agented

Gather ’round, kidlets. Story time.

In 2003, I tried doing NaNoWriMo for the first time, because I’d always wanted to write but had never been good about sitting down and actually doing it. I had ideas in notebooks but nothing concrete.

I tried. I failed. Burnt out around 15k.

In 2004, I tried again. I made it to 50k that year. That novel is not a novel, it is a sprawling mess of post-apocalyptic… something.

In 2005, for NaNo #3, I had no plot but lots of atmosphere, and when I reached the 30k mark and had no idea where to go with it, I sent my characters to the circus.

In 2006, I spent NaNo working on that circus. I ended up with something interesting, but not novel-shaped.

In 2007, I did another 50k worth of work on the circus. In NaNo terms this is cheating. I’m sorry.

Throughout 2008 I took the 100k+ of circus… stuff and attempted to shape it into a novel.

I don’t know how many drafts it went through. Four, maybe? It started to have something resembling a proper shape in the beginning of 2009.

From 2008 to, well, now, I started learning about the publishing industry.

On June 2nd, 2009, I sent out my first batch of query letters.

I sent six queries out in that first batch. Within 20 minutes I had a partial request and a full request. I got another full request two hours later, two rejections the next day, and a third full request a few weeks later.

Ten days later those first two full request turned into rejections. The partial joined them in rejectionland soon after.

I sent out more queries. I got more requests. I got more rejections.

In August, I got a full request that turned into a phone call. A very nice phone call that I’m pretty sure I did nothing but stammer during, and was a request to rework the book almost entirely, but it was still an offer of representation.

I got in touch with the other agents who were still considering. Some of them passed. I had more phone calls. I think I stammered less in those.

I ended up not taking any offers at that point. I decided to revise independently, because everyone seemed to be saying different versions of the same thing.

I spent September and October of 2009 revising. I pushed around what I had. I tried to have more *stuff* happen. I polished it. I wrapped it up in pretty bows.

I sent it back to the three agents who wanted to see it.

More phone calls. More e-mails. All three of them said different versions of “well… not there yet.”

So I sighed. I ate a lot of chocolate. I wrote a completely different story for NaNo ’09. I took December off.

In January of 2010, I checked into the Revisionland Hotel.

I tore everything apart. I changed the format. I changed the plot. Well, I changed what little plot there was into an actual plot. I took over 25k out and put other stuff in. I sent it to old beta readers and new beta readers. I changed it some more.

I sent it back to agents two weeks ago.

Last week I had one offer of representation.

On Monday I had three.

I thought about it. A lot. I was extremely lucky to have three wonderful agents spending their time on me and my work, offering wonderful advice throughout this process.

In the end I signed with the same agent I had that very first stammering phone call with back in August.

I am now represented by Richard Pine of InkWell Management.

Almost exactly a year after I started querying.

the end.

Finished my NaNoWriMo novel draft. Final tally: 80,154.

I think it’s pretty good. I know it’s better now than it was around the 20k mark or so. I’m pretty sure I want to very heavily revise it, including possibly splitting the narrative POV, but that can wait. It’s all rough around the edges but there’s something in there to shine up and make pretty.

For now, though, it’s going to sit for a few weeks before I pick it back up and read it all the way through. I’ll miss it, I think. It’s the most I’ve ever written in a month so I’ve spent several hours a day with these characters so it will be odd to not have to follow them around tomorrow.

So, note for the ages: I finished the very first draft of THEREAFTER on Sunday, November 29th, 2009. We’ll see where it goes from here.

And since I shared my favorite Rapunzel pic found in researching stages earlier, here’s my favorite Little Red Riding Hood, by John Everett Millais:

millais_ridinghood

50k!

Well, 51,132. And I have at least 20, possibly 30 more before the end will roll around. Going to try to get it done before December.

Bucket remains unimpressed.

unimpressed bucket

november is for writing

Clearly, I fail at blogging during NaNo. This is probably not that surprising.

But now there are pretty little wordcount widgets, look!

Currently at 36k. Now have five different fairy tales (Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, The Six Swans, The Twelve Dancing Princesses, & Bluebeard) incorporated and twisted around into knots. I’m guessing that this draft will round out around 75k, and I’m hoping I can get that done this month. I already have notes for things I want to change, of course.

And now, because I know y’all (& by y’all, I mean the approximately three people who read this regularly. Hi Paul!) are interested, a Great Agent Search update:

At the end of October I sent my revised manuscript back to the three agents who wanted to see it, and within two weeks I had responses & feedback from all three of them.

And… I get to go back to revisionland. Everyone say yay!

It’s really not that bad. I think this time I have a much clearer idea of what needs to happen and a slightly vaguer but still pretty decent idea of how to do that.

The unfortunate part is that it’s going to involve completely dismantling and reworking what I have. And I have no idea how long that will take. I’m hoping to do some structural outlining/planning during December and then start in on the new draft in January.

