Querying Again!

Hello! It’s been forever and a day since I last posted! I’ve been so busy the last few months, I’ve vended at several more shows, I’ve taken up a new hobby (wood burning), I’ve taught at several dance camps, and, most importantly, I’ve finished my current manuscript!

That’s right people, I am once more facing the daunting task of querying agents.

Basically, my book has been completely rewritten. But the biggest change I made was to cut it in half. At its initial completion it weighed in at 117K words. Now, I don’t think that’s huge, I prefer to read big books, but we all know how it goes. As an unpublished writer, I knew I had to knock that word count down. By the time I was querying the first time around the word count was hovering a little over 105K words. ‘Too long’ No takers. (for which I am actually glad, my book was so much less than it could have been)

I took a big step back and thought about this for a long time. What was really frustrating me was that there was so much more I wanted to add, which was going to send my word count soaring!

CHOP

Cut that sucker in half and went to town rewriting. Best. Decision. Ever.

Moral here? Don’t be afraid to make the big changes to your book. My word count is now 93K which fits perfectly in the suggested word counts for YA High Fantasy.

Anyway, it’s currently being read by my mom in an attempt to get useful feedback before I thrust it under the critiquing eye of an agent. I’m not going to look at it, I’m not even going to think about it, for at least a week. Then I’ll take the feedback and reread through the entire thing one more time.

And then I query.

Now, I can’t wait to share some pictures of the shows I’ve worked at and of the stuff I’ve been making, but quite frankly, I’ve been editing for a month straight, I can’t stare at a computer screen any more! I’m going to go read, work on some art, maybe do a stretching session, anything but stare at the computer. And tomorrow I’ll be back, promise!

Some of my Favorite Resources For Medieval/Fantasy Writers

Since I’m currently reworking my main manuscript I’ve been critiquing every aspect of the world I’ve created, trying to give it the edge of accuracy. Much of my world is (like the majority of fantasy) based on Medieval Europe precepts (but, you know, with Demons… =D ) Obviously I have worked hard to make this a unique land with its own cultures and customs but the historical accuracy nerd inside me won’t be content until I make some of this worlds’ aspects line up with their real world counterparts.

My main concern is hierarchy, both in a court/castle setting and in the military. I’m still struggling with Medieval military rankings, from my reasearch it seems like one hot mess! Might be time to create my own army ranks and structure, after all, fantasy writer!

But for everything else I have come across these sites that offer a ton of fantastic information.

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This site offers a description of dozens of Medieval characters, raging from nobility, gentry peasants, clergy, etc. with an explanation of their place in things. Honestly wish I had found this one sooner!

Medieval People, Titles, Positions, Trades & Classes

http://www.lscacamp.org/Portals/0/Medieval%20People.pdf

Compiled by Tammie Pattie

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This one is great for understanding how titles work

A Quick And Dirty Guide To Feudal Nobility

http://dankoboldt.com/feudal-nobility-guide/

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Dictionary of Medieval Words

Tired of every medieval-based character carrying a boring old sword? Pick out one of the more interesting named weapons from this list of ‘Medieval Words’. It also includes the parts of a castle and of knights armor.

http://medieval.stormthecastle.com/medieval-words.htm

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Ye Olde Medieval English Terms

And to finish off, I’ve always loved old-fashioned slang (Though my favorite is Victorian!) So here is well put together list of Medieval slang, sure to bring color to any manuscript!

http://www.citrus.k12.fl.us/staffdev/Social%20Studies/PDF/Medieval%20English.pdf

 

Well, now that we have all this knowledge, what are you waiting for?

Hahaha!!!!:

 

Word Count Conundrum

I hate those words. Word count.

It’s something I don’t like to think about when writing, yet something we have to think about. when writing our query letters the word count is placed front and center, practically the first thing an agent sees. And that number can make them pass on you without a second look. When I first finished my current manuscript it weighed in at 127k. I think that evened out to about 350 pages.

At that point the manuscript was freshly finished and unedited, so yeah, a lot of that was crap that had to be culled. I started to research ‘appropriate’ word counts. Turns out that (according to some) a YA Epic Fantasy is ideally between 80k -120k, the last really being at the end of the acceptable limit.

