Friday, September 11, 2009

Friday Fricassee

Think back to when you were writing your Very First Novel. Some of you may be there right now, working through your first completed work, marveling at the fact that you were actually able to DO this thing.

There's a sense of accomplishment attached to it, that Very First Novel. And rightly so. Even if it's never published (and let's face it--most First Novels aren't), it's something of which to be proud. Lots of work, lots of time, lots of coffee.

After I wrote my Very First Novel, I hated reading things like, "If you've just written your first novel, you have a lot of novels to write before you get published." I mean, who wants to hear that? Like so many aspiring authors before and after me, I believed that this novel was IT. I'd publish this one and go on to publish others.

Heh. My novel sucked, and yours probably did, too.

All this to say, as I've been working through my current novel (the YA Dystopian I've been yammering about for months), I've sensed that something in me has Changed. I'm not the same writer I used to be--not during my Very First Novel, nor during the subsequent two (which I still love and hope to publish some day). Somewhere during this latest project, gradually, imperceptibly, I've become a writer who is ready to be published.

Hear me. I didn't say my novel is ready to be published (it isn't...yet). I said that I am ready to be published. I've hit my stride in ways it's hard to explain in a quickly typed blog post.

Those of you who are published surely understand what I mean. Those of you who are agented and moving forward surely understand, also.

And those of you who are pre-agented but experiencing the same thing understand as well.

It's beyond exciting.

It's also hard to put into words. Feel free to take a crack at it in the comment box.

And yes, I am close to finishing this will-it-ever-end second draft, thanks to my Kindred Spirit who wisely set a date for both of us to finish our current, hair-knotting project goals. Funny, how the fear of looking incompetent produces such rabid productivity.

Whatever works, yes?

A big THANK YOU to all our fearless critters this week, as well. Someone asked when my critiques will appear. For the newbies and curious: I almost never critique. Running the contests is time consuming, so I am loath to put even more time into them once they are up and running. I have the privilege of reading everything as it comes through, but the actual preparation and posting is the "part" I play. Once I get these contests automated, I will have time to participate as a critter.

Happy weekend, everyone!


  1. You're right about 'that feeling.' I wrote my first novel and thought it was wonderful. By the time I finished my second, I knew the first one was not wonderful, but I was certain the second was.

    By the time I finished my sixth novel (Yes. It took six. Slow learner, I guess) that's when I got 'that feeling.' I didn't think the novel was good. I knew it was good. And I knew I was ready to be published. I was no longer just putting words on paper. I was creating something.

    I read somewhere that you have put in at least 10,000 hours to become good at anything. I think maybe I reached that point with that sixth novel.

    On a different note, I'd also like to say thank you for these secret agent contests. It has been quite an experience, reading critiquing, learning. It's clearly a lot of work. You're providing a wonderful opportunity for a lot of people, and I, for one, am grateful. Thanks again!

  2. As long as I'm not reading a-most-excellent-book-that-makes-my-writing-sound-like-amateur-sludge, definitely I'm right there with you.

    My first 'real' novel is embarrassing (though I still love it heartily every adverbial excessive inch of it).

    The serious one (or ten - I'm not kidding) I am writing/revising/etc now are much better. Though of course, I expect there's always room for improvement through redrafts.

    I dream of a time when I write the novel and have it close to perfect the first time around.

    Will that ever happen?

  3. Since I finished my latest revision of the novel I'm currently querying, yeah, I do feel like I'm ALMOST ready.

    Maybe my confidence has been slipping lately because I can't seem to progress on my WiP between stress and moving and work and not having enough time in the day for everything that needs to get done. Thank goodness I have no children-- they'd be running around filthy and nekkid.

    But I do have room in the new place for an office, a place of my own, to remind myself what I am, what I want, and what I will have if I just keep working as hard as I have been, and never stop learning from other writers like y'all.

    Thanks. And thanks, authoress, for providing a venue where we can share our work and receive feedback. Here's to getting your contests automated. Best wishes!

  4. Wow, your contest was such fun. It was the first time I'd ever participated. I walked away with hope. Yep. Both the "I'm hooked" and "Not even close to being hooked" comments, I learned a lot.

    Thanks for the opportunity. Your work is much appreciated.

    I pray you meet your deadline and keep plugging through. I remember the sense of, "Oh my gosh, I wrote a freaking novel" when I finished my first.

    And even though I've penned a few more since then (although I'm still unpubbed) I still get that same feeling every time I type The End.