And when that revision is completed and beta’d and revised again, all three agents want to see it again. So it seems like there’s a good novel in there somewhere. I just need to figure out how to write it.

But other than occasional jotting down of notes & ideas I’m trying not to think about it too much at the moment. I have NaNoing to do. And the circus can wait while I’m busy wandering around my war-torn fairy tale mashup of a NaNovel. I am all Once Upon a Not-So-Happily-Ever-After at the moment.

Here, have my favorite illustration of Rapunzel that I’ve stumbled upon in researching:

gloag_rap

Rapunzel by Isobel Lilian Gloag

exploratory noveling

It makes me very sad that the NaNoWriMo word count widgets aren’t working yet. So when I say, “I have 17,507 words!” that doesn’t get translated into a pretty little progress bar.

I Googled and I found one! Not the fancypants official ones, but still a visual interpretation of numbers and that makes me inexplicably happy:

17507 / 50000 words. 35% done!

I’m much further ahead than I’d expected to be. I might try to hit 25k sometime over the weekend if I’m feeling particularly motivated. It’s going well but I’m not sure what I think of it yet. But my characters are putting up with a fair amount of pushing them around, and they have a destination that I likely won’t reach for another 10k, and I have a general idea of what might happen after that.

I have more of an outline this year than usual, mostly because I’m structuring it on classic Hero’s Journey framework, so it has a general sort of shape to it. It’s building toward something, there’s all the fun traveling bits and stuff to encounter around the way.

It is sort of a fairy tale mashup, with my main characters taken from fairy tales and pushed far beyond their happy ever afters. So far I’ve pulled from Rapunzel, Little Red Riding Hood, and Six Swans. I’m likely using Bluebeard at some point.

It’s almost as though I have a map this year, only it’s written in fading ink and has bits missing, and I keep wandering toward those bits that say hic sunt dracones. Still exploratory, still not sure what I might find, but I have a decent idea of where I’m headed.

Unless of course I get attacked by pirates or something. Which has been known to happen.

it’s that time again

nano_09_red_participant_120x240.pngI think this is the first year that NaNoWriMo has pretty much snuck up on me. It’s October 28th, you say? Seriously?

It likely doesn’t help that we’ve had a lousy rainy sort of October around here, so it hasn’t felt as festive as usual. I have had my Pumpkinfest beer at the Salem Beer Works several times, though, so that’s something.

But anyway, October has flown in rainy (occasionally snowy) quickness and now it is very nearly November, and November is National Novel Writing Month.

For those of you unfamiliar with the phenomenon, the goal of NaNoWriMo is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. You can read all about the wonderment that is NaNo on their website.

This is my seventh NaNoWriMo. I’m really not sure how that happened. I’ve won every year except my first try, and I blame that on not really knowing what I was getting in to and being overly invested. I went in with a story I’d been trying to write for almost a year, I got annoyed when it wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be, and I gave up around 15k. The second try I went in with no expectations and reached the mythical 50k mark fairly easily.

The novel that was just revised and sent back to agents started life as a NaNovel in ’06. The current version bares a very slim resemblance to that 50k, it’s been revised many, many times since then. (I actually cheated a bit and continued in ’07, so I had 100k to work from. Bad me.) One of my major characters doesn’t even appear in the NaNo drafts.

Which is why I find it kind of baffling that people think NaNoWriMo is about starting & finishing a novel that is “done” on November 30th. It’s not, in my opinion. It’s about writing a draft of a novel. Writing it in a condensed period of time with a deadline that makes it easier to shut up the inner editor and just write write write.

And then you can see what you have and start revising it into something resembling a novel.

For me, NaNoWriMo is about exploring and discovering. I’ve never started a NaNovel with more than a handful of characters and a vague plot concept. And that’s the way I like it, because it allows for possibilities. Anything can happen! It’s an adventure! You don’t even have to leave your house, all you have to do is type. A lot. But you have to type a lot to find things. There are things that you find at the 30k level that you won’t find at 10k. It’s like creative excavation. The deeper you go, the more interesting artifacts you find.

I still haven’t dusted off NaNovel ’08. I love it, but it needs a lot of work. It didn’t really find its plot until the 40k mark, so there’s a lot to polish. But I have a lot of story there to work with that only took me 30 days to get down on the page. And it’ll get there.

For NaNovel ’09 I haven’t had much time to plan. Not that I ever do a whole lot of planning. But I have a handful of characters and a vague concept, so once I stock up on red wine and chocolate I should be all good.

the end is in sight

I’m in revisionland again, in case the radio silence hadn’t made that terrible obvious.

I would like to take a moment to say that I have fabulous beta readers. They found the elusive things that were missing instantly, because they are brilliant. Everyone needs extra pairs of eyes to look at things from different angles, and I have three pairs of great ones.

And even better, I knew as soon as they pointed out the weak spots what I needed to do to fix them.

