The Second Try

So, right now I should be working on the New Manuscript. I’ve been working on the New Manuscript pretty much nonstop since the first of the year, and whenever I do stop, a little voice comes on in my head and says, I should be working on the New Manuscript. I think this is good. It indicates drive. And also that I’ve finally started to respect my own deadlines.

I did some rudimentary arithmetic yesterday. My calculations are telling me that I’m at 95% of a first draft. Of course, I’ve never been particularly good at arithmetic. Or at gaging the length at which a story will come to rest. So I may be completely wrong.

Also, I’ve gotten to that useless point where I’ve stopped putting new material on the page in favor of obsessing about the stuff that’s already there, and it’s really slowing me down. I keep realizing again and again that no one has ever explained to me about pacing. I’m convinced that there’s some identifiable secret to it and I just don’t know the mechanics, all the gears and cogs.

In my off-time, I’ve been trying to think of a nice hook, and have started drafting a query letter. The manuscript is obviously nowhere close to a submittable state, but I’ve decided that I should be getting the jump on these things. At some point, I might post the hook here and see if anyone feels like weighing in on it. It’s still just very hard for me to tell if I’m communicating well in two paragraphs. Overall, though, the whole process is going much, much faster than last time.

I got a lot of personalized rejections on that first manuscript. They were all worded a little differently, but if you condensed them into one missive, the basic message is:

This is not really my thing. But it’s competent. So keep querying, because sooner or later, someone might like it. Just not me.

Lately, I’ve been reading some discussions online where people are of the opinion that in the event of rejection, you should keep querying, query widely, etc. I think this can be deceptive. I think that when people said nice things about my manuscript, it was because I tricked them into thinking it was viable just because it read cleanly. Like, this house is structurally unsound, but it has great counter-tops.

Anyway, my newly-defined goal for the year is to get to a point where I can just sit down and write something that reads cleanly and also has a good structure—where all the parts come together like well-choreographed ballet. Or Tinker Toys. So I’m taking stock of what I perceive to be my strengths and trying to come up with new strategies to minimize my weaknesses. I still don’t know if this manuscript is good enough, and won’t know until I start submitting it, but I do know that it is already much, much better than the last one.

6 thoughts on “The Second Try

    • Okay, so I’m exaggerating :-) A little. But I think I’m right about the structural flaws. Or, more accurately, some very smart professional people are right about the structural flaws and I don’t have enough distance to fix them.
      It was a first attempt, and I’m realizing that I came at it strong on dainty wordplay and very, very weak on Building Blocks of Story. The good thing is, I was really scared of writing a novel. Now that I’ve gotten it out of the way, I’m pretty sure I’ll do better next time.

    • I’m a little behind on my deadline, but today is the day of Finishing My First Draft. (Complete with gaps in logic, characters who do things out of the blue, non-artistic repetition, prose/voice that will need to be tightened way down in the final draft, no denouement in sight.)
      Still, if you don’t mind and have time, I’d love for you to take a look.

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