Monday, August 26, 2013

Progress Report -- August 26, 2013

Here's something I didn't know until recently: the publishing industry is kind of like school. They have a summer vacation.

Now how could I not know that? I work in the publishing industry. We certainly don't get the summer off... we don't even really slow down in the summer. Individuals take vacations, but the company keeps trucking along at full steam (is that a mixed metaphor? Were there steam-driven trucks? Never mind).

Maybe it's different for Sounds True, or for non-fiction, or what have you. In any case, summer months are the doldrums for fiction, so my agent and I are regrouping and gearing up for our next assault once editors get back from their holidays.

For me, regrouping meant a rewrite of Dragon Waking, which I managed to trim by 100 pages (previously 350, now 250), without, I think, losing anything essential. There were only a few big chunks that I thought I could drop entirely. The rest of the process was like cutting down a tree with sandpaper. Every sentence, every paragraph, and every exchange of dialogue got scrutinized, and I tightened up everything I could.

At first, it was agonizing. And then I started to really enjoy it. I learned a lot.

I also figured out something more exciting to do with the second chapter, which amplifies the tension in the all-important early pages. So that's good.

In short, Dragon Waking has slimmed down into the middle-weight division (or middle-grade) and is leaner, meaner, and ready to get in the ring and mix it up. Fortunately, unlike prize fighting, you only have to win one bout in this game to come out ahead.


Call Me said...

I've read another online blog about a comic book artist's experiences with pitching her comic ideas to publishers. Rather then showing a completed work she submits a 10-14 page excerpt with an outline.

Is this an industry thing? In the novel world do you only submit complete works? Could you submit an excerpt?

Grayson Towler said...

Opinions differ on that subject, but most of the agents/editors I've listened to have said that they pay much more attention if you've completed the entire manuscript. Especially if you're an unpublished author.

Agents & editors want to know a final word count, they want to know the whole plot, and most of all they want to be sure you have the follow-through to finish what you've started. The advice I hear repeated is "Get it finished, get it as polished as you can, then submit."

There are exceptions where people have won contests or something for the first chapters, and they get a deal on that. So it can be done.

Personally, I don't think I would want to start submitting a novel until I've got the manuscript finished. No matter how well I've planned out a story, there are always twists and turns along the way that surprise me. A character will grow in ways I didn't foresee, or the plot will do something I didn't expect, or I'll think of something better that what was in my outline. Those changes sometimes demand that I go back and change something that happened in the beginning to make everything work. Without the context of the whole novel, I never feel confident that the first chapters are really what I want them to be.

Everybody has their own way of doing things... that's just how it is for me.