Tackling those overwhelming developmental edits

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(Me on top of Mount Oberon, Wilsons Promontory National Park, Victoria, Australia)

I’m about to embark on an epic writing quest. Yet again. I got the second round of developmental edits from my agent Claire. The first round was nine and a half pages single-spaced. After six months of re-writing the first 2/3s of the manuscript, working closely with a cultural consultant, and another trip to Belfast, I sent my agent my manuscript at the end of July. For those of you in the query trenches hoping to get an agent, waiting and waiting to hear anything, once you get an agent…you still do lots of waiting. When you eventually go on submission (agent sends your manuscript to editors at publishing houses), you do even more waiting.

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Because you’re not done with that novel most likely. It takes time and lots of support to sculpt a masterpiece; your agent should be your much wiser, more experienced partner-in-crime. Time very well spent for me so far.

Anyway, last week, I got my second edit letter. It was only five and a half pages this time…of more developmental edits.

Fainting-GIFAgents have different styles. This is important information in case you ever do get “the Call,” i.e. an agent wants to offer you representation. Some agents want to get your stuff out on submission as quickly as possible. Their philosophy may be, let’s test the waters and see if we get any bites, tweak as we go. At the same time, you only get one shot to submit to each editor. But there’s always the next book, right?

Some consider themselves “editorial,” such as my agent, Claire. They want your novel to be polished and perfected before it lands on the desks of editors of major publishing houses. For me, this means I still have a lot of work to do. And while part of me just wants to get it out there and see what happens after the two years I’ve spent on it, I want it to be the best it possibly can be. I absolutely trust Claire to guide me there.

Anyway, whether it’s from an amazing critique partner or an agent, getting intense, mentally challenging feedback like this can feel a bit overwhelming, especially when you’ve been working on something for awhile. It’s easy to just dismiss it, but my agent has been right about everything so far. Some of it wasn’t a huge shock, because one of my CPs did mention it before. Eek. So I took a few days to let it simmer, and now I’m working on unpacking it.

I’ll be blowing up Hooligans in Shining Armour yet again: digging into character needs and goals, delving into character relationships, unpacking secondary characters’ motivations and feelings, re-plotting both main characters’ story arcs, writing new first chapters (I don’t know how many times I’ve THOUGHT I was done but here’s one time), cutting from the ending because the climax happens at about 75% and should be 90%. Basically re-writing the whole thing most likely.

But as I said in my last post:

Attitude is everything 2

Wherever you are in the writing process, whether prepping for your first NaNoWriMo, in the query trenches, or working through line edits with an editor at a publishing house….

One foot in front of the other.

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When it comes to becoming a successful writer…

Attitude is everything 2

So the picture featured in my little inspirational poster above was taken on the Routeburn Track on the South Island of New Zealand. My husband and I decided to try out for real backpacking through mountain passes for the first time while we were there. We embarked on a three day hike which started on a nice, warm sunny day through some mossy woods.

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And quickly turned into three days of straight rain and snow and cold. Thank GOD we packed for it.

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I may or may not have almost fallen off a narrow cliff path and plunged to my death. Our tent may or may not have almost been washed away during a torrential rainstorm that flooded the waterfalls and actually closed the trails just after we finished. I may have also had to climb up a spontaneous waterfall to get out.

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And this was not the worst part of the washed-out trail:

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But we lived. And it was one of the most amazing experiences of my life. I learned I’m a bit braver and tougher than I thought. One foot in front of the other, that’s what I kept telling myself. I’d do the whole thing again in a heartbeat.

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Okay, so what does any of this have to do with writing? In my humble opinion a lot. Attitude, persistence, realistic expectations, and a lot of hard work, that’s what it takes to make it as a writer. A lot of near falls and unexpected twists and dead ends and bitter disappointments that push you to be stronger rather than give up. It is a long journey to be traditionally published.

Landing an agent is such an exciting thing for an author. Like feels miraculous. And kind of is, given the odds of even getting a request for more while drowning in the slush pile. When I was picked by Claire Anderson-Wheeler of Regal Hoffman, like, I can’t even….

lambeau leap

(What can I say, I’m a Packer fan and it’s game day)

Here’s that story (and a brief synopsis of the work it took to get me there). Preview: I sent my first query letter for a 200,000 monstrosity like 6 years ago…. I’ve come a long way.

Now for those of us who’ve been in the heart-wrenching, barren wasteland that is the query trenches…..

Mordor

Okay, that was melodramatic. Though that’s how it felt to me before I sprouted my armor and started looking at the whole thing like the business that it is. If I hadn’t repeatedly picked myself up and dusted myself off, wrote more books and developed my craft–kept putting one foot in front of the other–I would have given up after my first 20 rejections.

When I started working with Claire, it really hit me. I knew TONS about how to query, but nothing about what to expect after getting an agent. I’ve learned since then, but here’s a preview. My journey is just beginning, even after I finished my first round of feedback. I have a lot left to do, a lot of tough feedback to work through, before Hooligans is even ready to go on submission to editors of publishing houses. And then there will be a lot more waiting and rejections.

I have my work cut out for me, but I know Hooligans will be the best it can be thanks to Claire’s wise guidance.

One foot in front of the other.

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