    Enjoy the process. Yes, even when it knots your hair...enjoy it. :-)
    Have a blesed weekend.

  5. *chuckling* My first novel really did suck. So did my second novel.

    I've literally come so far in the last year that your words strike a chord for me too.

    I won't ever stop learning, but the place I'm at right now is really the right place to be to move forward.

    And I'm rooting for you to move forward and succeed too!

  6. Is it okay to have that "feeling" with your first novel? Or am I just in denial?

    Actually, I've written the first novel over so many times I don't think it counts as a first novel anymore.

    I look back on the first drafts and see they are crap. I keep improving and re-writing. I'm not now, and never hope to be, ready to shove it under the bed.

    Call it persistance or stupidity, but I'll never give up on my first novel.

  7. Hmmm. Now assailed with self-doubt as I'm not sure I do know what you mean except that I'm sure if I did know what you mean, I'd know it.

    Know what I mean?

    Anyway. I'm going to take heart from the fact that I *know* I am a writer now as opposed to the many years I hoped I might one day possibly be a writer.

    And I, along with heaps of other blog-followers, are totally in your corner, Authoress. When you get agented, man, the cheer that's going to go up from Twitter is going to shake the rafters. (Twafters? Okay no.)

  8. Congrats about The Feeling, and I hope this novel proves to be The One. :-)

  9. I still have hope for my first novel. *LOL

    I like the way the contest is going so far!

    Just waiting for Monday now .....


  10. I'm going to fall in with Francesca and say that I'm not exactly sure what that feeling is. Like many of you, I'm sure, I started writing as a kid, so I've got seventeen years of writerliness under my belt (minus the four it took me to get a degree - and make it through my first year of teaching twelve-year-olds). Only two of those, though, have been as an adult.

    So am I there yet? Should I be? Will I know when/if I am there? I don't know, I don't know, and I don't know. I do know that I've felt big things like that in the past, and then they turned out to be...not wrong, but not exactly what I'd imagined, either. Usually because the timing wasn't what I thought it would be. Hmm.

    Enough errant musings. Authoress, if you're reading this, many thanks for the Secret Agent contests and one (completely unrelated) question: How did you go about building a readership for your blog? I'd really love to get a feel for how this blog has evolved over the past...(please pause while I check the blog archive)...year and a half.

  11. How strange to have you write this now as I'm reading my final-final-final (and maybe one more final) edit.

    I have an unsual confidence in this work. Of course, that won't mean that it gets published, but there is an intangible sense that this novel is different and far superior from the rest. So, if we are sharing the same feeling, then yes.

    This manuscript has a strangly zen-like rightness that I've never felt before. The corrections that I'm making are so deep into the craft, places that I've never known existed before. I'm asking, "do these three main characters have their own distinct voice?" "Is there really enough white space in this chapter?" "This tiny (read as paragraph) drags, what can I change to make it excellent?" "How can I punch up the humor (or tension or suspense etc) in this scene?" etc.

    Perhaps more important is that there are no questions about continuity, no questions about if I have the perfect level between giving a clue--not too much, not too little. This, of course, is thanks to a wonderful editor and beta readers. I had an entire writing group helping me on one complicated, short description. We worked on it for a full hour and a half! One sentence!

    Is this a publishable work--for the first time, 'yes, absolutely, without question.' What an amazing place to be! A new platform that I didn't even know existed before now!

    So high five to you Authoress. I got to this level in part through comments of knowledgable people who did crits.

    This feeling is a wonderful place to be. Published or not, I've earned my writing wings at last.

  12. Yes - Thank you for doing these kinds of contest Authoress!

    I just finished reading all of the secret agent's reviews. From what I've counted, the agent said He/She would keep reading on 20 entries!

    Wow! I wonder what's going to happen.

    Good luck, everyone! This was a fun round.

  13. Authoress, You really got to me with the differentiation between the novel being ready to be published, and you being ready. I'm so glad you are there. I'm still working on it.

    My novel seems to be going fine, not ready yet, not finished. But I love revisions and research. I know, I'm nuts.

    But it's me, that's the problem. I dread the idea of promotion, of selling myself, of being "out there." Too much attention. I'm not an introvert either, although sometimes I wonder if I'm a secret introvert who has been taught to be an extrovert to survive.

    Anyway, you've helped me to ID the problem more specifically.

    Thanks so much. You have a great weekend too!

