Thursday, March 19, 2009

Cut By a Fifth

By Nichole Giles

The other night I did something I’ve been working toward for eighteen months. I finished my work in progress. That isn’t to say that I don’t have four more in the works, but that the biggest, most major project I’ve ever taken on, is finished.

Well, okay. I realize it’s entirely likely that I’ll end up doing three or four more edits if and when I actually sell it—but for now, it’s done enough that I’m ready to write the synopsis and start the submission process.

I knew I was getting close, so I stayed up until 1:00 am, and when I was finished, sent a copy to my alpha-reader—my fifteen-year-old son. I can’t wait to hear what he has to say.

My copy of Stephen King’s “On Writing” sat on the shelf for two or three months until I got around to reading it. But once I started, I found the story—though nonfiction—so compelling that I flew through the majority of it in a matter of days.

In his book, King discusses a valid point, asking who—besides ourselves—we are writing to please. Who is the first person to whom you will send your manuscript the minute it’s finished? For him, it’s his wife. And because he knows she will be the first one to read it, certain scenes and conversations become reality because he aims to please the person he calls his alpha-reader. Even still, she has plenty of criticism for him, and that’s as it should be between an author and alpha-reader.

King also talks about the ten percent rule. After he has finished his manuscript—writing without editing—he automatically plans to cut out ten percent in the edits. By my calculations, I’ve cut approximately twenty percent. Not quite as much as I wanted, but a significant number of words. I now feel like my manuscript is much stronger because of the adjustments.

As I prepare to bundle my baby and send it away, I’ll take comfort in the knowledge that even Stephen King gathered a large collection of rejections before he made a big sale. I’m about to dive into writing my synopsis, and then I hope to get submitting. Wish me luck and cross your fingers.


Scarlet Knight said...

Congrats Nichole! Can I long did it take you to complete the project from beginning to end?

Nichole Giles said...

Yes, Scarlet, you can ask. It's taken me eighteen months, though I admit there have been a few breaks here and there. And I'm going to tack on an extra month to get the query letter and synopsis perfected before I can submit.

Truly, I don't think there's any way I could have written this any faster because so much character and motivation, and even plot, has evolved over time.

Karlene said...

Finishing is such a good feeling. Good luck on submitting.

Nichole Giles said...

Thanks, Karlene! I'm excited to get to this part, even though I know it means the heartache of rejection.


LexiconLuvr said...

Congratulations on this milestone!Here's hoping your baby gets "adopted" soon. =]

Nichole Giles said...

Thanks, Lexiconluvr! I'll be looking for a good home for it.


Annette Lyon said...

On Writing is a GREAT book.

I'm a total oddity, I think--I usually have to ADD about 10% because my first drafts are lacking in detail and showing. Go figure.

Nichole Giles said...

You know, Annette, the funny thing is that I've done that as well. The other book I'm marketing has been rejected three times because it's too short. Go figure! Too bad I can't cut some from this one and add it to the other.

But my next minor project is to ADD to that book and resubmit!

Thanks for commenting!