Category: novel

also I finished my most recent editing pass of my novel (and have had a few drinks) so I’ve put an invitation to read an early draft on my site, ok bye 📚

First Third Thursday in the Writers’ League

I came down with some kind of virus last weekend, and am just now feeling more or less back to normal. I had some time yesterday morning to continue my “last pass” of editing on my manuscript, but had barely started when I got paged by system alerts from work. All of which to say, I haven’t made a lot of progress in the last week.

But I did get out last night, and made the dark and rainy drive downtown to BookPeople. It was the first Writers’ League of Texas “Third Thursday” panel discussion since I joined that group last month. The subject was “Writing Great Villains”, the third-floor room was standing-room only, and I’m glad I went. They usually record these, and make podcast episodes out of them, a fact that nearly made me skip attending in person. But for whatever reason last night, they didn’t have the sound equipment, so if I hadn’t gone, I’d have missed not only the discussion, but also meeting the fine folks I met. I’m already looking forward to going next month.

The discussion of villains was interesting. My novel’s villain isn’t a richly drawn, complex one, at least not yet, even though his name is my working title for the book. Hmm. Yet I’m not really sure whether he should be more complex. I see him as a figure representing a kind of terribleness that may not deserve more depth. And this is more genre fiction than literary, anyway. Doesn’t that mean I can get away with a one-dimensional bad guy? Not completely sure about this, but the topic and discussion last night has me thinking about it.

That was my second foray out into my local writers’ world since the new year began: I also attended a critique-group meetup last week. I had no idea what I was doing, but it was a positive experience. It was small, mostly folks who have known each other for a long time, very welcoming to the couple of us who were new. I didn’t take any of my writing yet; I only read and gave poor (I’m sure) feedback. I plan to keep attending that, though I have doubts that it will be the best match for me in the long term. I also plan to get in touch directly with a couple other aspiring writers I’ve met, to see about trying some critique work with them. Man, I really need to get this pass of edits done. I feel increasingly behind and blocked by that.

This is turning out to be pretty fun and exciting, so far! I even bought a book last night (Ben Winters’ Golden State, a 2020 Tournament of Books contender) and used my new Writers’ League discount. If that’s not official, what is?

First Draft, not Fourth

I finished Your First Novel by Ann Rittenberg and Laura Whitcomb last night. The title seemed a little cringey and self-helpy at first, but the developer side of me has to admire a descriptive name. And I liked it a lot; it was well written and interesting. The first half, by author Rittenberg, is about getting it written, and the second half, by literary agent Whitcomb, is about getting it published.

Thinking I was closer to having the manuscript ready to send to a publisher, I nearly skipped the first half and started in the middle. But my completist tendencies, and the supposition (correct, it turned out) that the second half may refer back often to the first, prompted me to start at the beginning. Which was good, because that’s where I started realizing that my manuscript isn’t close to ready, at all.

Having an essentially completed work, and working on revisions, I’m glad to not need the advice about staying motivated and keeping momentum. One intense month, and many, many hours in the four years since, got me that far. But the parts about revisions, and polish, and “going from good to great”, those are where I’m at now.

By seeking professional feedback after finishing the first draft of a novel, you significantly reduce your novel’s chances of ever being published. Agents and editors should not be your first readers. They are looking for polished manuscripts, not rough drafts. By its nature, any novel that hasn’t been read by several people is a rough draft, no matter how often it’s been rewritten. [emphasis added]

That last sentence sums it up for me. By my own reckoning, this is version four of my novel. I’ve changed and improved it a lot since I finished my 50,186th word on Nov. 30, 2015. I’ve more than doubled the word count, for one thing. But nobody else has really read it. In fact I’m still working through “one last pass” (as I thought of it until recently) to fix any remaining typos, etc. before letting people I know read it. The point Whitcomb convincingly makes there is that this isn’t really version four. It’s barely version one.

Having other people read it, in part or in whole, is a scary but necessary phase I still need to go through. I can only imagine what it will be like to get feedback and constructive (I hope) criticism, but that’s obviously part of the process. In addition to putting this draft out to people I know after this current pass of typo-fixes is done, I’ve started looking into meetups and ways to connect with critique groups and partners. Not terrifying, no, not at all.

There are other approaches the book advises: readings, conferences, courses, and more. I plan to do a bunch of that, too, but this paradigm shift (pardon my language) about being “done” vs. having a whole bunch more re-reading and revising to do yet is one of the biggest things I’ve learned.

A Novel Resolution for 2020

Happy New Year! Among my resolutions (yet again) is to more frequently post more actual words here, and not just my weekly beer photos. So I got a new URL for this here blog. Farewell, blog.storycards.net, subdomain of a site from a short-lived Java(!) game I wrote 17 years ago, and hello, chrisgrayson.net. I mean, what kind of author doesn’t even have their own vanity-named site, at least?

Because that’s what I plan to write about a good bit: becoming a published author. I have a manuscript, which is super close to being in good enough shape to actually let actual people read it. Rough still, for sure; like version 0.0.0.0.1, and in beta, at that. I’d had some baseless ideas that if I got it to about this point, then I could start trying to magically hit the publisher jackpot, who would work with me to fix and refine whatever it needs, based just on this rough first draft. Having now spent a little time learning how the process should go, I understand I’m much farther from that point than I’d thought.

Honestly, the realization made me consider giving up. But the more I’ve looked into it, and learned what the road ahead would take, the more I’m excited about giving it a go. So partly for accountability, and partly to share, I’ll be documenting all of that here. Eventually this novel’s getting published, one way (publishing house) or another (self published). Stay tuned.

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