Make the Most of the Preseason

You work on a book for two years and excitement creeps in, no matter how hard you try to tamp it down. Excitement about what? You haven’t done anything yet. But ooo-boy, the possibilities. Prior to fording the eel-infested waters of agent-finding, everything is still out there for you.

Getting published.

Huge sales.

Critical Success.

A seven-movie deal.

You know, the usual.

I compare the journey to my favorite sport, college football. Prior to each season, everyone is undefeated. The possibilities are there for the taking. But once the season starts, there’s no rewind button. For all but a select few teams, losses mount and the prospects of championships (national or conference) quickly die. Soon, you’re hoping just to win 6 and make it to a crap bowl game (the current state of my alma mater, Texas). When the season is over, it’s over. You start again and hope the next season brings better results.

To be successful in college football, you’ve got to have players, coaching, scheme, preseason preparation and execution. For writers, your skill is your players. Your research and teachers (if you’re lucky enough to have them) are your coaching. Your scheme is your genre. Writing the book and polishing it is your preparation and submission is your execution.

I’m in the preseason and what I do here will dictate how my season goes. Once I play the games (submit queries), I can’t then decide I want to go back and prepare more. Those submissions are out. If I query everyone under the sun and don’t get a bite, a deal, a sale, etc., then on to the next season (read: next novel).

I’ve read so many writers and agents bemoan the error of “submitting too early.” Hopefully I am learning from the past mistakes of others. Maybe my manuscript will be extra polished. So polished as to cause the first agent to jump up and cry with glee that she’s finally found the book of her dreams.

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You remember A Christmas Story, right?

Well, maybe my story evokes a similar reaction in the agents that read it. Wishful thinking? Sure. But why not aim high?

I’m by no means delusional, however. I know that most manuscripts don’t get an agent and even fewer get published. I’m prepared for failure even though I hope for success. I’m prepared because I’ve made this book about the journey and not the end result, whatever that may be.

As I’ve said in earlier posts, I was not a writer when this book idea hit. I still throw up a bit in my mouth at the thought that I would ever presume to refer to myself as one. But I’ve written every day for two years. Paid attention to the craft. Stayed wide open to criticism and advice. Read everything from forum posts by aspiring writers to author interviews to On Writing by Stephen King. (Tremendous, by the way). I can no longer say I’m not a writer and I don’t want to declare myself arrived, but I’m becoming a writer. The process has been so fulfilling and I can’t lose sight of that if my story doesn’t make it on to international mass-distribution.

I think I’m on my 8th full revision. Maybe 9th? It’s hard to keep count, especially when so much of the revision occurs casually. Open the manuscript to page 118 and edit for six pages.

I’m sure other writers get as much excitement as I did when I had the story polished enough to print a hard copy and edit directly on the page. I actually tried to do this with my first draft about a year ago, but it was still in rough shape so I gave up and went back to the MS Word version for few more months.
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Since then, however, I’ve collected a nice little pile of hard copies edited by me and others (wife, friends, Jess Hagemann-awesome editor and writer).

That’s it right there. The beta copy for Earthling Archer. I  had some copies bound for ease of use among my 17 beta readers. Thats a few copies there there on top. I could go on and on about the benefit of betas, but that’s well documented across the landscape of the interweb.

I don’t yet have them all back. But the input thus far has been so helpful that I’ve jumped back in for additional revisions.

The fledgling writer in me is learning to take control.  I now revel in the ease with which I can identify and slash unneeded phrases and adjectives (I’d already killed of all the adverbs and passive voice long ago, worry not). I can see this manuscript not only coming together, but crystalizing. I can see the end of the preseason and that first game up ahead.

Short version: College football; betas.

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