Ouch.

I managed to hack it back to 120k and around then I started querying.

Too long, go back and make it shorter.

I finally cut it back  to around 110k but then I took a look at what was left. It seemed that in struggling to follow this rule I had lost my story. The last reply to a query letter I received was personalized, the agent took the time to tell me what she thought. She complemented my work and gave me a few ideas on what it needed, ideas I agreed with, it was great! Except for that one line where she added that she felt that it was really too long for a first novel.

Let me state now, I understand the reticence to take on a long first manuscript from an unpublished writer. They have to pitch this fat sucker to publishers, who don’t want to waste the money on the printing of something so big if it’s not going to sell.

But here is what I really want to talk about.

I like big books. (Come on, I know you sang the rest of that in your head!) As a kid I remember reading the first Harry Potter book in a single day, since then my books have only gotten bigger. If I’m going to spend money on a book, I want something that is going to last me longer than a few hours. A 250-300 page book really doesn’t cut it.

One of the agents I researched had written that she didn’t believe any book (I assume she meant in YA?) should be over 100k. Do you realize how short that is??

I want to write the sort of books I want to read, it goes against my nature to write a short book, so where does that leave me?

Well, after that email from the agent I sat back and took a long look at that book. Sure I could cut it down even more but it would no longer be the story I want to tell.

I threw caution to the wind and began rewriting it with no regard for word count. There was so much that I wanted to expand and add, back stories I wanted to tell, places I wanted to go, but a word count under 120k hardly allowed for any of it. Now, as I rewrite, the word count is creeping up and up. But that’s ok, I’ve never been more confidant in my own writing and in the story I’m telling. I’m going to let it grow as it needs to, to become what I know it can be.

I don’t expect to publish it right now, I don’t have grandiose plans of being the exception to the rule. My plan is to keep working on my second manuscript. This one will easily fall into the correct word count category, plus I feel it will also appeal to the current fancies of readers. (ah, but will the public taste change before I query?) Let’s just be optimistic for a minute and assume that that book catches a publisher. Then, with a book under my belt, I can put forth my epic fantasy. (by the way, am I the only annoyed by that term? The word ‘epic’ is epically overused.)

The word count is currently reaching past 120k once more and it will probably grow some more. I have a feeling it will probably settle back where I started, around 127k-130k. Depending on how high it gets, I may quietly send a few queries out to a few agents who specialize in epic fantasy, just to see how it goes. I’d like to think that if the book is good enough the word count won’t matter but we know that’s just me being wishful!

Agent's face when the see my word count.

Agents’ faces when they see my word count.

In the mean time I should get to work on the shorter book, but it’s currently languishing as I lavish all my attention on it’s bigger sibling. Sigh, I guess we just can’t help having favorites.

A Challenge to Writers

Someone recently shared this list of obsolete words with me. I found it extremely interesting, both the words themselves and the way that they have faded from common use. But why should they be forgotten? We’re writers, right?

And our work is going to be published one day, right?

Well, why not try to bring some of these words back into use?

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Click for a larger image

The word ‘Yestreen’ caught me by surprise as I’m actually quite familiar with it, as the above states, it is popular on Scottish folk songs which I love.

So how about it? Let’s see if we can use any of these words in our current work!

Although, perhaps we should not encourage the spanghewing of frogs and toads…

 

(After publishing I noticed that I had misspelled my title, and on a post regarding writing, too! How embarrassing!)

A Writer’s Best Friend

Sorry It’s been quiet, I helped teach Irish Dance camp and then we had a storm that knocked the internet out for several days.

IT WAS AMAZING.

Seriously, an internet outage is a writer’s best friend. Nothing to distract you from actually writing. I busted a minor writer’s block and wrote my heart out. 30 pages in 3 days! I’m still going fairly strong and it feels wonderful, I’m finally making progress on getting this book rewritten, it’s been so long since I queried!  This is the book that I wish I’d written the first time around.

