First, I am not crazy. Well, not that way.
I've finished four manuscripts; all have finaled or won in several contests. I've sent out a dozen queries, maybe more, thanks to Laura Drake. The two books I thought were most salable, have been requested and sent to a handful of agents and editors in New York.
In June, I woke up one morning and asked, "What are you waiting for?" Just like that, I boarded the self-publishing train, taking the first steps necessary to set myself up for success.
- I contacted a freelance editor who I met at RWA San Antonio two years ago. While I listened to Tiffany Yates Martin's presentation at that conference I thought, "If I ever get a chance to work with this woman, I'm grabbing it." I sent her eight pages from the middle of the book I decided would be a good "starter." This gave her a chance to see if she wanted to work with me, and the edits she sent back were my opportunity to see if I wanted to work with her. I called Laura Drake and read some of Tiffany's comments. Laura's response: "She's got your number in just eight pages!" Needless to say, I signed a contract with Tiffany. Best move ever!
- Now that I had my money on the line, I jumped all in. Those of you who know me, know that when I commit to something, I am laser-focused. I knew I needed to make time for this new "job," but how could I guarantee my usual daily activities wouldn't be the time sumps they could become? This may be extreme for some of you, but I disconnected my cable TV. I returned the box to the company. (Don't gasp for air. I'd been threatening to do this every time their rates went up.) I gave away my not-smart TV.
- Electronic games can suck down the better part of the evening if I get hooked in. I put my shiny games in a folder and tucked it deep in my hard drive. There are no games on my lap top. I left only one game, my favorite, on my phone. Since my phone is not my device of choice, I knew I wouldn't play more than fifteen minutes at a time.
I began cutting words from the book I was sending to Tiffany, due August 1, leisurely cutting and working a couple of hours a day. When Laura came home with me from RWA San Diego, I mentioned that I wasn't sure if I'd get through the manuscript in time. Here's what has turned out to be the most important step for me.
- Look at the full body of work you have to complete. Count the number of days you have to complete it. Do the math to figure out what must be done every day. In your calculations, give yourself a day or two off for emergencies.I subtracted ten percent of the days until my due date and used that as my "number of days." Here's my calculation: I had 22 calendar days, but I subtracted three for emergencies and day off, so I had 19 work days. 380 pages ÷19= 20 pages per day. Here's the formula: Number of pages ÷ Number of work days= How many pages you must finish per day
- Keep to the schedule. Yep. Period.
- Work whenever you have a chance. Fifteen minutes six time during the day takes off an hour-and-a-half that night. I worked while I waited for people to arrive at my house. I worked for ten minutes before I left to exercise with the trainer. I'd never sat down to write without at least a one-hour block of time before.
I had to get through twenty pages every day to finish. Luckily, I was only cleaning up verbiage and cutting words (I had nine thousand words to cut!), so I knew I could do it. There were nights I didn't finish until midnight. Sometimes it was two a.m. But I knew if I didn't finish "my allotment," I would have even more to do the next day, and that might roll over, too. Then I'd have this huge word boulder chasing me down revision mountain. It only took two consecutive two a.m. mornings to get me to start working throughout the day.
Here's the part where you can nod and say, yep, Fae's a little crazy. During the word-cutting revisions for Keeping Athena, I decided I wanted to do the same thing for PRISM, my YA that was promised to a publisher on, you guessed it, August 1. I recalculated my page count for six less days (now I had to finish twenty-seven pages a day), and finished Keeping Athena a week early. I took a day off. I figured out that I needed to go through seventy-six (!) pages a day to meet my goal for PRISM. Luckily, it was the last book I've finished, so it was in better initial shape. And I had a routine down. All I had to do was cut words to streamline it. Since I had no goal for the number of words to cut, it went faster. Five-and-a-half days later, I sent it to the publisher.
Here's what I learned:
- Your words are not cast in cement. Even when you think they are as good as you can make them, you can improve the flow, the emotional impact, the sensory details—all while cutting "the fluff." Phrases like "He began to run…" become "He ran…" and you've axed two words.
- Save deleted paragraphs and scenes for use in promo material or another book. I had a wonderful beach scene that did little but provide warm fuzzies. Probably a reader would skim it. They won't have that opportunity, because I cut it. But I can resurrect it in another form, so I'm okay with the cut.
- I can do this. Again, I can do this. Maybe because, deep down, I wasn't sure of myself, I didn't consider self-pubbing or query more.
- I enjoy doing this. Who knew that "hard scheduling" my time with friends, having to say no to a few invitations, would provide the satisfaction of achievement that came from sticking to a very tight regimen. I even read a book a week during the twelve weeks. I haven't done that for ages.
Tomorrow I'm starting my first round of edits to the sequel of Keeping Athena. I have three weeks while Tiffany does a second pass through Keeping Athena. Why not get the next book in shape to send her? A secret—yesterday I took the day off from writing. I didn't know what to do with myself; the day was so long. I pulled out the chapter print outs for the next book and put them in order. This one's going to be a lot tougher than the first two. I haven't looked at it for six years, and I'm swapping out the son of the couple in Keeping Athena for Athena's brother, so there will be some re-writing. Bonus: When doing the editorial revisions that Tiffany returned, I got a slam-bang idea for the third book in the series. When I get through all these revisions, I can't wait to start it!
Next month I'll share the writing and editing tips I learned from the first round of editorial revisions Tiffany suggested.
Do you have tips to share about getting ready for a revision marathon? What works best for you?
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Fae Rowen discovered the romance genre after years as a science fiction freak. Writing futuristics and medieval paranormals, she jokes that she can live anywhere but the present. As a mathematician, she knows life’s a lot more fun when you get to define your world and its rules.
Punished, oh-no, that’s published as a co-author of a math textbook, she yearns to hear personal stories about finding love from those who read her books, rather than the horrors of calculus lessons gone wrong. She is grateful for good friends who remind her to do the practical things in life like grocery shop, show up at the airport for a flight and pay bills.
A “hard” scientist who avoided writing classes like the plague, she now shares her brain with characters who demand that their stories be told. Amazing, gifted critique partners keep her on the straight and narrow. Feedback from readers keeps her fingers on the keyboard.
Photo credits: Pixabay