KEEPER Update: Where are we now?
Hi everyone! It's been a while since I did an update about my novel (November, actually!), so I thought I'd take a little break from revisions and fill you in!
Since we last spoke, I completed 98% of the 1st draft of my novel, KEEPER. I ended up not writing the last two chapters because I was very unsatisfied with the ending. I didn't like the direction the last batch of chapters had taken and I had sorta written myself into a hole. So, I decided to step away from the manuscript (MS) and let it marinate for a bit. In the meantime, I enlisted the help of a freelance editor to give me some feedback on my first few chapters.
When I received the feedback from the editor, it was both positive and negative. She told me that while my writing was good and my voice was strong, there were plot issues. She pointed out several holes in my MS, things I hadn't even thought about. The things she pointed out were not easy things to fix and they were also the things that determined if my MS would be sellable down the road. Her feedback was done constructively, and she was not in the least bit unkind, but my reaction wasn't great. It was a little something like this:
While I knew her feedback was spot on, it was still really difficult to hear. To be so close to finishing and then realize that your story isn't up to par is a difficult pill to swallow. I did some self-reflection and decided that she was right. My MS was a hot mess. For a while, I contemplated scrapping the whole thing and starting over with a new idea. It had taken me a year and 1/2 to finish the first draft. Did I really want to spend more time on it? I spent several weeks wallowing in self-pity and seeking advice from my friends and family. To my surprise, most people encouraged me to give my MS another shot. After all, I had already done so much work, why not try to fix the issues? In the end, I decided to take their advice and stick with it. BUT I knew I had a lot of work ahead of me and keeping the same MS meant going back to square 1. So that's exactly what I did.
In March, I sat down with a brand new pack of post-it notes, a pencil, and my freshly-erased white board. Initially, when I wrote the 1st draft, I used a plot-driven approach: This happens, then this happens as a result. However, for the revisions, I knew I needed to try something new. So, I went back to my main character. I did a little soul searching with her and really tried to figure out what made her tick. I made tons of notes and by the time I was done, I knew what I needed to do. The result looked like this:
Instead of focusing on stringing the action of the story together, I focused on Lainey, the MC. I asked myself, what are Lainey's goals? What is her motivation? What are the stakes? I determined that throughout the story, Lainey had three goals. I was then able to break the action of the story down based on which goal Lainey was trying to achieve at the time. (And yes, the post-its are color coded! lol) I was able to salvage a good chunk of the existing MS, but I also had to cut a large bit as well. I ended killing off a character I really loved, changed several settings and character relationships, and planned an entirely different beginning AND ending. BUT I was really excited about the changes and considering the slump I had been in, that was saying something!
I wasn't able to jump right into making the revisions due to the craziness of work (Thanks a lot STAAR Testing!), but whenever I had spare minute, I tried to sneak in as much as possible.
By the time school ended, I had roughly three chapters revised and semi-polished. I was stoked about the new beginning and FINALLY felt like the story was heading in the right direction. I ended up getting a pretty nasty cold that kept me down for about 10 days and then I took some time to enjoy my parents when they came to visit, so it was around mid-June when I sat down and got serious about revisions.
As of today, I have completed 20 out of 25 planned chapters. There may end up being more chapters; it all depends on how the new ending goes. I've been writing NONSTOP--I even stay up several hours after my family has gone to sleep just so I can take advantage of the quiet house. My goal is to completely finish with the MS by early next week. I will still have several rounds of polishing to do, but I want to start sending the MS out to beta readers.
Why am I pushing myself so hard to finish? Well, I sorta feel like I'm at a make it or break it point with this novel. June 17th marked two years that I've been working on this story. It's time to finish it and see what happens. I don't want to spend another two years rewriting the same story over and over again. I love these characters and this story, but I'm ready to give the other voices in my head a chance. Besides, while I am going to see it to the end, I'm not very optimistic that this novel will get published. It's YA Paranormal, a genre that many are saying is dead--one that no one will want to represent, much less publish. I guess they are right. Paranormal stories (Twilight, etc.) DID dominate for a while and the market became over saturated with them. My only hope is that by the time I get around to trying to publish this thing, the market will be craving stories like mine again. I'm trying to have realistic expectations going into this or I will be crushed by disappointment. I'm confident that I will have a book published someday, but who knows if it will be this one or not. I can only cross my fingers, pray a whole lot, and hope the stars align.
I did have a little nugget of hope this week though! As most of you saw on FB, I had a request for a partial from an editor. This is HUGE! Let me explain how it all happened. At the end of June, I decided to enter a writing contest called Pitch to Publication. Pitch to Publication is awesome because it gives writers an opportunity to win an entire MS critque and polish from a freelance editor! Having worked with one before, I know how valuable feedback from an editor can be. Freelance editors are an amazing resource, but can be pricey--especially when they are working on your entire MS as opposed to a handful of chapters. So, obviously, entering the contest was something I could not resist!
Here's how the contest works: There is a list of 20ish freelance editors and participants choose up to 5 editors that they would like to work with. Then they submit a short Q&A, the first five pages of their MS, and their query letter. (A query is basically what you would read on the back of a book jacket--tells people why your book is awesome and they should want to read it). All the entries were then forwarded to the editors of choice. The editors then comb through the entries and select their favorites. From that list, they request partials (the first 50 pages of MS). After reading the partials, the editors then select one writer that they would like to work with. The editor and writer then have a month to work on polishing the manuscript and getting it agent ready! At the end of the editing period, there is an agent round. Agents will either reply back with a rejection or an offer of representation! The agent/author then have the option to participate in a Publishing House Round! So potentially, the writer could have a book deal by the end of the year. Doesn’t that sound amazing!?
As of right now, I have made one of the editors "Short List." She was actually my first choice so I am really excited. Out of 100 entries, I was one of 22 that she starred as "wanting to read more." She then narrowed down THAT list to 9 entries. So out of 100 writers, I am one of 9 that was asked to submit a partial. It's super exciting and while I seriously doubt I will be the one chosen in the end to work with her, the fact that she saw promise in my work gave me the push I needed to really focus on getting the revisions done. Please keep your fingers crossed for me though! It would be an AMAZING opportunity and I would probably cut off my right arm if it meant getting selected. All good vibes are greatly appreciated!
So there you have it, folks! I'm in a really good place with my MS and if all goes according to schedule, I will be done by next week! Once I get feedback from my beta readers, I will do another round of edits (or several--depending on what the feedback is) and then start seeking literary agents for representation. Again, I'm not entirely optimistic on this front, but I'd like to see the process to the end so I can at least get experience from it. If the novel doesn't make it through, then I will put it away or self-publish it and call it a day. I've already got a few new ideas simmering and the possibilities are endless!
Thank you to each and every one of you who have followed me on this journey. I have no idea how it will all end, but I know that I am well supported. Thank you for believing in me! I promise I'll put a book in your hands one of these days!
I think that's it for now! I gotta get back to those revisions!
Until Next Time, Folks!