So I’ve been fixing. Added two new sections which I finished writing today, and now I have to tackle a few changes through the rest of it and then it will be shiny and polished and novel-shaped again.

And of course, there will be another round of index card ordering on the studio floor. I’m sure Bucket will enjoy that.

But the end is in sight. And beyond that, November is looming in a NaNoWriMo shaped cloud of loomy thing. I should have at least a few days to get armed & ready. Hopefully.

revisionland

I realized I have been rather bad about actually blogging the current writing/agent search situation. Maybe because I’ve been talking about it nonstop and working so much that it just seemed like that would have shown up on the blog by osmosis or something.

But oddly, things only show up on the blog if I actually type them up and post them. So, this is the state of the novel-querying nation. In as short a form as possible, since it gets confusing:

I had an offer for my novel, but it came contingent on a pretty major revision. I alerted other agents that were reading and got some more input and suggestions and after a lot of thought decided not to accept the original offer outright, and instead I’m working on revising independently based on all the feedback I’ve received. I have three agents waiting to see the revised version when it’s finished.

So what does this mean? Mostly, it means I still don’t have an agent BUT THAT’S OK. Really, I’m happy with how things are going, it’s giving me a chance to look at my manuscript again and push it further and have the ball back in my court for the moment. It’s nice to have some control again, to have something to work on actively instead of sitting around waiting. Not that I didn’t have other things to work on, but the circus is warm and fuzzy and familiar and I like being able to play in it again.

And probably most importantly: I am 100% sure I am making the story better. I have a long list of suggestions/problem points/issues to address and I’m having a wonderful time working on it. Seriously, it’s like I’ve been given permission to have more fun with it. For about a week and a half I’ve been mulling things over and taking notes and saying “What if I did this?” to the boy (who has read every draft) and he’s responded with varying degrees of “That would be AWESOME.” Which is rather happy-making.

I’m still writing down notes and trying to get all the new ideas to fit with what’s there, figuring out what needs to be added and removed and changed. I’m starting to see the new version, or the idea of the new version, and while I still have a lot of work ahead of me I’m pleased with how it’s going so far. This week’s phase is combing through the current version with a purple pen to mark it up for surgery.

Though today I have mostly been writing snippets of new scenes and turning this photo of Tessa into postcards from the gods: bastet, which should be up on Etsy later today.

bastet tessa

So that’s where I am right now. Revision-o-rama. I’m hoping I’ll be done by mid-September, so I can hand it off to a couple of beta readers before sending it back to agents. And then I can figure out what to write for this year’s NaNoWriMo. It may finally be the year for Edwardian Boston Pirate vs. Ninja. Maybe.

early monday morning

I am up absurdly early. Even more absurdly than the timestamp might suggest. The boy leaves for work at 6am and I was vaguely awake then and somewhere in the vague awakeness I figured out the entire plot of my 2008 NaNoWriMo novel.

Seriously, the entire thing. Making just one change tied everything together in a perfect bow and made my recurring themes make so much more sense. I had to get up to write it all down, and even looking at it from the other side of a cup of tea it all makes sense.

I love moments like these, when everything falls into place. There is a shaft of early morning sunshine falling across my computer monitor. I decided to see what Pandora would come up with in a Tori Amos station and it is brilliant.

Of course, I have another novel to finish before I can really go and play in the recently untangled one too much. But it is almost there, with only la few outlined edits and additions to go, and it’s nice to know that I have someplace waiting for me that makes more sense today than it did yesterday.

Photograph taken late yesterday afternoon of the window of an antiques store. A couple more from a chilly but springy afternoon on my Flickr photostream.

I reached the 50k mark for my NaNovel on Saturday. It’s the earliest I’ve ever hit 50k in six years of NaNoing, so that’s something of an accomplishment. I’m at 53k now and I still have quite a bit to go before this draft is anywhere near done, but that’s ok.

I think one of the things I like about NaNoWriMo is that not only does it give you a deadline, which is magical, but it gives you bragging rights and fun icons. It is like getting a gold star in kindergarten, it is simple but extremely happy-making. I cannot even say how much I adore the Viking theme of this year’s winner icons. They are extra special triumphant.

I enjoyed this NaNo more than some previous years. Maybe I just hit upon the fact that I am especially loquacious when writing in first person (though only part of the novel is in first person, those parts did go very fast) or maybe I’ve just had a lot of practice, but I didn’t hit the “I hate my novel” phase this time around, as I usually do somewhere in week three. I had plenty of phases where I wasn’t sure where everything was going (I’m still not sure where everything is going, actually) but nothing that made me want to give up entirely.

I am going to keep writing, I want to see how much I can get done before the end of November since there are still several days left. I am, in a general sense, getting better at finishing what I start and I think for the writing side of that NaNoWriMo has been invaluable. I suppose I have Chris Baty to thank for that, so thank you Chris. You are a Viking in the best of literary Viking ways.