I noticed, in reviewing my last few blog posts, that I neglected to say much about recently finishing my novel manuscript for Project Superhero. I talked about working on it in one post and, after a long hiatus, talked a bit about editing it in the next. So, I’ll take the opportunity now to talk about it since it’s my blog and I can do it however I want to. Nyah nyah nyah.
The rough draft wrapped up at about 3:30 on Sunday morning before I headed out of town for two weeks to work on a new store opening (actually, it’s technically the reopening of a store that was leveled by a tornado in February, but the process is the same) so the time I had to think about it, much less talk about it, has been limited. I came back from that two week project, went to see my mom after she had a major surgery on her intestines, and followed that unpleasantness with Thanksgiving week, a poor week for a retail manager to do much of anything. Now, however, I have achieved a bit of normalcy in my schedule again and here’s what I have to say about Superhero:
I like it.
That’s a pretty big deal for me. Usually, by the time I finish a piece, I’m already seeing all the warts and such that I need to correct. Following Dead and Dying, I didn’t want to even think about the story for weeks, much less edit it for submission. With Superhero, I still see the warts, but I’m actually excited about working on them. In fact, I’ve already been working on them, less that two weeks after finishing the manuscript and that delay was mostly the result of my hectic schedule. What’s different this time? I think it has to do with my mixed success in submitting Dead and Dying. I still have it out to a few agents, but even if I don’t find representation, I’ve learned a lot about the process that I didn’t know a year ago when I was getting ready to start looking for an agent. I’ve received some form rejections, yes, but I’ve also had some requests for the full manuscript which, while not reason enough to throw a party, are victories that few authors ever see. What has me excited is that Project Superhero, even without a title, is a better book in my opinion than Dead and Dying. It’s also about 30,000 words longer, which is still well within the range considered acceptable for new authors. It really helps the sting of not finding an agent for Dead and Dying when I think that I have another manuscript almost ready to go for the coming year, one that leaves me excited about my prospects.
Now that I’m editing, I’m also learning about how my writing has changed from my last novel. I set out to avoid many things that irked me about my previous work and, with few exceptions, have done that. I’m painfully aware of many of my faults as a writer, but I consider that a good thing as it makes them easier to catch while the manuscript is still for my eyes only. For example, I have a horrible habit of repeating certain words, mostly adjectives, and I’m seeing far less of that in Superhero, but far more that I consider acceptable and that is one area I’m keying on during my editing process. I’m pleased that the strengths I found in Dead and Dying–realistic dialogue, good action, decent figurative language–are still there and perhaps a little stronger this time around. I know I have two scenes that I want to rewrite and a climax that I want to make a little bigger, but I know what I’m looking for and how to get it done.
I’ve learned some valuable lessons while working on this new manuscript. The first is that I’m improving as a writer. This may seem like a small thing, but to me it is a gigantic statement. Even if this novel fails to find an agent, I know that the writing, the actual selection and ordering of the words, is better than in the last one. More importantly, I know the next one will be better than this one and that, too, is an exciting thing to think about. I’ve also learned that even when you have doubts about the story, you should write it anyway. I took some time off from the novel during the summer, unsure on how I wanted it to continue. In the end, though, it wasn’t up to me. The story went on like the story was supposed to–all I had to do was sit down at the computer long enough for it to happen. Once I pressed through that malaise, the novel completed itself in about five weeks, nearly doubling my typical daily output. I also applied what I learned from the comments of my readers for Dead and Dying and produced a much cleaner manuscript. I made a careful point to avoid the things I was repeated called out on in that novel, bending the writing as I composed to the whims of my expectant audience. There were times I would write something and tell myself, “Oh, so-and-so will like that,” or “So-and-so won’t like that, I’ll have to come back later and fix it.” Still, even in the scenes I knew from the beginning that I would have to rewrite, I knew there were parts–phrases, sentences, perhaps even paragraphs–that I liked and wanted to find a place for in the finished draft.
So, in summation, I’m pretty pleased with the story I’ve told in Project Superhero. I’m still working on a suitable title for it and hope to gain some insights on this issue from my select few readers who helped me so much with Dead and Dying. The ms was shorter than I expected, topping out at 90,000 words and, with my revisions and rewrites, I expect the finished copy to be about the same length. Stephen King says that some people are “taker-outers” while some people are “putter-inners”. I’m a little of both, but I fall mostly in the “taker-outer” category–I often find places to clarify or expand during the rewrite. Sometimes I feel like my writing is too hurried and lacks enough internal dialogue or description to properly convey what I see, so I look for those gaps in the editing process and try to fill them in. This isn’t always possible, nor is it always the best thing for the story, so I try to be very judicious in how I apply these extras. Every word in a novel has to pay for itself if it wants to stay, so all the adjectives and adverbs I can bear to lose are gone.
As it stands now, I’m about one-third of the way through my first good read of Superhero, although I still have some rewriting ahead of me. I hope to have the thing ready for my wonderful readers by Christmas so I can make the additional changes they recommend and start submitting by mid-January. I’m going from the horror genre to the more popular (at least, right now) genre of Urban Fantasy, so hopefully that will also help my chances of landing an agent.
I guess time will tell.