Writing Work Day #1

So I promised weekly progress reports, so here we go: this week’s goal was to do the following:

Read Codename: Telepathic Soulmates. Take notes on world-building, write down any questions that aren’t answered, figure out what, if any, questions should be addressed in a sequel. Deadline: Sunday, February 15th.

Consider it read. Not only did I finish reading today, but I dug out my most recent crits from various people and reimmersed myself with the feedback I’ve received in the past so that I could hopefully focus in on what needs to be fixed before I start agent-shopping.

I have a confession to make: I have no clue.

Let me be real, for a moment: I can write a discovery draft. I can take that discovery draft, figure out what the REAL story is, and then do a kick-ass rewrite. I can do a hard polish when it comes to line-edits. But what comes in between? Figuring out how to surgically revise a piece so scenes are tighter, stronger, move along better, reinforce themes and character development and all that? I don’t know how to do that part yet. And it’s one of the reasons why I’ve put Codename: Telepathic Soulmates on the back burner for so long.

Because one minute, all I think I need is a super hard polish: tighten up the book sentence-by-sentence, and then send it out. Other times I think it just needs a partial revision. Other times, I get overwhelmed and I’m convinced I need a rewrite.

And I’m not kidding about the minute-by-minute stuff. After reading one person’s feedback, I’m like, “Oh yeah, it needs THIS.” And after reading another person’s feedback, I’m convinced, “Oh no, it needs THIS.”

It’s so overwhelming. And it doesn’t help when I get wildly different responses to what works and what doesn’t.

There are a certain set of things I know I must do: I know I need to sit down and consider the use of profanity in my world (sue me, when this was written, I was deeply proud of using profanity whenever, wherever I could). I also know the beginning must, somehow, be tightened. All of my readers admit to being overwhelmed with (albeit necessary) info at the start, which made it harder to keep reading, but once everything came together, they couldn’t put the book down. Sure, some people liked certain scenes more than others, and I have to be aware of who the critique was coming from (a target audience member or someone who’d only read the book just because I was the one who wrote it), but everyone had their own great points to make.

It’s a lot to take in. And I’m trying to look at this book not as the start of a series, which it IS, but rather as a stand-alone. Reason being is that I do know how the business works: if Codename: Telepathic Soulmates doesn’t do well when published, that’s it. I’ll be moving on to a new, unrelated project. So then the question becomes: how to I get this book into the kind of shape that leaves readers wanting more, but in a positive way, not in a maddening way?

The world-building is the book’s greatest strength, but with that strength comes a learning curve, and how to help readers master that without giving them a info-dumpy tutorial is the challenge. It’s one of the reasons I’ve been tempted to split this book in two, even though as it stands, it won’t split easily (if it could, I would already be published — I was offered a contract a few years ago, but it ended up not working out due to word count and we TRIED to figure out a way to split it easily) and would require some serious examination in order to tell not just one strong story, but two. But then I run into the stand-alone issue: if the first doesn’t sell, the second doesn’t have much of a shot, and as it stands, some of the strongest material happens in the final act of the current draft.

So it’s decision time. I need to be able to separate legitimate concerns from what Chuck Wendig calls pre-rejection (which is what I feel I’ve been doing for years now). I need to be careful not to let big, re-write ideas take over. I need to really think hard about the draft as is, not the way I’d write it if I were starting from scratch. The hard part is this: I’m not the same person now that I was when I wrote and revised this back in my Seton Hill days.

It’s a scary thing. But here’s hoping by the end of the weekend (which will be Monday for me, since that’s a federal holiday), I’ll have made a decision.

In other news, I suspect getting up early enough to have a full  writing work day is going to be a challenge, if this morning was any indication. I was pretty zonked when my husband woke me up, and I probably wouldn’t have woken up early if I hadn’t asked him to wake me. Then, after working all day (which, for today, was reading and taking notes), I ended up taking a quick 15 minute nap because I was so sleepy. Afterwards, I drowned a 5-hour Energy.

But I do declare the first, official Writing Work Day to be a success. The next one won’t happen until Friday, March 6th, so technically, I should give myself until then to figure out exactly what kind of polish/revision I’m looking at.

For now, I’m going to enjoy Valentine’s Day Eve with my husband, which means curling up to watch either a movie or marathoning some television shows. Isn’t love grand?

4 thoughts on “Writing Work Day #1

  1. I had no idea you’d been offered a contract a few years back. Here’s the thing, though–if the publisher liked it enough to offer you a contract, I would take a long, hard look at the publisher’s suggestions regarding revisions (which I’m sure you are). Obviously, the target audience is important, too. But, yeah, it’s far too easy to overthink this stuff, and sometimes we just have to step away from the keyboard and be done with it all.

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    1. Yep! Heidi Ruby Miller was brought on at Raw Dog Screaming Press to start up an imprint of SF novels called Dog Star Books. She reached out to me and asked me to submit, and then they offered me a contract. Trouble was they were REALLY looking to publish books between 80 and 100K, preferably under 100K. She and I were on the phone for hours trying to figure out how we could split the book, but as it stands, it’s a tight-tight narrative in terms of plotting and it works best as a whole story, and Heidi could see where I could cut out maybe 10K words, but not the 30-50K needed for DSB, so we agreed it just wasn’t a right fit at the time. We parted friends and all that. 🙂

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