  14. I'm not sure if I have the same feeling as you. But I do know I'm a lot more confident, about both my writing and the industry. I've been at a writer's festival this week. I went last year and the year before too. In my first year, all the information was new. Last year, most of it was new, but some of it I thought, "Oh yeah, I know that." This year, people are asking questions at sessions and I know the answers. Don't get me wrong, I'm still learning. But I can see a clear difference between the me of two years ago who had just started to think "Maybe I should do this seriously" and the me of now who has the first draft of one manuscript complete and the second draft of another on its way. It makes me feel good to know that I am progressing, even if I'm not ready to send out my work yet. (Actually, I'm ready. It's the work that's not ready!)

  15. So, so true, Authoress. And when I go back and read my Very First Novel, I think, holy crap! Who wrote this? Cuz it wasn't me. I am that different.

  16. The difference between an author and a dabbler is like the old Brill Cream add... "a little dab'll do ya".

    Of course confidence plays a big part. That and self belief. But persistence is the most important ingredient. Persistence is self belief. It's also labeled as ambition. It's also an ingredient in the one rejection is not the end of the road mentality. Sure rejection hurts. But that's when the saying starts. WHEN THE GOING GETS TOUGH THE TOUGH GET GOING.

    I thought my husband would be able to write a real thriller. I encouraged him to write something. He did. How did it go? Don't give up you day job boyo. It was woeful. You are born a writer. That is my conviction. And with that conviction must stem your learning curve as you go.

    I hate to sound egotistical, I'm not. Call me an eternal optimist. I do know I'm good. I know I'm a natural tale teller. I was very good at excuses at school. I've been in a serious critique group for a long time which helped me focus on what and where a writer can go wrong. I can spot a show not tell like a hawk. I hunt down 'that' and 'there was' like a ruthless sniffer dog.

    But I'm also harsh on myself. And there are always two ways of saying things. One of them can always be better. Plots get holes in them that can drag a story down. YOu learn all the time. IF you don't then you know too much for your own good. You can also fall into a trap of bad characterisation, too many, or whyisms... why is that character there at all, is he really needed? Is he over processed when he's really only a backdrop to the main game? Stuff like that.

    I don't think a first novel should be labeled 'first'. Just renamed the seed to which you return and examine with the hindsight of your experience, you revisit and revise, rewrite with new vigor, and with the experience represent when you know it's ready.

    I moved house a couple of years ago and came across my first novel, sent off with optimism and no ending to the publisher intended. They sent it back with encouraging words which I now know where suggesting a re-write but I perceived was a rejection because of the fact it wasn't accepted and I wasn't a genius waiting to be discovered. My life got in the way and I bled for a while but soon got back to writing. In actual fact when I looked at it, it was quite good. I've learned so much I can see now what the editor was pointing at, but I was still the same basic me, just that I know where I need to strip it and rework it... and LOL the darn thing still doesn't have an ending except in principle it will have to be a HEA.

    But success comes with a professional approach. That is, after all, what you are aspiring towards. One step higher, like those who dreamed of landing on the moon, or getting on the highest dais at the Olympic Games for the gold and then anything is possible.

    Okay we've covered the hard work part of writing.

    The persistence is where the good luck lives. You need a certain amount of that, just as you need it at a casino. But in a way, though you are both gamblers, the author is luckier. The winning stakes are high for both, and the winner takes it all, both will be back for more. But the gambler loses because though its an addiction for both, the author gets the winnings and moves on bigger and better. The gambler just keeps on losing.

    If that makes sense.


  17. Pennyoz - I totally disagree with you that you are born a writer. You might be born or become a great story teller, but that does not mean you can put it to writing.
    You wrote:

    The difference between an author and a dabbler is like the old Brill Cream add... "a little dab'll do ya".

    Oh honey, I am sure you meant well but leave that at home.

  18. Congratulations on the "feeling".

    I need an Editor for my first manuscript which several agents liked but let me know I was committing the typical errors of many first time authors. I do not know what those errors are...yet!!!!

    Bravo to you for following your dream. Best of luck.

  19. It's a wonderful feeling.
    I was so pleased when I finished my first book that I immediately started on the second. The first didn't do so well out in the real world (well-written but ... um ... the pace was a bit leisurely). I learned a lot from writing it and put what I learned into the second, which is doing better. There's a 3rd on the back burner and a 4th in progress.
    Entering the 'Are you hooked?' contest was a real boost to my confidence. So I'm adding my appreciation for running the competitions and congrats for making such great progress on your WIP.
    I shall step away from the 'natural born writer' discussion!

