Bad News = Great News

It’s a funny business, this writing game…

I just got my first official rejection for my novel, Homecoming. I should feel a bit dejected and crushed, but I feel great. It should blacken my day, but it’s brightened it. And while a part of me should have wanted to rip it up and toss it in the bin, it’s now stuck proudly to the notice board above my desk.

Ladies and gentlemen, I’m officially on the road to publication!

It’s definitely weird to feel so positive about getting told that no, my novel isn’t worth of publication yet. But here’s the main reasons I’m feeling positive:

  1. They read the first 45 pages – the first six chapters. That means it was at least gripping enough to keep them beyond the opening three and considering many people give up after the first few pages or first chapter, that has to be a good sign.
  2. I got quite a lot of feedback and it was all very detailed and similar, about a point which I knew may or may not be an issue. Really, it’s only one point and to have that across six chapters (which do reflect the rest of the book in terms of writing), that’s fantastic news!
  3. They said it’d be okay for me to re-send it when it’s reworked. Always a good sign.
  4. The one confusing scene they mentioned is one I knew (after submitting) was wrong and wished I’d fixed. So that’s okay.

It feels good being rejected. Sure, it’d be way better if they’d said yes, but that was hugely unlikely. I never expected to get anything back other than a form rejection and even then, I’d have been happy. So to get such feedback is endlessly encouraging.

Must be on some sort of right track! Now off I go to re-read the entire book, as I’d already planned to do today, to fix up some issues. That feedback will be temporarily ignored until I see if other people agree.

Catch Up

I’ve been very busy since my last post, but here’s a quick progress post of the key events:

  1. I proposed. I’m engaged. Hurrah! It’s been fantastic so far and that’s mostly where I’ve been, now onto the writing…
  2. Absolutely no progress on the short story I posted about last time. I have to write it between today and tomorrow (i.e. I’ll do it tomorrow) because it’s being double workshopped in college.
  3. The opening chapters of my novel are out with a few agents and the waiting game has properly begun. I’m doing the final final FINAL edits on it with help from my fiancé (still fun saying that), which should be finished by the end of next week.
  4. I only have three more weeks in my course and my final submission is already done so, although it’s due in August, it’s not stressful.
  5. I’m preparing my next project: a novella for a competition, which needs to be in the 15,000-35,000 range.
  6. I then have my next novel to write, which I can’t wait to sink my teeth into. It’s for a younger age than my last one and is the polar opposite. It’s third person, while the current one is first person. It has a male protagonist, the current one was female. Still a fantastical edge to it, though, but more set in the real world. (For good measure, my novella is the ambitious second person.)

That’s more or less where I’ve been and where I’m going. Still planning to re-shape this blog and turn it into a more definite author website with the blog as a part of it, I just need the moolah first! With my course coming to an end, that’ll hopefully happen soon enough.

Short Story Progress – Unfamiliar Grounds

The plan for my next novel is coming along well and I have the plot quite thoroughly worked out, so now it’s just a matter of refining it. In different circumstances, I’d go into it now. But I’ve two weeks that have a lot of stoppages/interruptions, so I’m waiting until after that, when I can get a steady flow of work going.

So, in the meantime, I’ve two things to do:

  1. A 3,000 word essay on The Great Gatsby.
  2. A 3,000-4,000 word short story for my final submission.

I’ll be reading The Great Gatsby yet again (fourth time since January) from Monday onward, then getting into that essay once I’ve read it. It’s due the following Monday, so that’s priority.

I’ve also finally started the short story for one of my modules. We can submit multiple stories or one story, as long as it reaches the word count requirement. I figured I’d spend the remaining weeks on one good story, so that I can come out of the course (hopefully) with the knowledge that short stories aren’t totally off limits to me.

I’ve had the idea for this short story for quite some time now. The ideas behind it, probably about four or five years. The realisation about how I want to get it across, about two or three weeks. Still, I find the control required for short stories a daunting one, so they take me a lot longer than bits of a novel would (ironically).

Early today I came up with a poignant, perfect image for the start of the story and I spent the day playing with it and how to frame it. Then, once I felt happy with it, I pumped out 500 words or so. Then there was a stoppage and I lost all flow, so I’ve set it aside for tonight. I don’t plan to have word goals, I’ll just take it as it comes. But in saying that, I’m actively pursuing how to move it forward, rather than waiting for a moment of inspiration

SPOILER ALERT: Moments like that almost never arrive. Writing means work.

Luckily, I know the idea of where I want to go with the next segment of the story, I just need to find the link into it. Into the void I go!

Scrivener: Novel Plotting

For plotting my new novel, I decided to download the free trial of Scrivener. This was partly because I’ve always wanted to try it and mostly because I have no more flash cards.

From what I’ve seen, Scrivener is a great tool that can do a lot. But I’m limiting my use of it to just plotting out my novel, using the flash card tools provided. I’ll still be using Microsoft Word to write my draft, even though I could do it in Scrivener, because that’s what I’m comfortable with. I have my noticeboard filled with images to refer to, so I don’t need Scrivener for that either. Basically, I’m not really using it all that much.

In saying that, it’s proved useful so far and I’ve currently plotted 21 flash cards for what is proving to be a very lengthy novel plan. Whether this becomes a lengthy amounts of words or not, I do not know. I’ve a great habit of writing things very quickly and in minimalist style, cutting my drafts worryingly short.

