I’ve said before that Author Salon is not easy or particularly fun. It still isn’t. But I’m committed. The concept of this site is brilliant: authors work together to pull together the most enticing polished profiles and synopses of their novels, so that editors and agents from major publishing houses and agencies have a blissful “shopping” experience. Novel idea, hey? But the only way it can work is if the manuscripts “crackle” off the page. There can’t be any cutting of corners; no clichés, no worn out tropes, NO TELLING, etc.
I’ve been at it since November, giving critical responses to various aspects of my peers’ work and receiving the same. The quality of the critiques is as varied as the work, so it’s sometimes been a challenge not to freak out when someone suggests that I give all sorts of background information in the first few pages. I did that already, and those pages are now either scattered through the story or a fine dust at the bottom of whatever they do to paper when you set it out in the green bin. Even so, the process has been invaluable. Gruelling, but invaluable. I’m so far behind in my critiques, because I’ve been wrestling with the first twenty pages for almost five months. How is it that every paragraph, every line of dialogue can be changed almost every time I read it? Mostly clipping, of course. How many freaking drafts of this novel before it’s deemed worthy?
I haven’t been writing blog posts, because when I’m not banging my head on the keyboard with the math of this first page, I’ve been writing memoir. I’ve been told to set memoir aside until I get this done. It’s not fun anymore, and writing the memoir is fun, so I’ve been turning to it whenever I bump against the hard bits in the novel. But I am setting it aside while I get this together. I would just like to know why it seems to get more and more difficult with each sweep through.
I’ll stop bitching for a moment to explain why I’m wringing this story dry. Because of Author Salon I’ve had a request from a major agency for the full manuscript. This is in addition to the request from Penguin, New York. In fact, many of the authors on the site have drawn the attention of editors and agents in the US and Canada. We’re cooking now, so we’re all rubbing our hands together and combing each word for tangles and snags.
Everything is blossoming for me – everything all at once. After winning the Whispered Words contest, I received a scholarship from the WCDR toward a residency at Banff next spring. And then came the request for The Cost of Weather. More fuel for the fire that’s already lit in the belly.
But now I’ve been sitting in front of the first ten pages for three days and it seems more messed up than it ever has. I keep asking that questions: does this sentence, this fact, this gesture, this SEMI COLON further the story or develop the character???? Should I start here in the middle of the attempted adoption scene, or should I set it up more? Maybe another beat, another gesture here. Oh, I’ll drop in a sliver of a flashback here and then I can take out that passage there. I used said five times on that page. Cut, paste, cut, copy, sigh, print, read, cross out, scribble, type, cut, paste, cut, redo…