Good morning! Our friend Sally Bayless is back with another installment of her series on the new writer’s journey. I think we’ll all be able to identify with this post.
Lately, I’ve been having a lot of conversations like this:
“So, how’s your book coming? Weren’t you almost done?”
“Well, um, I started a new book. The first one … It’s kind of a long story.”
And it’s one I’m pretty sure my non-writer friends don’t get. They smile and politely nod as I try to explain, but I think deep down they believe I’m nuts. You see, I’m spending more time than ever with my writing and, in a lot of ways I’m right back where I was two years ago.
In January 2009, I started drafting my first manuscript. Sure, there had been a few attempts before, but nothing that got beyond Chapter Four. This time, I was going to write a whole book. And I did. On March 11, 2009, I finished my first draft.
On March 1, 2011, I finished the first draft of my second manuscript. But in between those two dates … Well, I think my friends here in town imagined me talking about agents and editors and getting rejection letters. And possibly letting them read it.
Instead, they heard about me sending chapters through critique groups and entering contests to get feedback and reading craft books and “no, really, it’s not ready.”
That first manuscript was like some of my projects when I was learning to sew as a teenager. Way too scary for the public view. I spent a year and a half revamping that first book, trying to improve it. Finally I decided that, like some of my early sewing, it was easier to start over. After a long study of plot in the fall, I understand my first manuscript has some big problems. Problems on the same magnitude as if you’d cut all the pieces out for a dress with the stripes going the wrong way. Taking out stitches is not going to fix it.
Then, when I realized (or convinced myself) that my first manuscript was actually the second book chronologically in the series I envisioned, it was a no-brainer to let the first one sit and fester. Even if I could fix it, how could I sell the second book of a series? Besides, I’ve heard there are lots of first novels out there, hidden in drawers or buried in folders on hard drives—novels authors would rather burn than let see the light of day.
So I started my second manuscript. And here I am, right back where I began.
But—cue happy music and picture me skipping through a field of daisies—with one big difference. This manuscript, I think, has a chance. Just a few days ago I got feedback on my synopsis from a multi-published author who agrees. She did not (repeat NOT) tell me to quit writing and consider taking up crochet. Truly, that possible response crossed my mind. Instead, she gave suggestions and actually said she liked it! (For you cynics out there, I’ll add that no cash changed hands. She read it out of the goodness of her heart.)
Anyway, after an entire morning spent skipping through that meadow, I plunged back in. I am so excited! And this time I have a plan that goes beyond finishing the draft. March will be my merry month of research to fill in some holes. Then I’ll spend a few months doing a big rewrite. Then polishing, sending to my critique partners, etc., and then, finally, (I hope, I hope) I will have something of decent quality that I can try to send out before the end of 2011.
To all you folks out there who’ve received rejection letters, keep in mind that just having something decent enough to think I could send it off to get rejected would be a step forward. See how far you’ve come?
I haven’t totally given up on that first manuscript. I still think, with a lot of patience, I can fix it. But writing the second manuscript was certainly less painful. I guess it’s always easier to do something the right way (or at least closer to the right way) than to fix something done the wrong way.
But the bottom line is, with this second manuscript, query letters will be sent. PRO status will be achieved. And maybe, just maybe, someone will ask for a partial. And then (happy music fades back in) maybe they’ll want the second book in the series, too. That would be major motivation to rework that thing in the drawer.
So, RU readers, I’m curious about your work. How many manuscripts did you write before you created something that (even if the market didn’t agree) you thought was publishable quality? And what made the difference between that work and your earlier writing? Was there one step you took that was key to getting there?
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Join us on Wednesday when CJ Lyons tells us how to become a bestseller while preserving our sanity.
Sally Bayless is learning to write inspirational romantic suspense and cozy mysteries. Before realizing that ordinary people were allowed to write fiction, she edited corporate publications and technical reports. In January 2010, she was a finalist in the first contest she entered, SVRWA’s Gotcha. A member of ACFW, RWA, MWA, and several online groups, Sally lives in rural Ohio with her husband and two children.
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- CYC: How a PERT Chart Helped Me Refocus on Writing by Sally Bayless
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