The Pinnacle of Achievement

One: My first novel is out at beta, and receiving overwhelmingly positive first impressions.

“Unique and intriguing,” “A page-turner,” and “Wow” seem to be the primary responses. It may not mean much in the big scheme, seeing as the comments come from friends, but it feels good. And I do trust their judgment, or I wouldn’t have sent it to them. There was that one reader who said, “I’m confused,” and that’s okay too. (Love you, Lisa!) There’s also plenty of good, meaty critical feedback to help me make it better.

I’m reading it to the kids as well, and that’s fun.

I’ve started some minor revisions, like replacing all the wordy dirds with fake language. It came out rather nicely. In fact, the replacements seem to carry more weight than the original actual swear words, so that I ended up toning it down and removing portions of it to keep it from being too heavy.

When I told Monty, who is among my book’s first fans as well as a valuable beta reader, that I had invented a new swear-word language, his face lit up: “I love it when they do that!” he said. Apparently, Michael Vey does something similar. I guess I’d do well to pick up those books and read them. Monty has all of them.

Two: My Query-Preparations are Going Well

My query letter is more-or-less ready, and I’ve started studying agents. I’ve picked out a few who seem like good candidates. I like what they have to say about what they’re looking for, they’ve got strong, relevant client lists, and have had success placing books at good publishing houses. I’m just beginning to look, so I’ll keep adding and prioritizing candidates until I’ve got a good short list.

Three: My book keeps getting better.

Reading my first book aloud to Monty & Eli is deeply satisfying and helpful. They keep pointing out places it can be better, like the endings to several chapters where they’ve said: “Mommy, take off those last few sentences and just finish the book right at such-and-such sentence.” They’ve been right every time.

We’ve also found places where the narrative slows down and can be tightened. Segments removed, chapters conflated.


Four: My Next Book Has Begun

Slave Chip is coming along well. I’ve written tons of back story for the main character, who is fleshing out nicely as someone interesting to read about rather than the cardboard caricature she started out as. I’ve written a couple scenes that might even make it into the book–like the one where she meets a slave trader and he flirts with her in a totally unexpected way.

Five: I’ve Been Asked to Beta Read For a Nationally Best-Selling Author

The last time I beta-read a book, it was for someone at Ernst & Young that I worked with in 1999-ish, and the book was terrible. Just awful. This one is not awful. It’s quite, quite wonderful. The brevity of this paragraph does not do justice to its wonderfulness. It’s just that it’s hard to keep my mouth shut about it and if I go on too long I might spoil Things. So that’s all. Just, it’s wonderful.

Six: None of That Matters

I have a teenage son. That, in itself, is an accomplishment. I mean, he’ll be a teenager tomorrow. It feels good, primally good, to have a strapping young lad for a son.

But if you’re wondering what I mean by the “pinnacle of achievement” in the title of this entry, then I must tell you, it’s None Of The Above. It’s this:

Monty, age 13 (nearly), at the dinner table: “You know, Mommy, I was thinking. You run your own business, and you wrote a book that’s just as good as anything else I’ve read.”

Thanks, son. I appreciate that.

“Well, You’re pretty cool.”

Yup. My teenager said that. That, dear friends, is the pinnacle of achievement.

THIS son. The one who took down his first prey on his first shot and carved it up to stock his grandparent's larder for the winter. Yup. That son.

This kid, the one who just bagged a deer for his grandparents, thinks I’m cool.

My Mind Turns to Query Letters

I edited/revised four pages of my WIP this morning. Yay, me! Sadly, at this pace, it will be another 2 months TWO MONTHS before I have a draft ready for beta.

When I began in May, I was delighted at how quickly the work went. Walking around the lake, my usual thinking place, I calculated obsessively how long until my book was done. At 1,000 words a day, a 50,000 word novel would be complete in just over a month. Amazing. I was so fast! So efficient! I could write 12 novels in a year in an hour a day! I was amazing!

95,000 words and 5 months later…

Revising the first draft took longer than writing it.

Now I’m editing, at approximately four pages a day (there are 237 total).

Then there will be beta readers.

Then more revisions.

Then query letters, elevator pitches, agent research.

If I’m lucky enough to get an agent, next is agent-requested edits.

Then, if I’m lucky enough to get a publisher, publisher-requested edits.

The next time you meet a published author, bow down and kiss the ground because now you know.

Anyway, my mind has turned to query letters because although I’m still revising/editing, I’ll be meeting authors and agents in my genre at YALLFest, so… yeah.

(I also ordered a stack of books last night because Must Read Books by the authors I’ll be meeting.)

Now, for the useful stuff. Here’s a sample query that, reportedly, garnered a lot of agent attention.

And here’s where you go when you are sure your query letter rocks, to have it torn to pieces and trampled on.

I don’t have any pictures of query letters so here’s a cute kitten.

That's why she's so happy.

This kitten is not writing a novel.
(Photo courtesy