a result. I was already gaining back some of the pre daily exercise weight, because of all the baked goods before it broke. So I’ve ordered a new elliptical and am trying to cut back on the treats. We’ll see if that helps.
*AS a part of a Twitter pitch event. Authors were invited to pitch their book in a tweet and agents and editors could view them and request. It is never a good idea to randomly pitch to an agent on Twitter or facebook, or any other social media platform, unless they say they re open to that.

Progress Report (formally known as this week in writing)

The biggest thing that happened since the last update is the conclusion of the editing workshop. I learned so much from the class. I plan to do a post at a later date of the most important lessons. It wasn’t without it’s trials. The teacher had a look at the first chapter of Random Acts of Nudity. Her major feedback was that I was over writing. Using ten words where two would do. Overwhelming the narrative with flashbacks and digressions. It wasn’t the first time I’d heard feedback on those lines. But it was the first time I could see the problem for myself.

I must admit, it threw my confidence for a few days. There was so much that needed to be cut! Would I still have a book by the end? How could I be so blind about how bad the writing was? Was it even worth editing? And it got into my head as was writing my current WIP. I kept questioning every line as I was writing. Am I doing it right now? Which words do I need? It almost paralyzed me.

But after a couple of days the feedback sunk in. I could look at the text I was editing and see what was essential and what could go. I’ve edited the first five chapters, and have cut around four thousand words so far. And the book is essentially the same. I might end up with a much shorter book by the time I’ve finished this latest edit. But I’d rather have a very good 50,000 word book than a decent one of 70,000.

And I reminded myself that the book I was beating myself up over, had gotten to the top one percent of ABNA. It had garnered a glowing Publishers’ Weekly review, excess words and all. The book is not worthless, but it has room for improvement.

Another development is that my critique group read RAON in its entirety. They too gave me valuable feedback. Helped me see areas that needed to be fleshed out and/or clarified. I love my critique group, they’re so encouraging and generous with their time. Though they don’t sugarcoat the critique. I’ve decided to put querying on hiatus until I’ve finished this round of editing, and implemented their feedback.

Of course I already had it on submission with a few agents as this was going on. I’ve heard back from three of the four who requested pages. Two have passed, offering similar feedback as my editing teacher. One I’ve yet to hear from. And one requested the complete manuscript! That was very exciting. And she had seen the pre editing class version. We’ll have to wait and see what happens there.

And in spite of the self imposed hiatus, I couldn’t resist entering another pitch contest, and got another request. So I sent out the new streamlined version of the first three chapters this afternoon.

On the non RAON writing front, I did not finish the WIP in time to begin a new project for NaNoWriMo. Between the WIP, the intense editing on RAON, critiquing this month’s manuscript for the group, and holding down my day job, I just didn’t have the time. But I do have a pretty good idea of what my next project will be. I’m thinking of trying my hand at Middle Grade fantasy.

In the meantime, I’ve bounced back from the self doubt, and the end of the WIP is in sight. It’s currently at 113,000 words. I expect to add another 15 to 20 thousand by the time it’s done. It’s the longest book I’ve ever written, (previous champion is 80,000). Granted once I’ve cut the excess, it’ll likely be closer to 90,000. Regardless it will feel good to get to the end.

Finally in baked goods news, I went on a bit of a baking spree. I made chocolate chip cookies, chocolate ganache cookies, and dark chocolate peanut butter cups. And now my pants are way too tight. So the baking is also on hiatus. Except for the batch of pumpkin bread I made this afternoon. I basically used the same recipe as the banana bread, but substituted pumpkin pie filling for the bananas. It’s super moist.

That’s all for now. Thanks for reading!

