Tuesday, April 19, 2011

The $50 First Chapter Flogging

The reviews from beta readers have been almost uniformly stellar, but it is sometimes hard to extract constructive criticism. I suppose it's a good thing that many of them say, "No, I have no suggestions to make, I just loved it", but I'm very aware that the manuscript still needs improvement.

One friend (thanks RL) did do an edit with red pen in hand and she caught a number of things which made me wonder if I am blind, but that's not going to produce the same results as a thorough review by a professional editor. So I paid to get flogged.

Ray Rhamey at Flogging the Quill offers a variety of editing services, from free 'floggings' of reader-submitted first pages clear on up to complete book edits. I popped for his $50 edit of a book's first chapter. Off it went, and he returned it to my inbox in about 10 days.

First, Ray does a thorough job and his $50 flogging is well worth it, particularly if you've never had your manuscript looked at by a pro before. He returned 60+ individual edits and comments, as well as a summary overview of thoughts and suggestions.

Second.......... Holy crap. Looking at the trees rather than the forest for the moment, I had thought that Chapter 1 was relatively clean. Wrong. It's covered in green with erased adverbs, inserted commas, struck-out adjectives, etc. Sigh. I particularly appreciated his finding potential point of view (POV) errors, something I haven't been watching for closely enough because it's pretty easy to err that way when writing in first person.

The forest: In Ray's FWIW (his signature line) opinion the opening, indeed the whole first chapter, is too slow. He finds not enough story tension, conflict, and sense of plot. Not enough hook early enough. Hmm.

His major point, and it's supported by numerous blogging agents, is that you must hook an agent's - or a reader's - interest no later than the first page or you're done, you've lost them.

I returned (in an email exchange) that there are plenty of fine novels that start slowly. He granted that, but allowed as how those are almost always by established authors who can, so to speak, get away with it because agents, publishers, and readers will give them the benefit of the doubt and persist through a slow opening.

I'm thinking that may well be true, but I'm primarily concerned with writing the best book I can, not necessarily the book that will best appeal to an agent reading the first page.

Furthermore, although I have had beta readers comment that the opening is slow, when I did cut about 1/3 of the first chapter to open it in the afternoon rather than morning of the first day, some beta readers complained, saying, "Oh, I loved the opening and being eased into the story, you should have kept it."

Sigh. What are you gonna do?

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Yet Another Edit Complete

The current hard copy of the project is 9.0, which is in accordance of the software version type of numbering scheme I've been using. I just finished another complete red-pen edit of the manuscript.

What is amazing to me is the number of times I can go through this thing and still miss such obvious things as missing words, doubled words, misplaced words, grammar mistakes, punctuation, etc. I estimate that I've been through the whole book from start to finish, on the laptop or on hard copy, in editing mode at least twenty times and I still find errors.

And that's not even to talk about the things that I'm really trying to find and improve. Such things as awkward phrases, clich├ęs, redundancies, characters who enter a room they never left, and just plain trying to make the writing itself better.


Thursday, April 14, 2011

80 Query Iterations

I just did a quick count of my query efforts and realized I've written approximately 80 of the darn things. The early ones are pretty embarrassing and, thankfully, will never see the light of day. I think the latest and greatest might be pretty good, and it's posted over on Nathan Bransford's query critique forum:

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

I'm Back

Holy smokes I had no idea that it had been this long since I'd paid attention to this blog. Several things led me to ignore it.

First, I realized that, based on feedback from beta readers, I realized that I had to do a MAJOR rewrite of the Overboard, including a 100% rewrite of the entire second half of the book. As my last post says, I couldn't decide what to do, and that led to my motivation deserting me for well over a year.

Second, last summer (2010) my motivation mysteriously reappeared stronger than ever. I realized that I needed to follow the story where it led rather than where I had planned it to go, and I sat down to write. I set a goal of completing the major rewrite in six months and I made it happen. Then the follow on rewrites started.

Third, I realized that I was spending far too much time reading blogs and websites rather than working on the novel, and this blog was part of the distraction. I made the decision to ignore the blog until I felt that the novel was finished or nearly so.

That time has come, the book is ever-so-nearly-done, and I need to start thinking about how to seek publication, should I decide that it's worthy to do so.

More on that and a lot more later.