Revision Xibalba, the next phase

Now that the major “re-VISION” of the story has been completed, I’m ready for the “edits” pass. 

I already did the first 100 or so pages from hardcopy a few months ago, smoothing sentences, etc.  but I still wasn’t happy with the opening paragraphs.  As soon as I finished RX last week, I jotted some new thoughts for the beginning.  I worked on them this morning Dark & Early and I think they’re much closer.  Close enough that I sent out my first agent query. 

:shock: I figured an iron in the fire would light a corresponding fire under my backside to finish this next pass.

I have a notebook open with three different pages.  One is timeline stuff – especially backstory.  Because I worked on the revision for sooooo long, and the cast is rather large, I’m afraid I might have forgotten some of the details. 

I also have a page for dropped threads or questions to myself.  Like in Quinn’s opening section, I hint quite heavily at some backstory with him and Iago that caused them not to speak for 12 years.  I never really go into that event.  Maybe that’s okay — or maybe not.  They’re guys after all, and I don’t think they’re going to sit down over tea and discuss their feelings.  *rolls eyes*  But as a reader, I’d want to know a little more about what happened and at least have some acknowledgement between them.  It would be even better if I can highlight that moment and showcase something in the climax as a sort of “pay back.”  I don’t think I managed to do that, and I’d love to, so hence the note.

I also have a limited number of [notes to myself] and a handful of comments in the main draft that need to be resolved.  I’ll make notes of ideas for each one as I go.

Lastly, I have a page to track chapter length and number.  Yes, I’m a math major — that doesn’t mean I can count.  I’m ashamed to say how many times I’ve messed up chapter numbers. 

:oops: [Angie just caught said boo-boo in Dear Sir. ]

Remember, too, that I was hacking and pasting stuff left and right.  I write in individual files for the most part, and then paste them into the main story line.  So I have all the first draft files (001, 002, etc.) and the second draft files (new_001, Tara_001, Quinn_001, etc. for the new scenes) and I wasn’t always paying attention to length of chapter.  I go by instinct in revision, what feels like a good break, but now the analytical part of my mind needs to see if the chapters fall into a reasonable length.  E.g. I don’t want one that’s 30 pages long.

I’m already through Chapter Five and don’t expect the rest to take more than a few days, unless the ending just shocks me with a huge hole.  So I’m opening up the request for any interested beta readers who can read in the next week or two to contact me.  I’d be happy to read a full manuscript from you in exchange.  I’m not looking for line edits — more general “I’m confused here” or “what happened to X?” sort of things that are in my head but didn’t make it to paper.  Although obviously if you catch me in a grammatical error, I want to know about it!

So begins the Great Agent Hunt of 2009.  *Da da DUM!*  Yeah, I’m not hearing angels singing or trumpet fanfare, not in this market with everyone reporting a sharp increase in queries, but you know me.

I’m going to try anyway.

Maybe, Maybe Not

I loved this article by Julie Anne Long and her agent, Steven Axelrod.  The studies about randomness and “herd” tendencies of humans were interesting, but the best part for me personally was the story about the man and his one prized horse.

I always set extremely high expectations on myself and events.

  • If I don’t final and get this project in front of Editor, then I’ll never draw this Editor’s attention.
  • If I do final and Editor doesn’t request material, then I’ll never have another chance with this Editor.
  • If I can’t get an Agent on this project, and I know it’s my best work yet, then I’ll never get an Agent.
  • If Publisher doesn’t accept this project that I love sooooo much, then I’ll never sell it.
  • I’ll never sell anything again.

For years, I studied the markets.  I bought all the debuts published by my target lines.  I haunted industry blogs.  I stalked editors and entered every contest they even thought about judging.  I feverishly researched agents and queried left and right. 

And my one prized horse kept running away. 

I studied why I thought my fence kept busting.  I listened to my sympathetic neighbors who insisted I needed to write something different and safer.  And I found myself in the darkest hour of night and the Valley of Doubt.

I did finally come to the conclusion that nothing matters.  Everything is random.  I might as well be HAPPY with what I write and write what I please, instead of wandering around in the doom and gloom of the industry, because I know the stress and worries will only get worse after that first big NY contract.  If I can’t live my dream and be happy, then it’s not much of a dream, is it?