This week in writing

It’s been more than a week since my last progress report, but these few weeks in writing doesn’t have much of a ring to it. So what’s happened? I’ve heard from two agents. One was one of the four who requested pages. She was very nice. Said the concept is fabulous, but that it wasn’t quite the right fit for her. The other is one I queried during a time when she said every query would get a personal reply, even if it was a no, rather than a form rejection. A form rejection is a prewritten letter just saying no, with no reasons behind the no. Her response was also a pass, because she had recently signed an edgy YA, and that mine sounded too issue driven for her taste. So, no agent yet, but both rejections were encouraging in their way. Neither said the concept wasn’t sellable or that the writing was bad. The first specifically said it was likely an agent out there that will want it. But that she isn’t that agent. The other already had a project that could possibly compete. The ¬†interesting thing to me about her feedback is I don’t think of Random Acts of Nudity as an issue driven book. I see the sex tape as the catalyst of the story, not the focus of it. It’s an important part of the story but its not all sex tape all the time. but I’ve been working on the book for over a year, I’m too close to see it objectively.

Also going on is the editing class. It’s been really interesting so far. ¬†This week the task is to read the entire manuscript and cut any scene that does not advance the plot or the character arcs. I’m pretty pleased so far, I’ve found a couple of brief scenes that can go, but it doesn’t feel like I’ve got many wasted scenes. They almost all tie into either the overarching plot or are important to character growth. With one exception. There’s a scene just past the halfway mark that does neither. It’s just a sweet moment between the main character and her sister. I should cut it, but I can’t. I love it! Which means I really should get rid of it. There’s an adage that goes “kill your darlings.” It means don’t get so attached to any of your writing that you can’t change or cut it. It can apply to the wording of a sentence or entire scenes. I’ve never had a problem changing sentences, but hooboy, this one is tough. I’ve marked the scene to delete, but haven’t actually done it yet. My critique group is reading Random Acts this month. I’ll ask them if they think it should go.
I’ve also made a little more progress on the WIP. It’s very close to being finished. Maybe four more chapters until the end. If I can finish it by the end of the month, I’ll start a new novel for National Novel Writing Month.
And in baked goods news, I made banana bread from scratch just because I had all the ingredients on hand. It’s delicious, I don’t think I’ll ever use a mix again. I also made a deep dish pizza for my sister’s birthday dinner. It was just okay. Since I had left over ingredients I tried a different dough recipe and made a stuffed spinach. Also just okay. The pizza code is tough to crack, but I will prevail!

This week in writing

 

It’s been an eventful week. I participated in a pitch event on twitter. The rules were simple. Pitch your book in 140 characters or less, and mark it with the tag #pitmad. Agents were following the tag, and if they liked what they saw, they’d favorite your tweet. I had three agents request mine. Which means there are now three agents with pages from Random Acts of Nudity in their inbox (plus a fourth who had requested pages off a similar event the week before). So now I wait to see if any of them ask for more. And I try to not to obsess over the undiscovered typos that appeared in the excerpt seconds after each time I hit send. Hopefully a missing quotation mark here and a random paragraph break there won’t ruin the query’s chances, but who knows? Having an agent/s request pages is a small goal to check off on my mental list of “things that mean I’m a real author.”

It would be very easy to get carried away, imagining that because they asked for pages, I’ll be signed and have a book deal by next month, but that ain’t happening. In truth this isn’t that different from the unrequested queries I’ve sent. With those I sent a query letter and five to fifty pages of the manuscript, which the agent or their assistant would read and then choose to pass or ask for more. (So far it’s all been passes). In this case the agent has only seen a one to three sentence description of the book. The pages will be the first sample of my writing they’ll see. If they ask for more, that will be exciting (and another check on the list).
The major difference, and it’s a significant one, is that these agents already like the concept of my book. With the blind queries I never knew for sure if the agent passed simply because they didn’t like the idea of the book. These agents are into the idea of a high school girl with a sex-tape (uh…a book about a high school girl with a sex tape, I’m not implying they like child pornography. Whoops) So now it’s a matter if they like my execution of the concept.
So as I said, it’s all about waiting. Though what I’m waiting for is hard to say. I only know I’ll hear from them if they like what they saw. None of the agents said they’d contact me if they didn’t. For all I know they’ve already read the pages and decided it wasn’t up to snuff. Or it might still be in their to read piles, and they might not make the decision for several months. It’s best to just celebrate that I qot a couple of requested queries, and go back to business as usual.
In other writing news, I made some progress on my work in progress. And I got another couple of chapters edited. Plus starting this week I’ll be taking an online course on professional editing, which will hopefully make the self editing process easier and more productive.
That’s all for now.