  20. So glad you have the Feeling, Authoress. :)

    Right now I'm the opposite--I don't feel at all ready, nor that anything I have is ready. :| Whether it's seasonal isuckitis or I'm getting better at actually judging my own work, or maybe both, it's definitely put a halt to everything except first-draft writing.

    Which is okay, for now. ;) I'll figure it out and deal with it. I hope one day I'll have the Feeling. O:)


  21. Terry, let me guess that we might share the same briggs personality profile.

    I think it was ENFP, but my e for extrovert means that I can do it. I actually did a deeper program of same for my work--and it turned out borderline INFP.

    Like you, I'm an extrovert that would rather hang out on the ranch--alone! However when it's needed, I can wow an entire room.

  22. Book I sold earlier this year is my first novel - but vastly rewritten and revised.

  23. Meg, we just might. I'm friendly and popular and enjoy being with people, but to a point. I just need a lot of time to myself.

    Like you, I can do it, but I balk at too much of it. So that's my hurdle. I've had jobs with way too much people stuff.

    If you have any tips for me, I'd love to hear them.

    Thanks for posting. Sympatigo:)

  24. Incredible feeling, this.

    I'm there with you. Novel three is so much better. Went back and read my VFN just yesterday, or tried to. Even I couldn't stand it for long.

    OH, those poor editors who asked for partials...I hope they don't keep track of names...

    But now I look at what I've been sending out, partials and fulls, and I think, honestly, "How could they not love it?"

    I'd love to read one of my blogs two years from now, to see if I'm saying, "Wow, I really thought that third novel was the bomb, but I was wrong."

    Sure hope not. Here feels really really good. And no, I don't feel like I'm even close to being the same writer I was with VFN.

  25. Congrats on the first novel Sara, but did you have a 'feeling' this was the one?

    Terry, do you have a blogspost? :-)

  26. Novel writing is such a huge endeavor. It's not just getting the length down, carrying the story from beginning to end, it's so much more. It's not only writing well enough, but also writing a great story well enough. It's about story, character, plot, pace, theme, etc. Pulling it all together into one coherent and compelling work is a feat. Not many first novels could be expected to achieve all these things, just as one's first painting or composition in music would be expected to be good enough. My first novel is cringe-worthy. :D I was so ecstatic to just write a whole freaking novel I wasn't able to have any perspective. Luckily, my crit group at the time showed me that it was not quite ready for prime time.

    My second only marginally better. I consider both attempts to be practice. Now, I have a third and fourth, which I wrote over the course of a couple of years. I have writer's ADD and moved from one WIP to the other when I got bogged down and so completed both within the same time frame. And started another. I do think you keep improving with each attempt. Maybe my fifth attempt will be good enough to sell.

    Thanks to Authoress for hosting such a great blog and for the SA contests. I learn so much each time, even when I don't participate, just reading the comments and submissions. It's especially interesting to see both Jodi Meadows and the SA's comments. When they disagree, it points out how often, it is a matter of personal taste when it comes to an Agent's response to a sub, so submit widely.

  27. Meg, Yes, I have one but it's meager, natch:)I think you can send me a message though, if you'd like. I have it enabled.

  28. Meg, Oops. I only had a profile. I just created the blogspot. I named it after my protagonist.

    You're going to turn me into an extrovert yet:)

    The address is:

  29. Hi, Meg - I had characters I loved, a strong opening chapter and a good ending - but a rather horrible middle.

    But at a certain point in revising I felt that my writing had improved exponentially, that the plot was working, that the characters were coming alive on the page, and sensed it was very close to being ready. But of course you never know for sure.

    While it likely would have been easier to have started a new novel instead, I believe the rewriting and revising made me a tremendously better writer.

  30. Authoress, this is beautiful to hear. I know what you're talking about - being ready to be published. I'm not there, yet, though. I know my writing isn't, and neither am I. But it's coming slowly. It is a wonderful journey I'm privileged to take.

    Good luck! I know you're going to get far.

  31. I’ve just finished my second junior fiction in a series and know it’s much better than the first book. The first one is still with a publisher, who’s looking for children’s books with a series. I feel a little frustrated because my second book is much better written, and I’ve edited the first one quite a few times since I submitted it.

    I spend nearly all my spare time learning, writing, critiquing and re writing. Trouble is, I can’t stop myself from going back and editing the fist book. By the time I get to the tenth book, I should have improved even more.

    Critiquing and entering your competitions has helped my writing progress, as well as online writing courses. I find having a blog helps too as there are so many helpful bloggers out there with great tips and information.

    It’s great having other writers to communicate with. No one else understands us.