And so Dream Agent rejects my latest project.  Maybe I’ll get a different agent who’s an even better match for me.  Maybe not.  Maybe the next project will be right for her.  Maybe not.  Maybe my next big project will be a hit.  Maybe not.  Maybe I’ll sell this project.  Maybe not.

But I’ll always write what I love and I’ll never feel badly about it again.

The Great Agent Hunt

Dee Tenorio is blogging about her Agent Quest over at Romancing the Blog.  It’s an interesting angle to the Great Agent Hunt.  So many blog entries, articles, and workshops have been dedicated to writing the perfect query, the dreaded synopsis, or all the research that we should do before querying, but few down-to-earth commentaries about agents are really out there.  Maybe because we’re all trying to be too careful?

You just never know who’s reading that blog entry bemoaning two rejections received on the same day, or Nathan Bransford’s lightning fast response (I read someone had a rejection in 9 minutes), or another form rejection from Dream Agent, or whatever woe is common in the Great Agent Hunt.  I know some agents I’ve queried have at least visited my website.  So I’m not going to flap too much about specifics, and I know most people probably feel the same way.

This isn’t the first time I’ve hunted for an agent.  Technically, I suppose it’s the third time.  I queried both Rose and Beautiful Death before they were contracted by Drollerie.  I actually had much better luck as far as requests went on Rose (thanks in large part, I think, to finaling in the Molly contest).  Yet even though this is my third round on a new book, I haven’t hit 50 queries.  Not even close.  I’d have to do some digging, but I’m probably between 20-30 agent queries on three books total.

I know all the advice out there says to hit many targets.  Always have 5-10 out at a time.  That’s just not my style.  I’ve been watching and listening for five years now.  I pay attention when authors talk about their agents.  I’ve read many agency blogs for years, all wonderful sources of information. 

But I don’t read for query to-dos any more, or rejection horror stories, or what’s hot.  I know what I write.  I know my style.  The trick is finding the agent that matches that style, who loves what I love just as much.

I’m studying communication styles and interaction.  Is the agent hands on or off?  E-mail savvy or snail?  Slow to respond?  I know an agent’s personna in public is very different from the private side her clients see, but true professionalism and love for Story come shining through, whether in interviews or in a blog post.

We’ve all heard tales of the towering mountains of slush our stories must shine through, but I think we should look at our own “slush” and do a little careful weeding.  There are thousands of literary agents out there.  Many of them are solid, good, dependable agents.  That doesn’t mean they’re right for me. 

A writer’s time is just as precious as the agents’.  I work full time, have three monsters, and a mountain of laundry calling my name.  I’ve got so many stories I want to write and time’s a wastin’.  Every minute I’m querying an agent is a minute I can’t write.  I’m sorry, I’m not going to wait around for 6-8 months on a simple query response, or worse, the no response camp.  I had two of them on the last round.  I know accidents happen, black holes suck up mail (even snail mail — one contest packet came back to me nearly a year overdue) all the time, but those agents are crossed off my list.  Sorry.

My list is small.  I try really hard to target stories correctly.  Letters is much different from my “brand,” but I’d like an agent who can handle both spicy contemporary and romantic sff, so that narrows the list even more.  I’m not querying just agents with an online presence — but I do “know” someone online who has worked with these agents in the past.  Every round of queries I send out, I learn something new.  I see which “hooks” attracted which agents.  I record response times. 

That’s not to say I’m afraid to take risks.  I have queried a few agents on a lark, just to test the waters, so to speak.  I used to do the contest circuit, trying to final in the “right” contest to get in front of Dream Agent or Dream Editor, but after one story propped someone’s desk up for three years…I decided to go the more direct route.  :shock:

If all of my current packages come back as “no thanks,” then I’ll punt and go to plan B.  I’ve punted before.  Hopefully each time, though, I’m getting a little closer to the goal line.  :mrgreen:

P.S.  It’s not surprise at all that the Great Agent Hunt = GAH.  That’s exactly how I feel each and every time I see a response in the mail box, whether snail or electronic.  GAH!!!