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I’m a writer on a journey to traditionally publish a novel. Sounds simple, right? Um, wrong. The waters of traditional publishing are as muddy as the swamps behind my house. I share my attempt to navigate these waters on my blog, Work in Progress–a weekly blog about querying literary agents, traditional publishing, and raising teenage daughters (my other work in progress!) Check out my About page to find out more about me or my Books page to find out more about the projects I’m working on. 

 

Work in Progress

4 1/2 Things I’ve Learned From My (Unpublished) First Novel

Posted Jan 17 2018 in , , , ,

 

Two weeks ago I laid bare all the gory details of my year querying agents. This week, after a lovely lunch with my writing tribe, I’m taking a closer look at my first novel. And I’m realizing Book One can teach you quite a bit. Mine has taught me plenty. All related to sayings I’ve heard a thousand times…and didn’t believe. Until I spent a year sending it to agents.

  1. Writing The Book Is The Easy Part: Yes, I’ve heard this said many times. But I didn’t actually believe it. Especially when I was ripping my hair out during the hundredth rewrite. I remember days when I’d stare at the page and wonder how I was going to type even one word. Days of elation followed by days of deleting the very words I’d been elated about. But after a year of querying agents, I realize those were the good old days. And this realization has given me a new appreciation for my writing time. Seriously writers go query, then come back to your writing. You’ll jump up and down with glee when you do.
  2. Know When To Stop Editing: Oh boy. This is a tricky one. Writing is good rewriting, right? To a point. We writers want those “final” drafts to be as clean and sharp as a steel blade, but voice lives in the grit. And if all the grit is swept away, you’re left with a lovely, neat page of boring words. And no voice. Which will leave agents saying, “I didn’t connect with the voice.” Trust me, I know! I chopped, polished, and pasted my novel into so many different versions, I’m not even sure which one I sent to agents. I have a sinking feeling I edited myself in a circle and ended up back at the first draft. 
  3. Start Another Book: This one could be the most important. When Book One is out on submission to agents, get Book Two going, STAT. My Book Two saved me during the tedious query process. It kept me distracted and entertained. It prevented me from rocking in a corner while poking a stick in my eye. It gave me something to focus on besides vacuuming the dog hair off my furniture every five minutes. And when Book One ends its run in the gauntlet, Book Two will be there, waiting in the wings. Chances are, it’s a better book anyway
  4. Your Book Is Not Your Baby: Um, okay. I practically swaddled my first book and gave it a bottle. Bad move. Not smart. Detachment is good. If you have the chance, listen to Elizabeth Gilbert’s Big Magic on audible. It’s life changing. And when she spoke on this very topic, I almost swerved my car into a ditch. I’d been treating my book like a baby. I’d coddled and spoiled it beyond belief. And now I’m considering locking it in a drawer. 

1/2: Let It Be: I think The Beatles may have been onto something. A writer’s Book One is a delicate little bird we hold so close to our hearts, it’s hard to release. But sometimes, we must let go. Even if it’s just temporary. Maybe Book One needs a break. Maybe Book One will have its shining moment another time. Maybe the agents who never responded will respond tomorrow with a resounding yes! Maybe not. Let it be. (In case you’re wondering why it’s a 1/2…I’m still learning this one.)

And the writing journey continues…

 

 

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