Starting a novel in the wrong place…or why partials get rejected.

The title for this blog entry came from litaray agent Kristin Nelson.  Back in May, she blogged about the two biggest reasons partials aren’t turned into fulls.  And since she was someone who requested a partial for me but didn’t request the full, I really read this closely.  The first reason was that the novel started in the wrong place.  When I sent my partial to Ms. Nelson, it did start in the wrong place.  It took me a long time to realize that and to recognize where the right place was.  And I wasn’t totally wrong.  The scene I started with is still the scene I start with, just at a different point in that scene.

The second reason Ms. Nelson lists for a rejection is minutiae.  In trying to get the story going, the author gives all details of characters, their interactions, everything about them…you get the idea.  The story isn’t really moving forward.  Instead, scenes are created for the sole purpose of character development.  She reminds that relevant character details should be “seamlessly woven” into scenes that move the story forward.  In my case, I’ve never been satisfied with my second chapter.  I always felt like it stalled, but there was information in there that needed to be there.  When I read this from Ms. Nelson, I realized that minutiae is exactly my problem with some of my early chapters.  I start with the story and then kind of take a break to develop things before going back to the story.

I thought long and hard about what to do and (eventually) had an epiphany.  I needed to move my current chapter five or six to chapter 2.  The other details I need to work into the story.  Now we just need to see if I can do it well.

It’s not procrastination…it’s…ok, it’s procrastination.

I’ve known for a few months now that I have an entire chapter I need to rewrite, specifically, Chapter 4.  It’s a tough chapter.  There is a lot of information to get into the chapter, but it can’t sound backstoryish or have too much telling.  The problem is that it is critical information.  However, because I know it’s going to take some work, I keep putting it off.  I’ve been working on chapter 1, chapter 2, chapter 3,…you get the idea.  I keep telling myself that chapter 4 is stewing in my brain and that when I get down to it, it won’t be as hard as I think.  We’ll see if that’s true.  I am bound and determined to finally get to it this week and next.  Cross your fingers.  It could either be one of the best chapters — or one of the most confusing.

Absolute write…absolutely!!

I’ve been spending a lot of time on Absolute Write lately and wanted to let you know how absolutely amazing it is.  Mostly I’m in the forums, specifically “share your work.”  I’ve posted my work there and gotten some great feedback from other writers.  Some of the advice is perfect.  I also get to see samples of other people’s work and share my opinion.  It’s a great place to get to know other writers and to get feedback on your own stuff.

I’ve been especially excited this last round.  As anyone who reads frequently knows, I’ve been working and working and working on my first chapter, specifically the first few pages.  That’s where you either catch the interest of the reader — or you don’t.  Anyway, I’ve gotten some great reviews this time around.  People still want my first few paragraphs to be shorter, but after that, everyone seems to like what they’re reading.  That not only makes me feel like I’m progessing, but that maybe someday you’ll all be able to buy my finished book.

Here’s hoping!!

Writing…and rewriting…and rewriting…you get the idea…

So I know I mentioned a little about this last time, but writing is more revising than it is writing a first draft.  I wrote my entire first draft in four months.  I’ve been revising for two years since then.  Remember that almost one year of that was kind of a joke because I had a new baby, but still.  The only good thing in all of that?  The manuscript is so much better.  I’ve had agents request partials.  I mean, that’s at least something.  I’ve also had beta readers really like my writing.  That’s something, too.  And I’ve gotten lots of great feedback that has made the book even better.  The characters are more developed, the plot isn’t far-fetched, and the pacing is good.  Hopefully this will one day land me an agent.

One other thing I’ve been working on is the first paragraph of chapter one.  One of my beta readers liked how she read it (which is the one I have posted), but thought it could be even stronger.  Another beta reader doesn’t like the kind of openings that are vague and kind of omniscient.  You tell me.  I’ll post three possibilities for a beginning and you can leave a comment about which one would hook you in the best.

Option 1:  “Ethan should never have agreed to this.  It was one thing to engage in a friendly round of swordplay with Lord Andrew, his closest friend.  It was another thing entirely to accept Lord Malcolm’s challenge — not one of his closest friends.  And yet here he was, facing one of the best swordsmen in the kingdom.”

Option 2:  “Some things were secret for a reason.  Ethan knew that.  Perhaps better than anyone.  It had been engrained into him like a slow, constant drip of water from the time he could remember.  And yet, he’d still betrayed the most secret knowledge of all.  He’d revealed too much.  Simon would know — even if no one else did.  Ethan squeezed his eyes shut for a brief second and steadied the hand on his sword.  Whether he liked it or not, things were going to change.”

Option 3:  “It had started like any relatively normal day.  Ethan had reluctantly agreed to meet Andrew for a round of swordplay.  He’d walked into the awe-inspiring hall, without feeling the least bit of awe.  He was accustomed to the smooth, stone walls, the shafts of light from the early afternoon sun streaming through the high, narrow windows, the swords neatly arranged in racks, and the groups of men standing in small clusters, some talking, some practicing intricate patterns.”

Anyway, let me know what you think.

Wow…writing can be a long, long, long…process.

