I have gotten some fascinating feedback on Invasion from two first-rate agencies with permission to resubmit after revisions. And from Ellen Hopkins, author of Crank, and its sequels.
The feedback was hard to hear, but true. From one agency it was feedback on just the pitch paragraphs from a Webinar on how not to pitch sci-fi and fantasy. Because I was close but not there, the feedback absolutely forced me to dig deeper into what this story is really about. I had not been putting any world-building into my queries, and the webinar emphasized that you must, but that the world you’ve built is not the story. And you must include the things that make your world unique, but they aren’t your story. And you must include your main character(s), and they are getting to your story, but they in themselves aren’t your story.
Your story starts with an inciting incident, just like a screenplay, and proceeds from there, but the query should only cover the things that happen in the first 30-50 pages, and from that the agent, editor, reader, should be hooked. This is exquisitely hard.
And that’s why I’m not doing NaNo. Because free-writing, writing the shitty first draft, is way too easy for me. Not maybe finishing a novel in the month, or getting to 50,000 words, but skimming along the surface. Way too easy.
I don’t like hard work. I don’t like to slow down. I don’t like to craft every scene, every sentence. I like stuff that’s easy for me, like dialogue. I like stuff to come to me and then put it in layer by layer. And that’s getting closer to the real work I need to do over the next month. But I can’t spend all my time on the front porch, listening to my characters talk, and seeing my world ever more clearly. Though again, that’s getting closer.
I have to finally finally learn to sit down and craft the novel. Write it, as my critique partner says. See when it’s shaky, rushed, repetitive, and make it better. That’s hard work, but it’s also really satisfying, really fun. Taking a scene and diving into it, showing (not telling) the smells, the sounds, the emotions, the clothes, the unique qualities of an imaginary world, which even a realistic novel is. And I am really looking forward to it.
And so, as the NaNo month begins, that is what I will be doing. Trying to take an almost finished 66,000 word novel and to that next level.
2010 Reading Update (49 to date):
35. The Immortals, J.T. Ellison
34. The Perks of Being a Wallflower, Stephen Chobosky
33. The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Carrie Ryan
32. Lord of the Changing Wind, Rachel Neumeir
31. The Magic Thief: Found, Sarah Prineas
30. Mockingjay, Suzanne Collins
29. The Magic Thief: Lost, Sarah Prineas
28. The City in the Lake, Rachel Neumeir
27. Singularity Sky, Charles Stross
26. Cold Sassy Tree, Olive Ann Burns
25. The English Major, Jim Harrison
24. 2666, Roberto Bolona
21-23 Kept in the Dark, Nina Balatka, Eye for an Eye, Anthony Trollope
20. Les Miserables, Victor Hugo
19. The Help, Kathleen Stockett
18. The Girl Who Kicked the Hornets’ Nest, Stieg Larsson
17. The Short Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, Junot Diaz
16. Await Your Reply, Michael Chaon
15. The Higher Power of Lucky, Susan Patron
14. The Physick Book of Deliverance Dane,Katherine Howe
13. Dragon Haven, Robin Hobb
12. The Hemmingses of Monticello: An American Family, Annette Gordon-Reed
11. Bookman’s Wake, John Dunning
7-10. The Spellman Files, The Curse of the Spellmans, Revenge of the Spellmans, The Spellmans Strike Again, Lisa Lutz
6. Bardo: Interval of Possibility, Khenpo Karthar Rinpoche
5. Booked to Die, John Dunning
4. Catching Fire, Suzanne Collins
3. The Girl Who Played with Fire, Stieg Larson
2. Beautiful Creatures
1. The Silver Mage, Katherine Kerr
7-14 Whose Body, Clouds of Witness, Unnatural Death, The Unpleasantness at the Bellona Club, Strong Poison, The Five Red Herrings, Murder Must Advertise.
1-6 Rune Blade Trilogy, Sword in Exile Trilogy, Ann Marston