Summer 2018 Wrap Party, Part 1

A missing summer and an empty beach

 

I’m happy to report that the mountains of boxes referenced in my last post have been successfully reduced to hills, and that the topography of our temporary townhouse’s interior has greatly improved as a result. After the world’s briefest status update, it seems only fitting that we now go to the opposite extreme. That’s right… it’s time for a three-part status update. Inflation’s a crazy thing, y’all!

The Non-Writing Portion of this Status Update is Almost Shorter Than Its Headline

I quit my job in June, sold our house in July, and moved states in August. In December, we will move a second time. In 2021, we will still be unpacking.

 

#maybetwitterisnotentirelyevil

And now, ten thousand words about my continuing quest to become a writer!

Back in June, I participated in #SFFPit, one of many, many Twitter pitch contests for authors trying to find representation. The idea is to create a series of elevator pitches for your book. You then tweet those pitches during the event, along with the genre of your book. If a participating agent is intrigued by the pitch, they’ll ‘like’ the tweet and invite you to send in a query and sample pages.

Theoretically, because that query has been actively solicited by the agent, it should have a better chance of being successful. In reality, getting even one ‘like’ can be difficult. There are thousands of authors pitching but only a few dozen agents looking at those pitches. I’d previously participated in five or six pitch events and attracted zero interest. The below #SFFPit pitches were the first to get any likes at all.

Pitch #1: When I was five, my father murdered my mother. Eleven years later, I snuck out of superhero school to return the favor.

Pitch #2: Murderers. Villains. Madmen. There are many words to describe necromancers, but superhero isn’t one of them. 16-year-old Damian’s only talent is the power that’s driving him insane. So how and why did he just become the Academy of Heroes’ newest student?

 

As you can tell, I kind of suck at this.  Even so, these two pitches were liked by three different agents1. One of the agents had already rejected my unsolicited query for the same book once, which I found amusing. One of the other agents wanted to see the full manuscript instead of the usual subset of sample pages.

 

Edit is a 4 Letter Word

Whenever I send in sample pages, I like to review the pages I’m submitting.  In this case, I was going to be submitting the entire book, so I decided to do a full re-read2 and edit pass. My manuscript has always been a bit long, so I also took the opportunity to once again trim down my word count.

The first editing pass took two days and netted 3k words. I followed that with a second 4-day edit pass that trimmed another 3k words. A third read-through helped me find and correct the typos and errors that had resulted from those first two passes3, and a fourth, final, and largely sleepless read-through helped me find and fix even more. All in all, I made four full editing passes on a five-hundred-plus-page book in roughly ten days. Through a minor miracle, I even still liked the book by the end of it.

With the review step finally done, I sent the queries and sample pages off to the respective requesting agents, and then tried to put the whole thing out of my mind. Getting a full request is a big step, but it’s just a step4. Given that this particular full request had resulted from a tweet (and the agents therefore hadn’t read any sample pages at all yet), I didn’t want to get my hopes up.

 

And Speaking of 4 Letter Words…

It didn’t take long to hear back from the agent who had previously passed on See These Bones. To nobody’s surprise, they elected to pass again. This time, they sent a personalized rejection email (rather than the usual form letter). It didn’t change the answer, but it did help soften the blow5.

It wasn’t until mid-August6 that I heard back from the agency to which I’d submitted my full manuscript, and… they actually liked it. Believe me… I had to re-read that part of the email multiple times7, but the message stayed the same. Somehow, they loved both my writing and my idea.

However8, they did have concerns regarding the number of expletives in my manuscript. My main character, Damian, is–to put it kindly–a tremendous potty mouth. It’s an important aspect of his character voice, and I do try to keep it from ever becoming totally gratuitous, but there’s no denying that it’s noticeable.

They didn’t mind the expletives themselves, but were concerned the volume was too great for the book’s genre. With a cast of sixteen-year-olds, the book would generally be considered Young Adult9, and there are limits to what is considered acceptable in that genre. They had two competing suggestions. First, I could revise my book to make it suitable for the genre… significantly reducing the number of expletives (and likely sanitizing some of the other content). Alternatively–and this was their preferred suggestion–I could age my cast up to eighteen or older. That would slot my book into the New Adult genre, where expletives, drug references and sexual content are considered less problematic.

 

Decisions, Decisions, Decisions…

Needless to say, that email gave me a lot to think about. In Part 2, I’ll discuss what I decided to do, why I decided it, and exactly what the change entailed. We’re a long way from “Step 4: Profit”, but the journey is half the fun, I think!

I’ll be posting that update next week. Until then, thank you for tuning in!

Footnotes

  1. And a few small presses.
  2. Roughly estimated as my 100th
  3. As I detailed here, writing is like coding in that fixing one thing always breaks something else
  4. Years ago, I had two full requests for Investigation, Mediation, Vindication, but neither translated into an offer of representation.
  5. I mean that in all sincerity. Getting a non-form email response is almost a reward in itself.
  6. A 2-3 month reply-time is actually amazingly quick for a full request.
  7. The querying process is rarely anything other than an endless march of relentless negativity!
  8. There is always a but or a however.
  9. To be honest, I wrote it for adults, but marketing it under a different (and larger) genre seems like a good idea

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