Which brings me to an interesting question. How can my perception/opinion of something change so fast? When I first started querying the original work I was thrilled with it. I didn’t think it could get any better and I didn’t think it needed to because it was, obviously, perfect. Well, thank goodness all those agents told me ‘no’ because now I can so clearly see that it was sub par at best. How can we be so blind to our own work? Am I only seeing it now because I’ve improved in my abilities to write and craft a story? Or do I just feel this way because I’m sick of it?  Am I going to look at my current work a year from now and see nothing but junk?  

As a seamstress who’s constantly learning and improving, I won’t wear old work because it no longer is an accurate example of my skill level. I suppose the same is true with writing and since I’m never going to stop learning or improving am I always going to be embarrassed by past work?

Well, that post went down hill fast, I’m not bi-polar, I swear, this is just something I think about a lot and it all came pouring out. Would love to hear your thoughts!

Wait, what kind of blog is this?

I introduced this blog as blog about me becoming a published writer so some people might be confused that I rarely talk about my actual writing. There is a simple reason for this. THERE IS NOTHING TO WRITE ABOUT. For me to focus solely on my writing would look something like this:

Monday: Wrote seven pages today, nice!

Tuesday: Eh, only one and a half.

Friday: Oh, look another rejection letter!

Sunday: Stared at the page all day, wrote nothing. Bummer.

Wednesday: Another rejection letter …

As thrilling as this behind the scenes look is I have to focus on my other pursuits as well.  I’ve seen some bloggers who talk about their books and characters but that’s just not my style, in fact I’m terribly shy about talking about my work, period (Inexplicably, I start crying. Yes, I know this is Not good, if I ever have to pitch my work face to face I’m so dead). Maybe I’ll have something to talk about when I finally finish writing/rewriting the two manuscripts I’m working on but I probably won’t be querying them til the end of the year. If nothing else at least writing has taught me patience!

Luckily sewing and dancing are just as much my passion as writing, and more rewarding. Dance camps are starting in a little over a week and once again I will be assisting as a counselor. And I should shortly have some exciting news on the sewing front, but for the moment here is a sneak peak at what I’ve been up to:

One of multiple fabric hauls.

One of multiple fabric hauls.

Leanring how to insert a busk! Black and silver underbust corset.

learning how to insert a busk! Black and silver underbust corset.

Steampunk-y corset and Pirate sash.

Steampunk-y corset and Pirate sash. The new boning is unformed to a body and is twisting the corset around oddly.

Gothic Corset and the Page 100 Happy Dance

Normally after finishing one of those hectic spells of sewing I don’t even want to look at a sewing machine, much less turn it on and sew something. Not this time. I woke up on March 18th with the absolute need to sew something. With a mostly blank sewing schedule in front of me, I’ve decided to plan a proper photo shoot to properly document some of my costumes. I’ve recruited my friend who in turn talked to a photographer so now its up to me to provide some costumes.

For this shoot I’m mostly going to make two main, brand new costumes. I gave my friend the option to choose whatever she wanted to be as long as it was unique and fantastical. She chose vampire faery.

Ok.

I guess I can work with that.

The main piece will be the corset and the rest will be built up of ragged layers. I was glad to give my corsetry skills a bit of work, they needed it!

Fantasy corset, vaguely late Victorian.

Fantasy corset, vaguely late Victorian.

This is the third actual corset I’ve made and it’s a huge improvement from the first two. There’s still room for improvement but at least this is a sellable piece.

this may or may not be laced up with an old lace from my Irish Dance Ghillies.

this may or may not be laced up with an old lace from my Irish Dance Ghillies.

Note the handsewn eye holes for lacing. (I once swore that I would never do this and that you had to be insane to attempt it, now I won’t do it any other way)

We don’t have a date for the photo shoot yet but I’ll keep you updated on the costume progress.

On top of my sewing I’ve been making major headway in my current manuscript. I got bogged down for a while, then St. Patrick’s day shoved it aside. Now I’m back on top of it and I just passed page 100! A minor victory but I can’t help but congratulate myself whenever I hit a hundred pages. Somehow that just makes it more ‘real’ to me. ‘All right, If you’ve made it to 100 pages you can finish this. Look at how much you’ve already written and don’t be scared by how much you have left to write.’