Craft, Critique, Editing, Editor, Fiction, Novel, Publish, Revision, Writing

Once more down that editing road

Thank you all for wishing me well on my indie-publishing venture. This being my blog, you’ll be subject to reading about my failures and successes as I learn how to turn a manuscript into a real, honest to goodness book. I’ll try not to bore you with too many details, and I’ll ramble about other things too, of course.

My first step toward publishing my novel is to read and edit—again.  Again.  I confess I expected to have an agent’s input before this book went to an editor. Now, it will be just me. One more time through, and then I’ll pass it to my editor. After I make the changes she suggests, I’ll learn how to format the manuscript for the print and various e-reader versions. (Easy to say; harder to do.)

I think—but you never know—my closest focus on this edit round will be my first chapter. You may remember that after I wrote, edited, revised, pampered, primped, and polished my manuscript, I demoted the original first chapter, and wrote a new opening. The new Chapter One is good, but I’m concerned I left it in foster child status.

In the two and a half years I’ve worked on this book, I’ve had much good advice on what to cut, add, and revise from my critique partners. Now, I will be taking full responsibility. The power is exhilarating, but sobering. I can’t blame anyone else if the type, or layout, or book cover is a failure. Those are minor worries though.

The big worry is that I’m responsible for the story. It’s a story I love. I’ve told it as well as I could. While it’s still in my possession, I can dream about how many others will love it. Once I publish …


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Advice, Editing, Fiction, My Books, Novel, Revision, Tips, Writing

Go ahead, laugh if you want to

Today, I’m giving you valuable writing advice. It’s not original. I’d read it more than once online and off. I also ignored it. The tip was this: When you think you’ve cleaned up your manuscript as best you can—think again. Put it away, preferably for months, then read it through one more time.

As I told you, I’m in the midst of that “final” read. So far, I’ve found bits here and there to improve, a little embarrassing, but nothing major. Nothing that would have made an agent roll their eyes and fire off a form reject. Except maybe …

In an earlier draft, I had a scene where Jalal had angered and hurt Renee, so she avoided him for several days. Then they run into each other in the grocery market and he tries, unsuccessfully, to apologize. She rushes out in tears, leaving her purse and cart behind. He grabs her purse, rushes after her, and they talk in the parking lot. She drives off.

In a later draft, this scene occurs later in the story and under slightly different circumstances. Renee is still hurt and angered and avoids Jalal, but the stakes are higher for him now. Fearing he’s lost Renee forever, he desperately searches the town for her. Finally he spots her car in the market parking lot, rushes inside, finds her, tries to make things right. She’s not having it and exits, leaving her purse and cart behind. He grabs her purse, rushes after her, and they talk in the parking lot. She drives off.

Still following? Here’s where my earlier editing of the final version failed. After Renee drives away, Jalal goes back into the store, adds his things to her cart, and pays for it all.

Did you catch that? This frantic man, who ten minutes earlier had run into the market, desperate to find this woman, had apparently browsed through the aisles and picked up a few items before he bothered looking for her!

I realize this ridiculous error is an artifact from the previous version, when they were both shopping and accidentally met. But it should have been edited out during the last revision. It’s evidence of sloppy editing. I can’t say for sure how I managed to miss this mistake during two visual and one oral readings. I suspect I happened to read this section all three times long past when I should have quit work for the day.

So, I guess that’s another tip I can share with you. When you edit your manuscript, end the session before your eyes glaze over.

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Agent, Fiction, Humor, Novel, Query, Writing

How to stress over an agent request

Today, I thought I’d write an educational post by letting you in on my process of sending off a full manuscript. As I said in my previous post, when I received an agent’s recent email, I was too sick to do anything about it. But in all those hours staggering from bed or sofa to the bathroom and back, I had time to think about it.

It had been 99 days (according to QueryTracker) since I’d queried this agent, and I had written her off as a “no response means no” type. I had since stopped sending out queries because I had been hit with a whale of indecision over the opening chapter, so her request took me by surprise. Nevertheless, there was no question I would take the opportunity to submit. Here’s the tale.

On Monday, I open the file to check the formatting and find two notes at the top. One I understand and edit accordingly, the other I don’t understand. It simply says “Leakey, paleoanthropologist” and though I do have one of the characters mention him, I don’t know why I wrote that. I check to make sure I haven’t misspelled his name, but eventually ignore the notation.

Still, I have the problem of a new first chapter I’m working on. My query to this agent had included the first ten pages of my book and the synopsis. After sharing my dilemma with you, I decide to leave the first chapter as she saw it. I will still finish up the editing of that new beginning, if only because I enjoyed writing it.

