Now my life feels a bit empty. Pointless. I feel like the children have left, the dog was killed by a falling anvil, and the roses were munched up by a stray horse.
The novel, you see, is sent off. Black Heart’s Blood, eight years in the making, is finally done, read, re-done, checked, read again, edited, cut, changed, polished, printed out, peered over and kissed lightly on the lips by a volleyball team of angels.
Last night I sent it off to my five chosen agents, with a synopsis, query letter, and first three chapters. Those who haven’t been through this process might be amazed by how much time it takes. A query letter (Hello, this is me, and here’s my book) takes weeks or months of fretting. Just google “agent query letter” and see what a flood of frantic, hair-pulling hits you’ll get.
I’ve also learned a hell of a lot about how to make a novel good. Thanks in large part to Stephen King’s brilliant book On Writing and agent Kristin’s excellent blog, Pub Rants, where every tip given is a nugget of pure gold.
So here’s what I learned:
1. Find the story catalyst, the event that makes the story begin. Harry gets his letter, Charlie buys the chocolate bar, Bastian finds the bookshop and the book that never ends. Make sure you know what it is, and arrange the book so it happens in the first thirty pages. The beginning of your book is just a vessel to deliver the plot catalyst.
2. Cut like you’re an insane gardener. In my final draft I went from 120,000 words to 97,000. Terrible carnage. Seriously, your book will shine if you remove every excess phrase and un-needed character. Take those darlings, gag them, and shove the buggers into a wood-chipper.
3. Listen to feedback. I received very useful feedback from test readers and redesigned a character because of it, making her much better. Readers are your future audience, so listen!
4. Copy somebody. I read The Hunger Games and noted everything she did structure, grammar and pace-wise. To learn the mechanics of writing a best-seller, study a best seller, and note your own reactions and emotions as you first read it.
5. Use adverbs VERY sparsely. Incredibly sparsely. And semicolons too. A semicolon in fiction means, “look at me, I’m smart, me”. Off with their heads. Or their colons.
Now keep in mind these tips aren’t worth much unless an agent calls me. I have high hopes that they will. It’s a very good book, and I’ve read the fucking thing 96 times so I should know.
And if an agent does call, you’ll all hear about it. Oh yes you will.
God speed Jeffri Erduul!