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Battle Plan

It’s been a long, hard road (ok, more long than hard – hey, stop giggling, that wasn’t a euphemism – because although it took way over a decade, I really enjoyed the journey), and I’m about to reach the final phase. I’m dreading it, because I know it won’t be as much fun as writing and even editing was. Hence I’d better prepare my “battle plan”.

Battle plan

(I cannot confirm or deny my plans for ultimate world domination at this stage. Image from Wikimedia Commons.)

TickDONE

  • build an elaborate fantasy world in my head, with its own history, races, rules, evolution, customs, races, and coherent systems of magic
  • think up a great, engaging story with interesting characters
  • make many pages worth of background notes
  • create timelines, maps, and drawings of settings (for my own benefit)
  • experiment with blurbs and synopses
  • finish writing the first draft of the first book in an epic fantasy story
  • proofread, make corrections
  • rinse and repeat proofreading-and-correction phase (many, many times…)
  • send my story off to beta readers
  • await feedback from said beta readers

HourglassIN PROGRESS

  • encorporate feedback into manuscript
  • start giving up hope about it all being one huge elaborate prank on the rest of the world and start wondering how THAT many people can be THAT dense to want to make such a buffoon their leader next year
  • ponder why Leo finally won an Oscar for portraying such a one-dimensional character in an emotionally dull film (wanting to survive isn’t an emotion), and why a film whose premise seems so far-fetched to me could collect so many rewards
  • carefully read the whole manuscript out loud, making final corrections
  • keep editing my blurbs and synopses, and finally settle on one of them

ChecklistTODO

  • research agents who accept fantasy submissions in Australia, and possibly UK and US
  • research publishers who accept fantasy submissions (update my old research)
  • begin the agonisingly long process of submitting to literary agents and possibly (traditional) publishers, waiting to get rejection letters and praying that the right person in the right mood who can make important decisions gets their hands on my manuscript and decides to give me a chance…
  • if above fails (too many rejections to bear), consider approaching the relatively small Australian publishing house which, years ago, gave me feedback that encouraged me to continue writing: “… as a new writer he clearly has a wide knowledge of the genre and displays a fluency with its style, plot and character conventions… would be interested to see a completed manuscript with a view to considering it for publication.”
  • if above fails, consider publishing story on Amazon (I realise getting published – traditionally – is very ambitious and odds are against me, but, hey, I can dream, right?) and begin work on my new idea…

In the meantime, I’ll have to keep plugging away at my day job, and remember that…

No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.

– Helmuth von Moltke

Not that I’m considering agents or publishers the enemy. It feels more like I’ll be at war with chance itself. So maybe this one:

Cry ‘Havoc!’, and let slip the dogs of war.

– Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar

Awesome feedback!

Wow.

I’ve received some really, really awesome feedback from my beta readers over the past month.
Feedback definition

A huge “Thanks!” to all of them; I’ve tried to take their constructive criticisms on board by making a few changes and adjustments here and there, and am trying not to let the praise go to my head. Though I’m not trying hard enough not to brag about mention some of the best bits.

… definitely makes me want to keep reading.

Seriously well-written fight scene!

THIS IS SO INTENSE!

I wasn’t looking forward to reading the chapter on the hunt because I like to read stories about teenage girls making googly eyes on teenage boys, but this whole scene just deepens the story and makes everything – the characters, the setting, the culture – that much more real.

… amazing.

Such a rich world you’ve built.

… very polished…

I was hooked by the end of the first chapter…

… very fluid style.

… altogether really exciting.

… in summary: cool!

Each of my readers brought something different to the table, from catching a few awkward-sounding repetitions to pointing out that I was throwing quite a few new terms at the reader in one of the early paragraphs to giving very detailed feedback about many chapters from a first-time reader’s perspective. All of this is just what I was after, and has helped me tremendously. Again, many thanks – you’ve all assured yourselves a spot in the “acknowledgements” section if when the manuscript-that-could gets published.

Still a long way to go before that happens, but… baby steps.

[Update: If you’re looking for a wonderful beta reader, one of mine has told me she’s happy to be mentioned, so head on over to Suzanne’s blog and ask her – she knows what she’s talking about, and her feedback was the most detailed I’ve ever received.]

What’s next? Well, I’ve recently upgraded to a new computer, and it’s taken me a bit of time to get everything set up the way I want again (grrr, Windoze can be so annoying, but it’s a necessary evil for some things in my case), but I’m there now, and will be drawing up a battle plan for the next few steps in my journey towards getting published.

What could possibly go wrong? 😉

 

Twiddling my thumbs…

Feels strange, not having that manuscript that you still need to finish always nagging you, always lurking somewhere in the back of your mind. I called it (done, that is) just before Christmas, and have since sent it out to a grand total of four beta readers.

Thus far, I’ve heard back from one.

Maybe the Christmas-timing wasn’t my brightest idea ever, because I’m sure everyone is very busy around this time of year (or very busy relaxing), but it was more a case of me wanting to be done by then rather than them wanting it by then.