Once again, I haven’t posted in a long time.  I’d like to say that’s because I’ve been furiously working on my book, gotten an agent and a publisher, and I’ve been doing revisions.  Unfortunately only part of that is true:  I’ve been doing revisions.  The problem I’ve had is that my little girl, now eight months, isn’t always cooperative.  Still, I have gotten some things accomplished.  I think I’ve finally gotten the first chapter to how I like it.  We’ll see soon enough.  I have a couple of beta readers giving me their opinions.  If anyone else wants to share an opinion, I’d love that too.  You can find the link on the side bar under “My Book” or up at the top on the tab.  The prologue and first chapter are posted.

On another note, I have had a few responses from agents, requesting a partial.  That is exciting, but since no full has been requested it is also a little disheartening.  It makes me wonder if something is wrong with the first chapter (hopefully not any more), if my writing isn’t good enough (definitely a possibility), if the story isn’t good enough (I can’t really believe that), or if the agent just wasn’t interested in my type of story (I hope that’s the real answer).

I am, however, determined to perservere.

Two paragraphs, that’s all I ask…

I needed to work on something new for a bit and I had a moment of inspiration, so I wrote the first two paragraphs of a completely different book I want to write.  I might not even finish it now.  (I do want to finish my trilogy first, even if it’s just a rough draft.)  However, I do want your opinion.  Just click on the “New Book” tab at the top of the page.  Do you like it?  Would you want to read more?  Too much back story or just right to leave you needing to keep going?  You tell me!!

No…it’s not as awesome as it appears, but still…

For those of you who read on a regular basis, you’ll notice that my word count just jumkped like 10,000 words in about a week.  Looks great, right?  And don’t get me wrong, I love seeing that little pink meter move further and further to the right.  And I did technically add that many words to the book.  However, most of it was already written.  As I’ve had ideas over the past six or so months, I’ve written them out into very rough drafts right within my outline.  So all it really took to get that 10,000 words was to transfer them from my outline to the manuscript itself.  I did do a lot of polishing — basically what was in my outline was a very very rough draft — so I guess that has to count for something, and all of it was stuff I’ve been really excited about getting in there.  The only downside, I’ve left a few holes.  There is one chapter where I’ve only included a small paragraph giving a general idea of what I want to happen.  Other chapters have an introductory paragraph that is the same.  I just wasn’t up to working out all the intricate details of political intrigue and plot.  Plus, I’m not sure I have it all figured out yet.  So, there you have it.  My amazing 10,000 words in a short space of time.

3,000 words…

In the past few days, I’ve written over 3000 words on book 2.  Even more significant, I’ve gotten past a scene that I haven’t known exactly what to do with.  I finally just knew what needed to be done.  It’s still pretty rough, but at least I know who’s feeling what and how the events got to where I wanted them.  Now I enter the section of the book I only recently decided on.  It’s going to be tricky.  I’ve always known the middle would be.  The beginning almost wrote itself.  The ending I’m actually excited to write (because it explains a lot of unanswered questions — past and present — and really sets up well for the third and final book).  But the middle…the middle is full of building tension, guesses by the main character on what he should do next, and build up to a battle.  The trickiest part is going to be making sure everything plays out in an orderly and logical way.  The characters have to respond to what’s prestened to them in a way that makes sense.  They can’t go off to battle without a good reason.  They must take risks, but only ones that are realistic.  The hero has to struggle.  The relationships between the characters have to grow.  And all that happens in the middle.  I guess I have a lot of work to do.  I’m even tempted to do a real general outline and write the ending first, but who knows…

Dilemma…

As all you regular readers know, I’m working on finishing book 2 before the end of April (when I am having a baby).  I’m finding that I’m a lot pickier doing the first draft of book 2 than I was on the first draft of book 1.  On book 1, the first draft was really really rough.  I mean no proper names, places, and most of the speech tags weren’t even there.  However, because that draft was so rough, it took a ton of revisions to get it right.  Now, with the draft of book 2, I’m trying to get a much better draft the first time.  Because of this, it’s taking longer.  I tend not to write a scene unless I have it all worked out in my head, including making sure it works with what has happened before and what I want to happen after.  This has slowed me down a lot and I’m wondering what to do.  Should I continue to do a better first draft, or should I do more of a free write like I did the first time?  On the one hand, it makes for a lot less revision work.  On the other hand, the story gets down on paper a lot quicker.

Book Review: “The Thief,” “The Queen of Attolia,” and “The King of Attolia,” by Megan Whalen Turner

I know, I know, another book review.  I’ve been enjoying myself lately by reading a lot of books, and these three were ones I really enjoyed.  You know when you finish a book or a series and you can’t stop thinking about the characters?  Well, that’s how this was for me.

The first book (a Newberry Honor book) is about Eugenides, a thief.  It starts with him in prison and where it ends is actually quite surprising and unexpected — and therefore great.  The second book is about Eugenides’ role in a war going on between his kingdom and the neighboring kingdom of Attolia.  I don’t want to say too much more for fear of ruining it for someone.

The last book, and probably my favorite, was really the one that left me thinking about the characters, their motivations, their fears, and their humanity.  It was really good, mixing political intrigue, war, and romance.  The characters acted because of who they were and not becasue Turner wanted a particular result.  Sometimes you wanted to hit them and tell them to get real, suck up, and do what they know they should.  Sometimes you hurt right along with them.  Either way, it was a good book.

Because of the way the third book ends, I assume there is going to be a fourth, and I can’t wait to read that one!