I Choose You!

I have, in my Google Docs right now, about one dozen finished first drafts. They’re not edited. Certainly not publishable. But they have a beginning, an illusion of a middle, and an end. Draft one done.

So every March, when that old edit bug comes a-bitin’, it’s time for me to look in that folder and choose a file. All the file names look up at me, sometimes with fancy title graphics, like flowers waiting to be plucked and made into a bouquet.

That is, at times, the hardest decision to make. Especially being an unpublished author with no deadlines or platform to my name yet. The page is blank and I have a 96 pack of Crayolas to color with, but which color goes down first?

This past year, with #Pub2020, I’ve been able to choose based on what novel I think is most sellable. The Final Rose is a stand-alone fantasy. It’s got compelling characters that go through some shit. It’s got a fun plot. Perfect for a debut.

But other years? It comes down to few things:

Reading the first chapter and going, “Can I handle this much right now?”

Are there more plot issues than I can remember? How was the technical part of the writing? Is the genre something I want to work in at the moment?

If any of those are a “no,” it’s onto the next.

Is this a series?

What book is it in the series? Beginning, middle, end? Do I remember what happened in the last book? Does this involve an extensive reread of the previous books? Where’s my damn series bible?

Is this something I plan to publish?

This is usually the very last question. I eventually want to edit and revise all of my novels. Even those than only friends will see.

But if I’m going to take this whole “published author” thing seriously, I really need to make sure I focus and perfect those things that agents and editors will buy.

How long ago did I write it?

Six months, at least, or bust! It is very rare of me to even look at something I wrote so soon after I write it. I’m trying to adjust and reduce time between but I have a backlog to work on.

If it’s a short story, it’s a different beast. I used to participate in a competition on WriYe that involved writing a short story a week. My goal was always to write the story Sunday – Tuesday, then ignore it until Friday for edits. It wasn’t my ideal amount of time apart, but it was enough.

So what about you, readers? What’s your criteria for the time you decide a story should be edited? Do you keep a schedule that you plan in advance or is it what feels good at that moment?

Editing Update:

Chapter: 13/24

Pen refills: 1

Scenes sliced: 5

Darlings killed: 3

Tears: 0

Current Concern: Task and Ziove need a lot more set up to fall in love. More scenes are needed in the first half with their relationship blossoming. Need to find a way to add them while adding to the plot.

It’s a Thousand Pages (give or take a few)…

Okay, not that long but today’s topic is about novel length, especially in my chosen genre of epic/high fantasy. But if I get the Beatles stuck in your head, I happily take the blame.

So, when I started writing novels (back in 2006), I really didn’t consider things such as word count. I was writing short stories mainly, usually by hand, so I worried more about pages than word count. And whether or not the story was complete, all plot points hit, and if my best friends liked it.

But in 2006, I was introduced to NaNoWriMo by a classmate. She was between majors and had decided that week she wanted to be an author. In early October she told me about NaNoWriMo, and wanted me to join her. Write a novel? Why not?

For those who don’t know about NaNoWriMo (if you exist), it is a challenge to write a novel in a month. And by a novel, they mean 50,000 words. I had no idea what that meant page-wise or paperback thickness-wise so I went with it.

And when I passed the 50k mark in my novel and wasn’t done yet, I panicked. What did I do wrong? Why was my novel not even halfway done and yet I had reached that limit? Everything seemed to be necessary and not extraneous but maybe I wasn’t sure how to read my own writing.

So I dropped that novel. And, when I decided to do more WriMo-related challenges, I actually did research.

Most of my favorite fantasy novels are well over 50k. Sanderson, Lynch, Martin… They write tomes that, when I read, feel as if they are as short as pamphlets. And most of those books are hundreds of thousands of words. So no, I did nothing wrong in my first NaNoWriMo (length-wise, anyway. Stylistic and technical? Eeeeh.).

Which, as I research publishing, leads to a fun little conundrum. Everything you read will tell you that you should submit a first (fantasy) novel that is no longer than 120k. Which is doable, but sometimes hard to adhere to in some of my stories.

The novel I am working on for publication – The Final Rose – is currently at 140k and only will get longer. I could easily see it going to 200k and beyond. Are the words going to be tight and necessary? To the best of my ability. Does that mean it is too long and out of luck? Maybe not. But that’s my problem to figure out. The best I can do is finish, edit, revise, perfect and write an awesome query to hook the right agent.

My other plan, if The Final Rose becomes that long, is to start submitting some of my short fiction to gain publication credits. I know that if the query hooks the agent and the writing is good enough for them to want to take a chance, the word count won’t matter as much. But I think having a few publishing credits under my belt will give them a bit more security in the fact that someone wants to read my writing.