Lately I have been experiencing a much-needed burst of energy in my life in general, but also in my writing. The ideas for the ending of my trilogy are still not quite there, but I have enough of an interesting fomentation of concepts that I am comfortable enough to continue blazing forward (hopefully into a sunset of glory that is a perfect ending to the trilogy).
Aside from my renewed motivation to work on Resistance, Capacitance has also sparked some interest in my mind again. I received an email from an agent who requested to see it at the WLT conference last June (yes, it sometimes takes them THAT long to respond). It was a very nice rejection email. Even though it was a rejection, the key statement I grabbed was, “I think this is a story with legs.” To me, after months of wallowing in the despair of the over-saturated dystopian lit market, this was music to my starving ears! This agent is looking for smart science fiction, and he sees potential in my story. He also saw my not-pub ready narration. If you are a first-time author reading this, I cannot stress this enough–DO NOT, DO NOT (SERIOUSLY DO NOT) SUBMIT YOUR WORK UNTIL YOU HAVE EDITED AND EDITED SOME MORE AND PROBABLY REWRITTEN IT!!! We all do it; we get into a frenzy thinking we are going to be the next Stephen King, our parents/grandparents/etc are telling us we ARE going to be the next Stephen King (actual thing my Grandpa said the other day. Sigh). This frenzy of foreseen fame inflates our egos and has us pressing send on a blind query email and attached sample work from a loosely edited first draft.
I’m being so scathing because I have been there. Despite reading several articles, blog posts, etc. which said the same thing I just vehemently exhorted above. For instance, this agent who just emailed me liked my story, but didn’t like my narration. If I had edited more carefully and spent some time curating a truly polished story would the outcome of that email have been different? Luckily with this agent, I had established a personal connection with him due to actually meeting him at the conference. He is a really nice guy who came off as a jerk when I asked him a question on day one of the conference. On the last day he came up, and apologized for his stand-offishness and asked me to send my work. So when I got his rejection email, I didn’t feel any qualms about sending him a follow up email. I kept it short (key to interaction with agents, by the way), told him I now realized I had jumped the gun on submitting the story, then asked if he would be interested in seeing Capacitance again after a rewrite. The answer, which arrived a mere two days later–much better response time!–was “Sounds great Elise.” This may not amount to anything, but I am more energized to do a rewrite since I know this agent has an interest in my story and has agreed to have a look at it again upon rewrite (HUGE!!).
I put this out in the last blog post, and I will put the call out again. If any of my readers have free time or interest in reading Capacitance and providing me with critique that goes beyond just copy editing, but goes into the scope and feel of the story as a whole, please let me know! I have a few people (outside of my overly supportive nepotistic family) reading it right now and I have found that to be very helpful. After a couple months the sound of rewrite doesn’t sound so terrifying!
I’ll be the first (and not the last *ahem, agents*) to say it, my first page and pretty much my first chapter of Capacitance blows. It really sucks. There is too much exposition, it lacks any immediate grip to draw the reader to turn the page, and it contains a confusing flashback.
I’m somewhat embarrassed that it is included here on this blog, bar the fact that I hope to one day post a marvelous revision that will showcase my growth and effort as a writer. Someday.
For now, all my attempts at re-writing my first pages have been second rate at best. At worst, they haven’t even happened and have resulted in me staring obstinately at the computer screen refusing to mutilate the first stirrings of life in the brain-child that is my book.
There is a huge mind block for me in revising my first pages. In fact, there is a block in writing them in general. Each of my three books (perhaps with the exception of Inductance) the beginning is very weak. The writing is insecure and it’s obvious that I am just trying to get past that blank page anxiety and get my words on paper. Fast forward to the middle of the book and the prose is clean and engaging, things are moving much more quickly.
However, even if I am in this great writing style flow, the moment I go back and try to write the first chapter in the same style, my brain freezes up. I wish this post could turn from the struggle to the solution, but as of yet I have not been successful in revamping my shoddy first chapters. Does anyone out there have tips?
I’ve come to a depressing but expected realization that is part of every writer’s journey–I need a rewrite. After getting denial after denial, it is time to look at the manuscript itself. I got an especially detailed denial earlier this week which contained some great, constructive feedback and I realized I am making some mistakes in my writing that turn agents off to a manuscript in a second. But..more on that next week.
I have to admit, it is a really daunting prospect to rewrite Capacitance. Even during college, I was never good at revisions. I wrote my papers really solidly the first time around and turned them in–usually for an A. So this will be a challenge for me. Obviously, trying to stand out and get published in a sea of query letters (not to mention the over-saturated dystopian genre), I need to do more than a really solid first try.
In the feedback I have gotten, a couple of themes are really standing out to me, and that is what first clued me into the idea that I might need to rewrite. It might be just a few first chapters that need to be restructured, it might need to be more. I am nervous about starting to try, worried about diving in and making it all worse. I’m sure these are normal fears that every author goes through, but they are tough to overcome!
So that is where I am at right now. I am not going to continue querying until I at least have the first three chapters rewritten. Then I can see if those get more results. Before I can start rewriting, I have to put myself in a strange position of distance from the material while at the same time examining it closely. It can’t be “my baby” as I have to think critically, but I also will be turning it over and looking at it from all angles.
It’s kind of like overcoming writer’s block a second time around, but I know I will overcome it and take on the challenge!
Today’s topic is rewrites–for several reasons. First reason being, I just rewrote the first chapter of my novel Capacitance in anticipation of posting it on here soon. It was not easy for me to rewrite a chapter. As a writer (and I am sure many of you can relate to this) it is very hard to chop out, delete or otherwise maim sentences and paragraphs we have so carefully constructed. There is some truth to this hesitant attitude–some words you put down are important, and you don’t want to lose the essential, natural quality of your writing voice. However, the first draft is, by design not tight and polished. It is done to get the story out of the mind and onto the paper. Naturally, there will be some polishing left to do. Thus, stay true to your story and voice, but learn what doesn’t fit or needs omitted. Work with the white space–give your readers some credit and don’t get too wordy. This was one of my struggles in rewriting. My first chapter contained a lot of description (specifically of where my MC’s beautifully decorated apartment); to me, this was fascinating because I am interested in the intricacies of interior design. Will all readers be captivated by an inventory of interior finishes? Probably not. That section–after coaxing from an unofficial CP partner–was cut. Hopefully I can weave some of the description back in through various sections of the novel. Small doses are better for building than numbing readers minds with a long chunk of exposition.
The second reason I want to discuss rewrites today concerns a comment on my blog post yesterday concerning the need to perfect everything before putting it to paper. I am not promoting the method of writing without care or detailed attention, but there comes a point where you have to throw caution to the wind. Do your best, but assume you are going to have to go back and edit regardless. My first chapter rewrite is a great example–I scrawled that first draft copy of it with a flow of words that spewed forth after three years of writer’s block, and I considered it to be a great entry into my book after many lackluster attempts. Looking back at that Chapter 1 now, I find it slow and not effective as well as not being in the voice of the rest of my novel. I was not in my element. However, had I analyzed it so harshly at the time of writing, I may not have put it to paper, and I may have still been stuck with writer’s block interminably. Long story short: write your best right now, perfect it later.
I am SO CLOSE to 100 likes on my Facebook page! It won’t be long now until I can show you all the (rewritten) first chapter of Capacitance!