Last month I discovered that a publishing house was accepting unagented submissions in June and tasked myself with preparing my first 50 pages for consideration. I worked on getting that ready (more on that process in a moment) but, of course, I wasn’t content with what I accomplished as the deadline loomed. But I promised myself that I wouldn’t chicken out and I would send in my work for review.
So you can imagine my relief when I learned that the deadline for submission is actually the end of June not the beginning. Yay! Additional days to smooth the scene transitions and rewrite clunky dialogue.
I’ve been reading more historical fiction with the idea that reading great examples of the genre in which I am writing will force me to up my game. And it is, but it is also showing me how much work I have yet to do.
My biggest fears in writing historical fiction are that I will be historically inaccurate or shallow and that the writing will be immature. I am 35 years old and, while there is great writing for every age group, my aim is to write a book for adults, not YA, not New Adult, but for actual, can’t-deny-it adults. To me that means the story is more than just the experience of the characters, it is the experience of that time and place and expresses an idea larger than the situation, which is no small feat to accomplish. Most of the time I’m not even sure that I’m up for it.
But I won’t know until I get the bloody thing done.
So with that in mind, I printed out the first 50 pages of my book and read them straight through with a pink pen in hand (much more friendly looking than red). By the end of my read, I had removed four pages of text, the equivalent of around 1,300 words.
And it felt good. Really good.
I learned a lot about my writing in this editing pass, but here are the five key things I took away from experience:
- I go too fast. It was like my story was on fast forward. I couldn’t wait to get to the next scene, the next plot twist, the next conversation. I need to give my characters time to take things in and build up the world they live in.
- My characters touch each other way. too. much. And not even in a sexual way but just like they have no personal space. I mean, I’m a hugger, but even I was thinking, “back up a little.”
- Pick a genre. Ugh, sometimes my writing has too much feels. #melodramaticmuch?
- I have more research to do. I read Sarah Dunant’s The Birth of Venus and in the first three pages she presented a master class in historical fiction that really made me see how details can be implemented to help the plot along while grounding the book in its time period. Meanwhile, in my editing pass I actually wrote “kind of bullshit” beside a passage I crossed out
- I like my main character, Rosaline. I want to know what happens to her and I hope readers will too.
After I finished my slash and delete editing pass, I headed to the library to pick up a massive stack of books to help build up the work I have already done. The weeks remaining in June will be busy ones but I am glad to have them. There is so much more to come and that is exciting.