And it’s away!

02 Jun

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!

/ paddy


Posted by on June 2, 2012 in Life


Tags: , , , , ,

12 responses to “And it’s away!

  1. Rolf

    June 2, 2012 at 11:41 am

    Great! One small step for you, one big step for humankind? :-)

    But oh, what time to wait before your book reaches SF-bokhandeln.

    I take it this is not the book you permitted me to read some years ago? What ever happened to that one? It was good. Time to publish that one too, I would say.


    • paddyK

      June 2, 2012 at 11:28 pm

      Hi Rolf. No, that one, although good, needs revision. It’s on my list of book projects. It’s a long list…

  2. Mary

    June 2, 2012 at 10:33 pm

    Gotcha. Yesterday went to a Writers Week, ‘How to get published forum,’ and submitted my book to two Literary Agents and 1 Book Publisher! Scary Shit, isn’t it?

    • paddyK

      June 2, 2012 at 11:29 pm

      More like I’ve extruded an extremely large turd and can now get on with my life. And write another turd.

  3. blitzken

    June 3, 2012 at 4:37 pm

    Brilliant tips, much of which transfers to song writing as well.
    Look forward to buying a printed copy of BHB!

  4. charlotteotter

    June 3, 2012 at 5:12 pm

    Wishing you huge amounts of luck! Let’s hope you find the right agent for your book who then finds you the right publisher.

  5. Martin R

    July 7, 2012 at 9:35 pm

    Wow, big news! This time you’re hitting it!

  6. jend1229

    July 20, 2012 at 10:29 pm

    Any luck? Hope you’ve heard back from someone!

  7. paddyK

    July 23, 2012 at 8:16 am

    So far I’ve heard back from 4 out of 5. All standard impersonal emails, and all “no thanks”. Bastards.

    • Rolf

      July 23, 2012 at 8:38 am

      Then there’s only one thing left to do. Obey Heinlein!


      • paddyK

        July 23, 2012 at 4:16 pm

        What does Heinlein have to say about this? Tell!

      • Anonymous

        July 24, 2012 at 7:43 am

        > What does Heinlein have to say about this? Tell!

        It’s part of his list of authorship advices:

        You must put your text on the market.
        You must *keep* it on the market.



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