“The best laid plans of mice and men rarely survive first contact with the enemy.”
I was actually going to start this post a couple days ago, but saw that it was almost the end of August and that I had an opportunity to instead post it at the absolute last possible moment, along with another fictional misquote.
This is what the ancient prophets foretold as next-level procrastination.
August has been a weird–and weirdly short–month. As mentioned in my last update, I finished the first draft of See These Bones in July. As a result, this month was supposed to be all about making edits to the books in my other series, The Many Travails of John Smith… fixing errors, cleaning up the dialogue, and locking down the respective page counts before my covers were commissioned in October.
Now that August is over, I can conclusively say I… didn’t do any of that.
Over the past month, my initial beta testers have all finished reading through See These Bones.1 The feedback has been wildly positive… far more positive than I could have ever anticipated.2 I’ve been addressing the constructive criticism received, but outside of a handful of passages that individual readers found slightly confusing, the prevailing opinion has been that the book is not only in great shape, it’s also, by far, my best one to date. Every single beta reader has also said my immediate focus should be on finding an agent and publisher for it.
I can’t really complain about feedback like that. I’m not sure I could afford to buy feedback like that. But it’s forced me to reassess my plans for the year.
As a new and unknown author, I’m very aware that it’s my job to turn readers into fans. I’m also aware that, given the sheer quantity of books being released every single day, I’ll only have one chance to do so.3 When even beta readers who adore The Many Travails of John Smith are telling me to focus on publishing See These Bones (and to also hurry up and write a sequel), I think it’s pretty clear which book will make the best first impression.
It’s not that unusual these days for an author to have both self-published books and traditionally-published books, but I’ve never read about someone (let alone an unknown writer) doing both simultaneously. There’s probably a very good reason for that. As a result, I’ve made the difficult decision to temporarily table my plans to self-publish the John Smith series. Instead, I’m going to focus on finding an agent for See These Bones. If I can do so, and the book sells, it’s possible that new doors will then also open for the John Smith series.4
If I once again struggle to find representation5, my fall-back plan will be to self-publish See These Bones first, followed by the John Smith series. One way or another, both series will eventually be published… I just need to be smart about my approach.6
What all of the above boils down to is that I’m once again querying agents. However, this is my second time on the query merry-go-round, and I’m taking some lessons from the first time.7 To start with, I’m being very selective with who I query. In fact, I’ve sent out only a single query… an exclusive to one of the agents who requested a partial from me last time. They were professional and personable throughout the entire process8 and I knew immediately they were someone I wanted to work with if the chance ever came.
There are no guarantees, of course, but I’m keeping my fingers crossed!
So that’s a lot of words on everything I’m doing that isn’t writing… and that kind of sums up my creative output (or lack thereof) for the month. I’m still a few months away from working on the sequel to See These Bones, but I’m ready to write something. My tentative plans are to spend September writing a short story set in the same universe. It will use 3rd person perspective instead of 1st, and will feature an entirely new cast (and two very young protagonists). I’m genuinely excited to flesh out a new corner of my broken world. Assuming the story turns out, I also plan to post some or all of it here on the site for free.
Of course… we all know what can happen to plans once reality9 enters the fray…
- A couple of them have already read it twice, which is both insane and all kinds of amazing.
- As I’ve mentioned before, whenever I send a chapter to my angel-wife, I predict that she will hate it. So far, I’ve been wrong every time… which just makes it that much more likely that the next chapter will suck.
- Unless I change my name with every book I publish… I’ve dubbed that strategy Plan B.
- That would be the best of all worlds.
- This would be the worst of all worlds!
- Writing is hard. Being successful at writing is harder.
- Lesson #1: closing your eyes makes the motion sickness worse.
- And also didn’t sit on the manuscript for nine months.
- And mice. And enemies. Wait… I’m starting to think I got that quote totally wrong.