Posted on June 25, 2015
The Morass: The Last Five Years
Stage One: Write a Manuscript
2010 marks the official year I decided to begin writing THE SPECTACULAR. Before I could do that, I knew I needed an arsenal full of knowledge. You can’t do historical, even historical fantasy, without the tools to build the world. Seriously, nothing feeds you quite like research. So research I did.
I started writing the manuscript in earnest in August 2011. I was done with the first draft at the end of December. My plan was to take a break from it for a month, as is usually encouraged, but because of a really lucky connection, I had a chance to submit it to an agent almost immediately. After giving her a partial and examples of my illustration, she agreed to read the full.
Stage Two: Defy Reality
Now, I knew it wasn’t in the right shape (the word count being shockingly high, for one thing), but I spent January and part of February 2012 speeding through the whole behemoth, editing as I went. This wasn’t a structural edit; I mostly caught some typos and reworded some things. Then I sent it off. I can’t say I felt 100% about it, but a chance like that isn’t something to waste. I knew my luck in the query trenches was going to be rough. If I could avoid it, I would. Still, though, if you think your time querying is already bad and you haven’t started, maybe you’ve shot yourself in the foot.
So, anyway, I never heard back from this agent. I nudged. The connection I had to her nudged. But nothing happened.
Stage Three: Face Reality
The novel was too damn long. It still is, as of the time I am writing this entry, three years later. But at least it’s not over 200k.
I journeyed into my first real round of edits in August 2012. I hadn’t read the manuscript or looked at it since submitting to that long-ago agent in February. This time, things would be different. This time I was going to make the damn thing lose weight and tighten up. I discovered the Shrunken Manuscript method (which unfortunately is not a word count shrinking machine) and adapted it to my extremely long manuscript. The result was an excel spreadsheet for each part of the novel, with columns for things like weather and location consistency, as well as character tracking and word count. It was my way of looking at something too large to take in at one glance.
According to my email records, I sent out a tiny round of queries in September. I didn’t try very hard and I sent out under five. My focus was on applying to grad school, so I shifted to illustration for a while. Until I got a full request in February 2013.
Stage Four: Diet
The full came back in May as a revise & resubmit. Still too long? WHY’D YOU ASK. I had been accept into grad school while the full was out, but I spent May and June 2013 chopping out words and paragraphs and chapters and smashing things together. I didn’t stop. I read the manuscript approximately a dozen times, until it became physically exhausting to train my poor eyes upon the first sentence. And I’m pretty sure I had the first page memorized.
Then I resubmitted and let it go. I had to move across the country and go back to school. THE SPECTACULAR simmered on the back burner, and I didn’t hear back on the full until I nudged in spring 2014, after the first year of school ended.
Stage Five: Take a Break
It was another R&R. The revision notes were exactly what I needed. I’d never spent so long away from the novel before, either. With these powers combined, I am… editing it again!