The one that I heard back from is my wonderful sister, who can be very critical in a good kind of way, and she has a knack for picking up repetitions that I missed and other fiddly things, so I’ve made several small updates to my manuscript based on her feedback. Another of my beta readers is a good friend who has read a fair bit of fantasy and can hopefully give me some “that part worked for me, that part didn’t” type feedback, while the other two are fellow bloggers (thanks, Nicholas and Suzanne, much appreciated!) who will hopefully give me the sort of feedback you can only give if you’ve been there yourself, if you know what it’s like to have written something that’s very dear to your heart, but you need honest criticism, be it positive or negative, from someone who knows what sort of things to look for. In a way, I think, it’s much easier to be critical of someone else’s work than of your own. (Sort of like a parent finding it hard to criticise much about their own child.)

And of course twiddling my thumbs ins’t all I’m doing. I’ve been reading again – reading someone else’s writing, that is, without (at least consciously) having to keep an eye on edit-worthy bits. Wow, I’d forgotten how great reading can be. I denied myself that pleasure (to some extent at least) so that I’d spend more of my precious spare time writing. I have a lot of catching up to do! I’ve played around with some programming projects, I’ve spent an awesome week-and-a-half off work over Christmas and New Year’s with the family, I’ve had time to follow some other interests… and I have to say, there is a part of me that wants to get back into writing again.

My now-complete manuscript is a Book 1, and I’m keen to find out where the story goes next (I usually think I know, but it likes to surprise me from time to time with a life of its own; Book 2 will, by necessity, have less wiggle-room than the first one). There are at least two other stand-alone stories spooking around in my head that are gathering up the courage to become a little louder, a little more demanding to be let out.

But until I get that feedback from my other beta readers, I am twiddling my thumbs and waiting at least to some extent. I have to admit I’m a little antsy, wondering whether they’ll think that one section was too cheesy, or whether the setting of that scene was a bit confusing, or a dialog sounded too stilted, or… you get the idea.

What it comes down to, though, is that every bit of criticism will help to improve my book.

That’s worth waiting for.

I’m calling it

Right, so I’ve spent several weeks now going through and editing and editing and editing my manuscript, and… I’m calling it.

What? No, not that way. “I’m sure the manuscript could’ve been something if it had held on a bit longer, but, uh… oh well. Time of death: 17:14.”

AMC EKG

No flatline, no meeeeep. Not at all. It’s alive and kicking. It’s just that it has this annoying habit of, well, looking almost done. I wanted it to be just done, without the almost, but it looks as though every time I give it another readover, it reveals a few more slight flaws here and there. *Sigh*. Maybe that’s just the perfectionist in me… but if so, why can’t that know-it-all just find all those flaws the first time?!?

So, since I am now acutely aware that I won’t get everything perfect, I’m calling it. Calling it “done”.

Look up done in the dictionary in a few months, when my request comes through. By then, they will have changed it to mean the same thing as almost done. Soft of like a reverse “mostly harmless”, for those who get the reference.

‘Sides, it’s nearly Christmas. I wanted to be done by Christmas. (That’s reasonable… right?)

I wanted to send out my shiny new manuscript before Christmas to a few wonderful people who’ve volunteered (or been volunteered, by yours truly) to beta-read it. I’m sure they’ll find even more to correct… So, some final formatting tomorrow (no more corrections for now, though!), and then it’s off to see the world. Well, meta-digi-phorically (yes, that’s a word) speaking. Some small parts of the world, granted, but… nevertheless. Early days. (Now stop picking on my analogy.)

And while I’m at it: Merry Christmas! (Because at the rate I’m going, I doubt I’ll be posting again before the New Year.)

Opportunity for aspiring authors… with a catch

Searching around for blogs and other useful information for aspiring authors (if you know any I should be checking out, please let me know in the comments – blogging newbie here!), I came across this opportunity from Bloomsbury on Writers & Artists:

http://www.writersandartists.co.uk/2014/02/writing-opportunity-bloomsbury-spark

It sounded really great at first, until I read that:

  1. it’s digital-only, and
  2. they’re accepting “between 25,000 and 60,000 words”.

Ouch. As someone currently struggling with what some claim is conventional wisdom that fantasy manuscripts, especially from first-time authors, should be between 80k and 100k (more on that later), that’s a bit of a kick in the nuts.

So my question is this:

Are these word limits as artificial as they seem to me, that is, do they exist mainly to discourage new writers from blabbering on without getting to the point to save printing costs, or do people really want to read shorter stories?

Because personally, when I go to the bookstore to find the next book I want to delve into, I don’t even look at the little narrow ones. I want characters to be developed, not just the bare bones of the story. I want the story to last, I want to find the first part of a series worth getting into. I want the details, the thought-processes, not just the action. Those doorstopper-sized books aren’t usually much more expensive than the little ones. Maybe I don’t know enough about real-life printing costs, and am naïve about costs to proofread manuscripts (which people don’t seem to do a good job at, I can’t read past errors without my eyes starting to bleed), but is there really good cause to want authors (ones who can otherwise prove they can write well, of course) to limit themselves by that much?

I’d love to hear other people’s comments on that.

Cheers,

AMC