Really, though, the greatest thing about Scrivener is that the 30 day (nonconsecutive days) trial gives me a deadline: 30 days. Including planning, I’ve 30 days of use before I can’t access my notes. (I’m not 100% sure if this is the case – I might be able to open it, just not add to it.) Either way, I’m using this 30 days as my deadline for this first draft. Whether I buy Scrivener in the future will come down to how useful it proves over the course of the 30 days. It’s cheap, but I’m broke, so who knows!

After a day of toil and frustration, I’ve settled on my new novel. It is indeed the YA Sci-Fi Steampunk(ish) novel that, thankfully, isn’t dystopian. My main reservations about it was steering clear of the dystopian fad. It’s hard to think of YA worlds in a different light, so a lot of the brain power was on developing the world so it didn’t have that slant. I’m delighted with what I’ve come up with.

While I’m going to hold back on this one like I did with the last, here’s basically the idea behind it… My last one was: Teenage girl tries to find herself in a constantly unusual world. This one is more: Teenage boy questions gender stereotypes in a capitalist world.

This novel will be tackling social issues that I’m quite passionate about and the less so important issues about high paid sports stars because, y’know, entertainment is a big factor in this crazy world we live in. Thematically, I think this book is way stronger than the previous one, although that could be because I’m finally ready to abandon that baby to the world and thus, I hate it.

Final Stop: Targeted Reader

That’s it! I’ve officially reached the point where my novel is as far as it can go without from my targeted reader.

The word count lately has been jumping up and down and it’s now just below 59,000.

Now it’s time to give it to my girlfriend, who is conveniently the target market for this book, and let her read it. Based on her feedback, I’ll look at one more pass. Then this baby is getting unleashed into the big bad world!

It’s a strange feeling to be this close to finishing a novel. Before this MA started, the furthest I’d gotten was to the end of a first draft. I’ve lost track of how many edits/passes this has actually had, that’s how many it’s been!

Conveniently, I’ve a two week break from college now. Inconveniently, I have an annoying essay to do at some point in these two weeks. But other than that, it’s time to start a new novel.

This is weird, unfamiliar territory. It’s liberating to start again but also scary because now I have nothing to fall back on. I’m once again faced with a blank word document and a long way from that initial finishing line – a line which I now know for a fact is followed by months of even harder work. Heck, this is the fun and easy part.

I’m not 100% sure what novel I’ll actually go with. I’ve quite a few ideas flying around my head the last year or so, with varying levels of development. I’m toying with a more traditional fantasy and a sci-fi/steampunk. Both are for teens. I think I’ll go with the sci-fi/steampunk one, just for a total change of scenery. Time shall tell!

Self Publish a Short Story – Should I?

During the course of this MA, I’ve written a few short stories. And there’s a serious emphasis on ‘few’, there.

However, as of yet, I haven’t written one that is contemporary. My tutor said both were well written, good stories and enjoyable to read, just they weren’t modern. This was quite a frustration.

I enjoyed writing both stories, which is rare for me with short pieces. I also liked what they did and would love to get them out there. But I agree with her: they’re not contemporary. One feels like it was written around 1900 and the other is set in the 1700s on a pirate ship, with a narrative voice to match.

Now, I own more than one pirate novel from the 21st century and I know they exist, but there simply isn’t a market to send off a standalone short story of that nature.

Thus, I’m contemplating the possibility of self publishing it on Amazon. Mainly because I want to get it out there and because it’d be a fun and educational experience. Here’s the issues I’m seeing:

  1. As much as there’s no market for this in the traditional publishing world, I’m unsure if there’s a place for it in the self publishing world.
  2. Tying in with that, I’ve no idea how to get views on it. It’s all well and good getting it out there, but then what?
  3. In order to fit with the class prompt, the story is only 2,000 words. A very small amount, which means I either have to significantly beef it up or put it in an anthology. I’m sure I could bulk it up to 3k-4k because I cut bits to fit the class’s requirements, but I doubt I could push it far beyond 5k. That’d still be pretty small for a standalone.
  4. Leading on from that, if I went ahead and self published it I wouldn’t want to put it up for free. Multiple reasons for this… a) I’m a student and can’t deny the fact that I need money. b) If I were to put time into trying to get readers for it, I’d at least like to make something back for the efforts [what can I say? I’m honest!] c) If I’m putting it up for free I might as well send it off for free and take a buttload of rejections, building my thick skin for future ventures.

So to summarise: I’ve a story I want people to read but I can’t help wanting it to have more meaning than “Here, look at this story I wrote.” I value it, and so it deserves a value.

3-12-Done

The editing continues in what seems to be a never ending game.

Of my 27 chapters, 12 are complete. Totally complete. Finito. Huzzah!

Sadly, this means that 15 are not…

I have 3 chapters that need a final run, which is just about cleaning up the writing and should be relatively quick. They’re quite long chapters though, so will take a while all the same.

Then I’ve 12 chapters that need various changes, big and small. Well, they’re all small. Little details here. Small added paragraphs there. But, for some parts, I need to do some research. So a lot of it will come down to how fast I can find the specific information I need.

And in other news of progress, the island the characters live on FINALLY has a name, after 5 months with the book. Similarly, the characters FINALLY have a name for their kind and the book FINALLY has a new title that doesn’t conflict with anything in the market or coming to the market (as far as I’m aware). It’s previous working title, Homecoming, is also the name of a book which came out yesterday. How disheartening that was!

Between college and general life, my schedule is quite time pressed, but I’ll find a way to get this stuff done regardless. I had a tooth extracted yesterday (which gave a lot of resistance), so I couldn’t do much yesterday or today. Busy tomorrow too, but Friday evening and Sunday will hopefully be some serious crunch time.

Keep an eye on the bookshelves, folks. ;)