Groupie: by Susan Daugherty

Groupie: by Susan Daugherty

Thursday, November 17, 2016

Step Three in My Writing Journey: Series Shock

In my mind, I had written one, complete novel that told one complete story. It took awhile for me to wrap  my head around the fact that I would need to split it up into two 95K word books (instead of a Goliath 190K book that would never get a query glance from agents or publishers).

Poor Michelle, my writing group partner, whom I met with weekly as we edited and critiqued each other's books... she tried to tell me several times that a split of the novel was inevitable and then she had to wait patiently for me to accept the reality. As a stroke of luck, there was a great point exactly halfway through the book that was a major plot shift where a cliffhanger could be inserted.

I worried endlessly about this change, of course. It was my baby, my labor of love. I was splitting it apart and into two pieces. What if that turned readers off? Do they prefer a series? Will I get backlash for a cliffhanger? Do I need to disclose that its a cliffhanger? Is it truly a series if its two books-  not three or more books? There wasn't a neat way to make it a trilogy, unfortunately, though I did consider that option.

Ultimately, I had to take the leap of faith that a two part series was meant to be. The good news was that the time I'd spent writing had actually produced TWO books, not bad for six months of writing. It became exciting that I would have the ability to pitch two novels, that I could show I had more than one book in me, that I had the next project ready to go. I hoped agents would appreciate this

Editing the first book took priority after we had been through the whole novel as one piece. With the split, we went back to re-edit once again to be sure everything was tidy for a split book. Query writing became interesting due to the fact that it can be hard to explain that there is a cliffhanger and a second book. Some agents seemed to want stand alone novels and some wanted series. I worked hard to make the ending such as it could be considered a stand alone work, with the option to become a series with a second book.

Oh, I have now dipped into the process of querying. A process best described as HEART WRENCHING, FRUSTRATING, HORRIFIC. You think I'm exaggerating? I wish I was... That is a topic I must spend a lot more time on, so I will do that in the next post!

Thursday, November 10, 2016

The Proper Length for a First Time Novel

I threw a lot of information in the last post about the industry standard for a novel. Especially a first time novelist without a book deal, looking for an agent. (Let's face it- VERY VERY few novelists have any kind of deal made before writing and querying their novel. Those lucky folks may have a deal to write a long novel.) But, for the vast majority of us, we have to follow the "rules".

It can be a tricky thing because the rules are ever-changing in the book industry. There are fads and trends to deal with. There can varied opinions out there too... every single agent is looking for very particular things and finding the right one at the right time with the right novel can feel downright impossible.

Aside from these factors, there are also the anomalies that we hear of with such great popularity that we feel that they ARE the norm. Such as: Twilight. Very long book. Stephenie Meyer's first novel. It was plucked from the slush pile and became a phenomenal hit. Harry Potter: Very long book. Also plucked up as an unknown author and instant stardom. I will admit that the urban legend of books like these made me think that long novels were more of a norm.

Therefore, as I stated in my Writing Journey Part Two: I was a bit blindsided by the fact that my first novel was WAY too long. To shed more light on this topic from an expert, I have attached a link to Writers Digest talking about this very same issue that another poor author ran across. At least I'm not the only one...

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Step Two in My Writing Journey: Reality Check

    I had completed my novel in about six months, which I thought was pretty good. This is considering I also work 3 long a days a week as a physical therapist and director of my clinic and also care for (and shuttle all over the universe) my two children.
   What I didn't know at the time, was that the novel I completed was the length of TWO full novels- plus some! At 240,000 words, my dear friend who had inspired me to write as I followed her footsteps, let me in on the fact that a first novel should be 80-100K words. Well, at least I had a starting point...
    Michelle was kind enough to team up with such a newbie as myself and we began a small group editing team. She had completed one novel and had started another. Her first was on hold and she had not made headway with query submissions, so she had me begin edits and critiques of it, while she worked on mine as well.
   The main issue became: can we cut enough words to make the story into one novel? Or do I need to cut it in half and make it two novels... and is there a good place to stop the story to allow that to happen? Could it be a triology? When you write for months with your vision of this ONE complete story, it is very hard to let go. I insisted it should be kept as one full story. However, there was no way I could cut out literally more than half the book to shorten it enough. That would be impossible. Yes, there were definitely many scenes that were cut (like a knife to the heart everytime you have to let one of your babies go). Some are scenes you love- just a great dialogue banter, or a fun adjunct to the story... but when you've got to cut words and streamline the plot, you wind up slowly letting some of your favorites go. Sigh. But... no where near enough to get it close to 100K.
    When we had completed edits months later, we had the novel down to 190,000. It would be a perfect amount to split into two novels. I had to come to terms that my story was actually meant to be told as a two part series.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

Step one in my writing journey: lose my mind

       Three years has gone by so fast and so slow at the same time. It's hard to believe that it was that long ago I was inspired by a new friend when she told me that she wrote her own novel. Her courage to step out of her day job in the medical field (that I also work in) and pursue her passion for writing gave me a nudge to indulge my creative side as well.
    To say that I had no clue what I was doing, is an understatement. All I  knew is that she wrote a book and then met a with a group to help her critique and edit it and was in the process of preparing to submit it to agents. Easy, right? I'd had what I considered an entertaining idea for a novel in the back of my mind for years... I would write the kind of book I loved to read. I would make it contemporary, easy to read, page turner with romance, wit and reality.
    So, I sat down and wrote a very simple and loose timeline and named my key characters... and just started writing. Oh, I knew how it would start and end. I knew a few key things that I wanted to happen between. And I let my imagination fill in all the blanks. I truly enjoyed every moment as I felt the words come to life and the story unfolded over the pages.
    I honestly only told my husband what I was doing because otherwise he'd wonder why I was glued to my laptop every night instead of Grey's Anatomy. Oh, and by laptop... I mean a tiny NetBook. Yes, folks, I'm pretty sure I deserve some kind of award for writing an entire  novel on that, if nothing else in this world. I kept it to myself until I sure I could finish the darn thing
     Finish, I did! I was ecstatic! I had to read it from front to back and make some edits... then I was ready to tell my inspirational friend that I wrote a novel. I called and blindsided her completely. She was floored that I secretly wrote a novel and was gracious to immediately offer to help me on the next part of the process.
     Here's the funny part. She asked how many words my novel was. I had never looked up an appropriate number of words for a first novel... I just wrote until the story was complete. I told her it was 240,000 words and I could feel her astonishment over the phone. She let me in on what was apparently common knowledge: a novel should be 80-100K words. Oops. I had more than doubled the recommended length and I would never be able to submit it to agents and publishers at such a length.
    Big problem. But, hey, I had written a dang book and I was excited for the journey to come! I had so much to learn. Stay tuned for the rest of the story.