Okay, cover page attached, standard formatting applied … the file is ready to send. Ah-ha,  I have to attach it to an email, but do I send it as .doc, .docx, .rtf, or .pdf? And do I start a new message, or reply to her reply to my query letter? I decide to reply. I mean, in the three intervening days she might have totally forgotten she requested my manuscript, so seeing her response to me right there in the email will assure her I’m not trying to pull a fast one. Right?

Oh, but what to say? This virus seems to have caused PARA (previous agent reply amnesia.) I don’t want to sound stupid, desperate, or stiff and humorless, but I also don’t want to sound too chummy, or not serious about my career. I want to come off smart, confident, pleasant, and easy to work with. I think I accomplish one or two of those. Or maybe not. Gosh, what if I came across desperate and too chummy? Or too serious … and stupid? *whimper*

Now, I’m faced with another crisis—two actually—the salutation and closing. She addressed me as “Ms. Lewis,” but signed off with her first name. Does that mean I should address her that way? And she used “All the best” which is not a way I usually close, and besides, I don’t want to copy her. Sincerely? Too formal. Have a nice day? Cliche. L8R? Get real. Aaarrgghh!

In the end, I go with first names, but a serious tone in my brief message. Even though I haven’t rushed my response, I hesitate before I hit the send button, sure that I’ve messed up somehow, and she’ll wonder why on earth she ever asked to read another word of my book. It could happen. Seriously.

(And if you wonder why I’m not saying how I closed the message, it’s because I’ve forgotten what I settled on and can’t bring myself to look. I just know I’ll see a stupid typo.)

Yes, indeed, I can manage to stress even when something good happens with my writing! If you think I made any mistakes in my response, please don’t tell me. I’ll just agonize over it.

😀 🙂 😉

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Agent, Editing, Fiction, Life, Novel, Query, Real Life, Revision, Writing

Escape from the Virulent Virus

I had planned to work on a real post yesterday, my first day back in solitude, but instead I was laid low by a stomach virus. It all started with a four-year-old vomiting all night Friday. Then the bug hit his father on Saturday morning. They flew home at noon (still sick) and within an hour of returning home from the airport, it hit me.  I pretty much don’t remember half of Saturday and most of Sunday.

I hate being too sick to even read. What a waste of time. I wasn’t able to get online, so I’m even farther behind in blog reading and responding to email. One of the last emails I read before the virus sent me to bed was from an agent, requesting the full manuscript of my novel. Normally, I would have been excited at another chance to present my work. That day, the request barely registered.

Now that I’m feeling much better, I need to send the file. The problem is, I haven’t looked at this manuscript for several weeks, and when I opened it, I found a notation at the top. Evidently, this is something I meant to change, but now I’m not sure how. (Note to self: never leave cryptic notes.) I expect I’ll remember my intention the second I send the file to the agent.

Another thing is I’ve been working on a new first chapter. This is not just a revision of the current one, but a completely new chapter from another character’s viewpoint. In my query to this agent, I included the first ten pages, and since her request is based on that, of course I’ll send the original. But I’m wondering if I should mention the new chapter in my response? Should I finish editing that chapter and include it as an alternate? Should I say nothing about it unless until she offers representation? I’d appreciate your thoughts.

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Excerpt, Fiction, Writing

Literary Tag

I was tagged twice today by fellow writers Kasie and Candice. Kasie says it’s called Bookwormed.

Here are the rules:
1. Open the closest book – not a favorite or most intellectual book, but the closest at the moment – to page 56.

2. Write out the fifth sentence on the page, as well as the two to five sentences following.

3. Then open your ms to page 56 and write out the fifth sentence, as well as two to five additional ones.

4. Tag five (or more) buddies to do this same exercise.

So, here’s this from Charles Frazier’s “Cold Mountain”:

The houses were dark inside, even on a bright day. Those with shutters kept them pulled to. Those with curtains kept them drawn. The houses smelled strangely, though not uncleanly, of cooking and animals and of people who worked.

And now, my WIP:

Meredith and Jalal ran laughing onto the porch. They had gone for a stroll along the beach walkway after dinner, but just as they came back in sight of his house, a windswept rainstorm surprised them. Now, just as they stepped over the threshold, lightning splintered the air with a sound they felt in their bones, and a velvety blackness swallowed up the beach road. Jalal reached out and flipped the light switch with no result.

I tag all writers who read this and would like to participate. Anyone? Anyone?