I got my standard rejection memo for Annie Brown and the Superhero Blues, the 30K-word novella I banged out in August. Interestingly enough, no angst; it registered as just another piece of business correspondence.
So it would appear that I’m psychologically ready for the big world of professional writing. It also helps that I can more than see the other side of the equation (see “grading papers!”). Likely the editor had thousands of manuscripts to sort. A friend who knows the back stage reminds me that editors who put out anthology calls have a clear picture of what they want. (To which my inner wise-guy high-school kid says, “So why don’t they just say what they want?”) That, and my natural instinct with prompts and guidelines is to bend them as far as I can in the direction of what I want to talk about anyway; it’s the way I work as a writer, but it’s risky.
I took it on as a dare, and I have to say that four weeks from raw draft to finished manuscript is too fast, given the amount of time eaten by Ye Olde Day Jobbe. In future, when I want to get wild and crazy on the 30K-word scale, I’m going to do it more along these lines:
- Pull the prompts and ingredients from the Big Cauldron of Cool Ideas, do a quick character-and-plot sketch, and then do something else for a couple of weeks. (Effectively, that’s what I did here, because my July MiniNaNo was in progress at the time I saw Samhain’s anthology call.)
- Bang out the draft in two weeks, as a collection of scenes.
- Lay out the scenes spreadsheet (that’s called “plotting after the fact”) and figure out a draft order for them.
- Knock together the rough-cut, and cut anything redundant.
- Do a cleaning on the language at detail level (take out the extra words), because I can’t stand looking at diffuse and flabby first-draft language. Yes, I know some of this is going to get cut in big chunks, but I consider sentence-cleaning required by politeness before inflicting the manuscript on somebody else.
- Set it aside for two weeks at least, and work on something else.
- Send it to a beta-reader whose style is cleaner and more ruthless than my own, and then sit down to do my own review of the matter.
- Compare notes with my beta-reader, and then get out the big axe.
First draft is exploratory, and that exploration always involves tangents. Even if I have a nice clean three-act structure, there usually are problems with load balancing. Subplots often take on more weight than they should, and the narrative wanders. Tangents don’t have to be thrown away; I can always set them aside as prompts for another story.
So Annie Brown is currently being re-read and reviewed, and in the meantime I will be including some snippets in upcoming Six Sentence Sunday posts, probably in late October.