Yikes! I made my first query!

Monday, January 29, 2007, 8:25 PM

So, the synopsis finally clicked. I struggled and struggled with it, unable to condense it enough, then something kind of fell into place and I rattled it off in no time. I spent the best part of a day rewriting and tweaking it until I arrived at something I thought was pretty good. It's quite exciting to read (at least I thought so!) and gives a good outline of events without being too specific - I think you could read it and still be surprised by the twists in the novel. And I managed to squeeze a 400 page manuscript into two and a half double spaced pages, which isn't bad going.

Once it was done, I decided to take a big step. I looked up one of the agents on my shortlist - the smaller, one person agency that happens to do a lot of business in my genre - and wrote up a personalised query letter, using what I've learned from Miss Snark's last Crapometer, and put it and the first chapter, my synopsis and an SAE into a big envelope. I took it to the post office and sent it first class. Now, I know I'll most likely get a rejection. This agent has a full client list and isn't particularly looking for anyone new, but I wanted to take this important step just to get it done. It'd be great if the agent requested a full manuscript, even just some more pages, but I won't be holding my breath. I'm just glad to have made this particular leap.


This is difficult!

Saturday, January 27, 2007, 6:52 PM

Aaaargh! Writing a synopsis is really, really, really hard!!!

Fourth draft done, now for the synopsis!

I just finished the fourth draft, and I think that's it just about done until someone else chips in. Unfortunately, the friend I thought would be reading the novel doesn't look likely to do it anymore - there's a deeper personal issue here I won't go into.

So, the manuscript's as good as I can make it. Now I've got to write a synopsis and I'm dreading it. One good thing is I've got a head start in that during the first rewrite I kept a running record of all the events in the novel, chapter by chapter. I can use this as my starting point. I'm not sure how long this will take, but I'm about to start right now.

Wish me luck!

Third draft complete

Sunday, January 21, 2007, 6:37 PM

I've just finished the third draft of Conduit. Again, it's gained a tiny bit of weight (much like myself recently!) as a few things have been fleshed out. This is largely because I read an editor's blog that said one of the giveaway signs of a bad writer was back and forth dialogue with no interspersed actions, as if the speakers were standing still, staring at each other as they talk. I realised this happened a few times in my novel, so I added little nuances here and there. It also helped calm the pace a little bit. Overall, I think this draft feels more solid and less throwaway than the first. I'll give it another quick read through this week, possibly removing some of the stuff I just added, before printing it out and letting my friend (the Doctor of Literature) have a look at it.

I've also been researching agents this week. I've been doing this for a while, but this week I chose specific agents that I like the look of, found their submission policies, and added them to my list. In the first wave I think I'll send out three or four submissions, starting with two mega agencies and another fairly large one. I've also come across a small, independent agent who specialises in my genre. She has sold her clients to some impressive publishers, so I think she'll be well worth having a crack at. Not until after I get some feedback and make any resulting amendments, of course. And so will begin the cycle of submission, rejection, revision, submission, rejection, revision, ad infinitum.

First rewrite is finished

Saturday, January 13, 2007, 7:08 PM

So, I've just now finished the first proper rewrite of Conduit. I haven't worked at it constantly, instead dipping in and out of it over the last few weeks. The harder work was in the early to mid sections of the novel as I was having to make adjustments for shifts in the later part of the plot, so the last third was relatively easy going.

As I thought, it's gotten slightly longer as I fleshed out some descriptions and added some foreshadowing of the story's climax. Its word processor count is now 77,828 (about 1300 more than the first draft) and the printer's rule count is now 93,765. As I've said before, my writing style is lean, so no padding was added, just a little more shading where it was needed.

Now, I'm going to leave it for a few days then do another read-through from page one. This time I'll be looking more closely at the prose, trying to see where I can improve things. After that, it's time to let it loose and allow someone else to read it. I must admit, I'm dreading that!

The power of dreams

Saturday, January 06, 2007, 6:25 PM

I read Stephen King's 'On Writing' recently (a great book, btw) and he mentioned that he doesn't dream when he's actively writing, but dreams vividly when he's not. I realised the same is true for me. Since completing the first draft of Conduit, and during the current rewrite process, I have found myself dreaming more than I have done for the three months it took to write my first complete novel.

My dreams are always vivid and intense, as I guess most people's are. I usually remember the gist of them when I wake, and very often wish I could go back to sleep and pick up where I left off. I have some recurring dreams and have looked into their meanings from a psychological standpoint, which can be interesting. I sometimes (not often, but occasionally) have another kind of dream, though, and I think they're more unusual. I'm curious if others have similar dreams.

For want of a better expression, I call them narrative dreams.

These dreams are unusually vivid and they are completely logical with none of the bizarre shifts that occur in normal dreams. They have actual plots. There are characters and conflicts and the narrative unfolds in the same way as a movie or TV show. What's more, there will be dialogue between characters and this dialogue is complex, natural and in keeping with the plot. Sometimes I am watching the story as if it were a movie and sometimes I am one of the characters.

It was one such dream, as I hinted at before, that inspired Conduit. The two protagonists were in that dream and they look and act and speak in the novel exactly as they did in the dream. Now, I didn't dream an entire novel, but the premise and the key plot points arrived in that dream fully formed. The antagonist was added later, as were the minor characters, but the setting was also part of the dream.

Is this unusual, or does this happen to others?

Now I have started a new novel. And guess what - it also came from a dream. Two mornings ago I woke from another vivid narrative dream with the premise, the setting, the main characters and the key plot points all in place. I had to go to my place of business, but my head was buzzing with this all day. That night, I got home and did some research using books and the Internet to confirm the setting. Last night I started writing and continued today. Three thousand words down already.

Unlike Conduit, this is what I believe is known as a 'Young Adult' novel, so will be less than 65,000 words. What is a bit strange is that it's set in Poland in September of 1939. It's about four Jewish children who flee the advancing Wehrmacht and must embark on a dangerous journey to find safety. Why would I dream of a family of Jewish children running from Nazis? God knows. There's also a strong fantasy/paranormal side to this story, so it's within my normal genre, but for a younger audience.

Strange things, dreams.

Happy New Year

Monday, January 01, 2007, 1:20 PM

Just a quick post to say Happy New Year. My rewrite is still in progress and I'm roughly two thirds of the way through. After that, I'll read through again to see where I am.

Then after that ... it's time for someone else to read it. That's a terrifying thought! I have made the novel's existence known to a friend for the first time. Specifically, my best friend for over twenty years who happens to be a Doctor of Literature and a professional writer. I'm very lucky to have someone who (a) I can trust to be brutally honest and (b) actually knows what they're talking about when it comes to writing.

One small problem, which I discussed here before - the back story of my protagonist is loosely based on real events and my friend knows the people concerned. I've forewarned him, and I think it'll be okay.