Saturday, January 10, 2009

The weekends

It's the weekend, which means it's time to work on the "finished" book. As far as I can tell, that's an oxymoron. This thing won't be finished until it's on a shelf somewhere.

During the week, I do the actual grunt work - putting words down on the page for the third book. It isn't pretty. When I write, I don't care about prose, dialogue, or consistency. Those come later. All I care about when I write a rough draft is: am I advancing the story?

In a couple of months, when I'm writing the second draft, I'll post an original paragraph and a revised paragraph to show the process. I don't know how other writers work. I just know how I write, and if I don't get my thoughts quickly down on the page, I end up with dull. Once I have the frame of the story assembled, I can decorate.

So Monday through Friday, I type the grunt work; so far, I'm hitting my goal of 2500 words a day, five days a week, and the story's still on track. By the time we move in February, I should have it finished.

I spend the weekends polishing the second book and sending out queries to literary agents. This morning, I looked at the next eight names on my list of agents and looked at their websites - did they seem like the kind of people who might publish my book? I don't want to waste their time and look like the kind of writer who sends out queries en masse.

Then I edit my basic query letter and try to personalize it to the agent I'm sending it to - mention how I found them (usually through The Writer's Market) and why I think my book would work for them. Out of my eight names, five looked like good bets. One only represented black authors, and a couple didn't look like they worked with young adult books (which is, by the way, what I've written.) I sent email queries and marked them off my list.

I haven't sent any snail-mail queries, and I don't know if that's a faux pas in the writing industry. I'm a computer science major, and whenever I look at an author's biography I'm discouraged when I see something like "So-and-so has been a journalist for ten years / teaches literature at a New England university / is a popular columnist." They've been working in the general 'writing field' (I'm so sorry for sounding yokel) for years. They have a general idea of what's going on; I'm not sure if there's an etiquette I haven't learned yet.

In any case, after I finish sending out the query letters, I polish the second book. My wife's been working on going through the latest manuscript for the past month, and by the weekend she has another large chunk finished. I think she'll be finished this weekend or next, which is exciting. She hasn't read the new ending yet. I look through what she's suggested and (usually) take her advice. Polishing may be the most satisfying part of writing. The book's finished, the characters and story are fleshed out, and I only need to rub down the rough edges.

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