Things I’ve Learned

It’s the New Year! That means I can’t stall any longer or use the holidays as an excuse. It’s time to take action on my 2012 goals. I need to send out queries for my completed novel and start a brand-new project. A new novel, to be exact.

 Why do I find this so daunting? Maybe because it took me over three years, multiple rewrites, and dozens of ‘deleted scenes’ to finish my current novel (a YA fantasy romance called “The Fallen Princess”). Since I can’t afford to take three years to write another book, I’m hoping the process will be a little smoother (and faster!) this time, especially if I apply things I learned in the saga of writing “The Fallen Princess.”

Things I’ve Learned (and if these seem painfully obvious, I apologize!):

1)  Know your genre: When I wrote “The Fallen Princess,” I just told the story that was in my head, without giving any thought to genre. Until an instructor at a writer’s conference asked our group, “Where do you envision seeing your novel when you go into a bookstore?” In my mind, I saw it as a trade paperback on the ‘recent books’ table at Barnes and Noble. I never considered where it might be shelved long-term, or how an on-line seller, like Amazon, might categorize it. But as I started writing pitches, I realized it was hard to define my novel if it didn’t fit into a genre. I went through a lot of angst before I figured out it belonged in the YA section. I’m not saying anyone should force their writing into a specific genre, but knowing what kind of book you’ve written, and who it might appeal to, helps when you try to pitch it.

2)  Think about the pitch: Only after I’d written the entire novel and tried to write the query letter and elevator pitch, did I realize how convoluted the story was. At first I thought, “writing queries is just really hard,” but the more feedback I received, the more I realized that the story itself wasn’t clear. This led to more rewrites. So now, as I start my new WIP, I’m already asking myself, “How would I pitch the basic concept of this story in a couple of sentences?”

3)  Know your word count: The first version of “The Fallen Princess” was 836 pages (836 pages!!). Seriously. And even when I thought I’d cut it down to a reasonable length, it was 180,000 words. Yikes. And when I Googled ‘word count’, I learned that I was way off base (at least 80,000 words off base!). Again, it took considerable rewrites to get my novel down to a manageable 90K words. So right from the start, I’m not going to make the same mistake with this new novel. It just can’t be that long. No exceptions.

 So that’s where I’m starting from. I’m sure I have lots more to learn. What about you? Anything to share that you’ve learned in your writing journey?


4 thoughts on “Things I’ve Learned

  1. Carla,

    Great post! I wrote my first novel in high school-500 handwritten pages! I learned the craft, studied, sold things in fiction (short stories), won a Harlequin contest, sold lots of non-fiction and kept learning. Then I discovered that I’d learned so many ‘rules’ that writing wasn’t even fun any more! I was so focused on the selling and the publication that all the joy evaporated and it became a drudgery.

    I had to go back to a place within myself that said ‘I don’t care what anyone thinks about this story, I like it and I’m going to write it’ and that freed me again to find that joy. I can’t not write because writing is not what I do, it’s who I am.

    1. Thanks Sonya. I also wrote my first novel (hand-written) in high school when I was 15. It was a truly awful first-effort (an epic historical romance), but I’ve it saved in a Tupperware bin and bring it out every now and then to see how far I’ve come.

  2. I loved this post, and I loved Sonya’s comment. And I’m loving the process, as time-consuming and exasperating as it is, of working on my first novel. Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences.

    1. Thanks! I checked out your blog as well. I really liked your November post about bake sales. So true that you spend all that time and money, and then give your kids money to buy things other moms have made! I’m going to try out that ‘desert on a stick’ for next time.

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