Archive for the ‘Writer’s Digest Books’ Tag
When I finished my first manuscript—well, the first time I finished it (heh)—there was one nagging question I had in the back of my mind: is the time span too long?
It started with my protagonist in her sophomore year of college, flashed back through some of high school, and ended up just after her college graduation; so, while the span was technically only two years, it seemed like six or seven because of the flashback.
I swapped manuscripts with a few other YA writers—without mentioning my concern about time span. I figured, we’ll see if it slides. For the most part, I received positive feedback, but one woman—the one whose manuscript was the best out of all those I critiqued and the one who, during our swap, landed a literary agent—mentioned she thought I should set the whole thing in high school somehow.
Ugh—I wanted to query—but I knew she was right. So I set out to make it fit within the parameters of my main character’s sophomore through senior years of high school.
NOT SHORT ENOUGH—SHOOT ME, PLEASE
Halfway through the manuscript makeover, I attended the South Carolina Writers’ Workshop and had a critique with Waxman Literary’s fabulous Holly Root. When she said three years is still too long of a time span for young adult lit, although it killed me, I knew she was right. As a friend at that conference put it, “Three years in YA is the equivalent of War and Peace.” So I trudged home, consulted several fellow writers, read several YA books and studied those I’d already read, and even asked YA author Lauren Myracle for some advice.
Myracle reiterated what most people had said, most kids’ books take place over a very short period of time (a few weeks, a semester, a school year at the longest). In addition, she asked if I had more than one arc—because, if I did, I could split the book into two.
GET SOME DISTANCE AND GET OVER IT
During that month of researching and gearing up to edit once more, the biggest thing I had to overcome was wrapping my head around mushing my story from three years into two semesters. I was too close to it at the time, and I just didn’t see how it was possible.
I thought a good deal about what my editor and friend, Chuck Sambuchino of Writer’s Digest Books, had said when he reviewed my pages: there was a lot I could cut—if the reader “gets it” with just one scene, why drag it out and have three similar scenes? He said he often sees this when writers add autobiographical elements to their manuscripts; they want to stay true to “how it happened” and they end up sacrificing story because of it.
So, with some distance from my novel and armed with lots of great advice, I put marker to dry-erase board and plotted out my story. I looked at every scene and evaluated its worth to the overall story. With the fictionalized autobiographical scenes, I let go of the “how it happened”—and in most cases, I eliminated them altogether. It all began to click into place.
SO . . .
It took about a month of revisions, but what I now have is a much tighter, much better, much more marketable story. I ended up changing my focus pretty much completely, playing up my hook, adding/deleting scenes—and it still wound up being 20K words shorter.
I’m not saying this process won’t likely happen all over again when/if a lit agent is interested in it—and then probably again when/if a publisher is interested in it. But the most important lesson here is that, if you’re too attached to the “how it happened,” too in love with your words, and too close to your manuscript, you cannot be an effective editor.
In the below Vlogbrothers video, YA author John Green talks editing. He says he deletes over 90% of his original words and that all the things people like about his books emerge in later drafts. Enjoy!
“You Have a Question? I Have an Answer” is a feature that answers real questions from real writers.
Q: Hi Ricki. Even though I live in LA and am a screenwriter, I need your assistance in approaching agents from CAA, WME, UTA, et al who would be appropriate. In other words—a few suggestions? I got the idea to approach you after reading your interview with Dorian Karchmar. I need an agent and am clueless as far as whom to approach. Would you know, and could you help?
A: Thanks for the question!
I’m not as versed in the area of script agents/script managers, as I’ve only interviewed literary agents and authors at this point. However, I’m very interested in screenwriting—and I will be interviewing some script managers for Writer’s Digest Books’ 2011 Screenwriter’s & Playwright’s Market—so I guess it’s time to dive into that subject!
On the GLA blog, where I’m assuming you read my Karchmar interview, Chuck Sambuchino lists “Screenwriting and Script Agents” as one of his categories located on the left of the blog. If you click on that heading, he has some interviews with script agents as well as a few other informative posts in the area of screenwriting. Maybe that could be a lead?
As well, in addition to Guide to Literary Agents, Sambuchino also puts out the aforementioned Screenwriter’s and Playwright’s Market, which is a huge database of script agents among other things. I’ve got the 2009 edition right here, and one major section of it lists agents/script managers. Many of the listings even show what genres the agents accept, so that should help you find someone tailored to your (awesome!) projects.
Good luck to you!
As I’ve been traveling for the past two and a half weeks and because I got snowed in at my parents’ house the day I was set to trek back to the Old Dominion, my new year’s resolutions don’t officially kick in until this week.
Without further ado and because I feel like my posting them might make me more accountable for following through with them, here is what I resolve to do in 2010:
- Finish editing my manuscript. I’ve had many distractions since cutting down the time line of my plot, but I resolve to finish it once and for all within the next two weeks—at all costs.
- Begin the query process for the aforementioned manuscript. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do since August, and I am finally ready. Like, I-am-so-sick-of-my-manuscript/I-hate-it/I-love-it ready (thank you, Libba Bray).
- Come up with one of my insane-o schedules, and stick to it. Vampire hours have served me well in terms of the final rounds of my editing, but they’ve pretty much ruined me in terms of the day-to-day aspects of my life. I. Need. Structure!
- Work out. I got an exercise ball for Christmas, and my in-laws were nice enough to donate their recumbent bike to the cause, so I’m about to break out all the Billy Blanks DVDs I can and get back in gear. I know diet and exercise is everyone’s New Year’s resolution, but it’s an especially important one to me, and following resolution #2 will help me get exercise back into my life.
- Cut carbs & sodium. Goodbye, penne pasta—sayonara, extra salt! It’s not you; it’s me: I don’t want to be disgusting anymore. I’ll say a quick hello at breakfast, but you’re dead to me after that.
- Drink more water. Coffee may as well be on an IV drip in my office, and although I love it and cannot (and will not) cut it out, I need to drink more straight-up water. Five of my awesome James Madison U water bottles a day ought to do it for now. Difficult as it was, when I was in the greatest shape of my life (after age 22), I drank eight 16-oz. bottles a day. I want that body back!
- Implement all my ideas for my online writing group, Shenandoah Writers Online. True, I only created the social networking site a month ago, but I have so many ideas for networking and other writing opportunities for the site that I feel I’ve neglected my baby. I knew the holiday season would slow things down, but now is the time to focus and get organized.
- Freelance, freelance, freelance. I’ve got some articles forthcoming in the 2011 editions of three Writer’s Digest Books, but I’m insatiable! I want to write for several magazines this year – so I guess I’d better get cracking on that query process as well!
- Go to two to three awesome writing conferences. I’m already going to one, Southeastern Writers Association (at which I’ll be teaching), but I want to go to at least one more and revel in all the writerly goodness.
- Finish my second YA manuscript—at least a first draft. In fact, one of my SWO ideas is to host my own NaNoWriMo—even if I’m the only participant—so maybe I will accomplish that then. I’m thinking February…because it’s nice and short.
Although there are about a hundred other things I need to do, I don’t want my list to get out of hand; so this is all I’ll write for now.
Please feel free to ask me about my progress with any of these, as I’m sure I’ll need help sticking to them all. If I’ve got people on my case about whether or not I’m following through, I’m much more apt to do it.
What are your resolutions?