Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Okay...Now What

You wrote a masterpiece, you queried the hell out of it, you managed to snag your dream agent. Your dreams of literary stardom are coming true! Soon your name will be right up there with J.K Rowling's, Dan Brown's and Stephenie Meyer's...right? Wrong. Or maybe not wrong, but not right now.

My novel was on draft four or five before I even let my husband look at it. After he put in his two cents (or more) I made a new draft. Then I submitted a segment to my writer's group, had a manuscript mart session at the Grub Street conference, and made more edits. From my first batch of requests, I got a letter asking for changes. I made those. Now, that I have signed with her, guess what? I made more edits, and although I am new to the process, I would wager there are more to come.

What kinds of changes is she asking for?

1. More world development.
My novel is set in an imagined world, and of course I know everything about it. I made it. If it jumped out of my head and became a real place, I would know where to get the best pizza and the biggest discount on shoes. I would know how to get from point A to point B without directions. I could give you a complete history of the place and tell you exactly who would be coming around the corner at 10:15 am on Saturday.

My readers do not know this. Nor do they need too unless these details are pertinent to the story. But they do need to know enough so they could at least find pizza, even if it isn't the best pizza. As world builders, it is easy to forget that everyone doesn't have GPS into your head, so you need to show them the way.

2. More relationship development
We know in fiction, people fall in love at first sight, run away and elope after three days and live happily ever after. Regardless of how little time it takes our characters to find true love, there still needs to be a reason for it. Why do they connect? What makes them so perfect for each other? (And it has to be more than a hot ass)

3. More character description
I'll admit. I am not a fan of going on and on about every physical detail of my characters. In fact, Scott Eagan of Greyhaus Literary Agency posted today about not going overboard with description. Well, I go underboard (is that even a word?) She flipped her chocolate brown hair over her shoulder...etc. I just can't bring myself to do it more than a few times. However, in my fight against physical description, my agent envisioned blank faces for half of my characters. That's not good either. So I put in a little more, trying to sneak it in subtlely without having anyone look in a mirror (by the way, don't do that).

3. Cut the Crap
I received my marked up manuscript, thankfully, with more things to add rather than take away... but oh, when I scrolled through the document and saw rows and rows of red lines, sometimes cutting entire paragraphs or pages it was like my wrists had been slashed and my own blood had poured onto my beautifully crafted prose. So many a night had been spent hand-picking each word so the end result would be perfect, and in a moment - they were gone.

What did I do? All I could do. I cut them. I pressed backspace and held down until all of the red lines were gone. I read through the section again, and found the words were completely unnecessary. In one case, cutting the segment made a chapter beginning more compelling. I was excited to read my book again (and folks, I've read it at least a dozen times).

What comes next? How the hell should I know? I'm blogging this as I go through the process, so I'll let you know when I find out.

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