Re-re-re-revision

S and I are coming toward the end of our latest revision of the Quartet.  As she mentioned last week, we’re hoping to make sure it’s ready to send out in case someone shows interest in seeing it.

One of the things I find interesting (not to mention slightly frustrating) about revision is that no matter how many times you do it, there are still things to fix.  And even when you think you’ve run out of things to fix, there are always things to tinker with.

Grammar, spelling, punctuation, and formatting.  It’s amazing how two former English majors with advanced degrees can still make basic errors, like forgetting to put a comma in the right place or misspelling simple words.  And that’s not even counting the spelling problems that arise with the words we’ve made up for our ‘verse.  It’s always a little embarrassing to misspell a word, but it’s especially mortifying when you invented the word in question.

Consistency with in-verse terms.  Should “foreign” words be in italics?  What about when the POV character using the word is a native speaker of that “foreign language”?  Should magic spells be in italics?  Should all the words in a magic spell be capitalized, or just on the first word in the spell?

Continuity errors.  If you have one character shut the door on his way out of the room, the next person who comes into the room will have to open the door first.  If three people sit down to supper, there need to still be three people at the table at the end of the meal.  If a character takes his sword off at the beginning of the scene, he has to put it back on if you want him to have it with him later. When you have to write a scene over the course of several days’ worth of lunch breaks, however, it’s easy to lose track of that sort of thing.  This is yet another reason why reading the book together out loud is so important.  It’s much easier to catch those sorts of mistakes when you have two people following carefully along with the text.

Character voice.  Even on this latest read-through, we have run across lines that just don’t sound like a particular character.  And of course the narration has to match the POV character, too.  If Susan always thinks of her brother Robert as “Bobby,” then when we’re in her head, he needs to be Bobby, even if he is known as “Bob” to everyone else.

On the whole, though, I think we’re getting close to a finished, publishable story.  Maybe when we’re done, we can dig out our original first draft and read through that, too, just so we can see how much progress we’ve made.

J

How Does This Thing Work?

This week J and I took a pretty big step forward in our life as authors.  For years, we said we were writing novels purely for the joy of it, and we had no intention of trying to publish, and for years, we absolutely meant it.  But you can only have friends, some of whom are pretty smart, discerning readers, suggest you should try to publish before you start wondering if maybe this fun way to kill time on weekends and evenings might be more.  So while I was on vacation and J’s semester hadn’t begun yet, we decided to get serious about figuring out how this publishing thing works.

  • Which Book?
    This was the simplest part of the process.  Yes, we’ve written 21 books in our ‘verse, and even though we’ve made each novel (or series) independent of the others, we still feel as though the best introduction to the Myrcia ‘verse is the original Quartet.  Book 1 of that series is This Present Life, so that was the book we chose to try and sell.
  • Agent, Publisher, or DIY
    A decision J and I came to long ago was that if we ever took the leap into publishing, we would begin by trying the traditional publishing route.  If that failed, well, we still had self-publishing, but we at least wanted to give the traditional route a go first.  The next decision was whether to approach a publisher or an agent.  It doesn’t take too much time with Writers Market or just about anything associated with the publishing industry to see that even though the list of agents willing to consider unsolicited fantasy submissions is small, the list of publishers willing to accept them or anything unagented is nigh on nonexistent.  So, agent.  Armed with a subscription to Writers Market, internet research, and peeks at Publishers Market, we made a list of about a dozen agents, four of whom we particularly like.  We spent some time familiarizing ourselves with the books and authors these agents represent and followed the agents’ blogs and Twitter accounts where applicable, and started to get to know them a little better.  Now that we knew who we wanted to query, it became a matter of getting said query ready.
  • The Query Letter
    When we went to Context this past September, Jonathan Maberry kindly offered to share his query letter with anyone from the con who sent him an email requesting it.  He was as good as his word, and very kind all-around, offering additional advice.  But now was the moment when we had to take his query letter, which we’d obviously read several times, and actually apply what he had done to our own query.  I did the first draft and then J jumped in for revisions, and I think we came up with something pretty solid.  At least we hope so.
  • The Synopsis
    Then we had to wrangle our 164,000 word epic fantasy into a two page synopsis.  Simple, right?  Actually, it was easier than I expected.  We’re trying to sell our first book, which we began seven years ago, and we’ve put through I don’t even know how many revisions.  (Really, I’ve lost count of revisions on this thing.)  The point is, it wasn’t some soul-crushing exercise to boil down our baby to around 600 words because it’s just too awesome to be contained in that small a space.  Instead, we know the book so well that selecting the plot points and character traits necessary to give someone an idea of what the book is about in 600 words came pretty easily.
  • The Revision
    Did I mention I’ve lost count of revisions?  On the drive home from Context, J and I discussed This Present Life and our ‘verse in general, and we came up with some revisions we wanted to make.  We hadn’t done so yet, so we divvied those suckers up (I got to make a color-coded spreadsheet!) and knocked them out in a few days thanks to us both being off work for the week.
  • Proof/Copyedit
    And now we’re in the process of making sure that should an agent ask for sample chapters or even a full manuscript, This Present Life is ready to go.  Assuming nothing pops up to stop us, we just might send our first query by the end of the month.  Wow.  A long way from “We’re just doing this for fun and don’t want to published,” isn’t it?

S