I'm excited about my book but terrified of what may come next and frustrated with a few things along the way.
I have a few updates I'd like to share since my most recent blog post, and although a few of them are positive a lot of them are quite dour.
To start with, unfortunately I've had to push the due date of the feedback for my book from the end of may to the end of June, giving my BETA readers an extra month to read my manuscript and let me know what edits they feel I should make and changes I should add. Although I was initially averse to this decision as I wanted to submit my manuscript as soon as possible and start work on my next project, I decided to listen to what others were saying. By giving my BETA readers an extra month to review the second draft of my manuscript, it also gave me time to review it myself and make changes based on what little feedback I had been given before May.
What was supposed to be a few small changes here and there turned into a series of at least several hundred edits, each improving the book's quality by a significant margin. There were of course, no major changes to the overall story, characters, etc. Where the changes between Draft 1 and 2 were about finding the major errors and areas that needed intense rewriting or deletion altogether, the changes between Drafts 2 and 3 were more about the smaller details. Grammatical errors I had overlooked or sentences that didn't quite make sense on second glance were the main target of my editing efforts. I also changed several smaller things like formatting to comply with standards and guidelines (something which I'll get into later, trust me) and cut out significant amounts of bloat. Although I'm still not done with my reviews for Draft 3 before I can say I've completed it with finality, just being halfway through I've already deleted 3000 words and feel like the manuscript is in a much better state than Draft 2, to the point where I've handed it out to a few beta readers to do comparisons.
That covers the good news... now onto the bad news which has been bugging me for the past month. I'm unsure who'll read this, if anyone, but I feel it's necessary to record my frustrations on paper (whether it be digital or otherwise) so that in the event all of this fails or somehow succeeds, I can look back and see what I felt before my submission.
Right now the hardest part isn't even making my book good, it's all about the query letter and trying to catch the interest of potential literary agents. At first it was incredibly fun to draft up a query letter, so much so that when I showed it to others and heard their feedback on what to alter, I was in high spirits with newfound determination and confidence to make my letter the best version of itself it could possibly be. However, now that I'm only a few weeks away from actually submitting my book to publishers and using my query letter, I feel less and less reassured by the day. If anything, I actually feel fear where there was none before, as the reality of my situation is now dawning upon me.
To elaborate and explain away my frustrations, I'll first start with my genre issues. My book's genre has always been somewhat difficult for me to describe to others, as I don't like using the blanket 'fantasy' term. Fantasy, at least in modern connotations from what I've experienced, is always associated with dragons, magic and swords, a single all-encompassing setting popularized by media like Dungeons & Dragons, which has gained popularity over the years. There's nothing wrong with that setting of course, and several of my all-time favorite books are set in settings such as these. However, my book's setting is nothing like that, and saying that it is makes me worry that people will get the wrong first impression about my book. Of course, once they actually read it they'll be able to see what kind of fantasy that it is, although in this stage of the process when it comes to getting your book published, first impressions are all that matters.
An example of what I mean by this is the fact that I keep on being told by others who've studied the publishing industry and done research on what to do and what not to do, they all say that my book's length is an issue. It doesn't matter whether or not that length is necessary or if the book is good, anything above a certain length depending on the genre can get it immediately rejected at first glance according to them. This means that in order to get my book even remotely looked at by a literary agent, I'll have to claim that the book is a Young Adult fantasy novel, even though it really isn't.
I fashioned my book similar to the stories that I read and watched while growing up, stories that stuck with me even as I grew up. The Never Ending Story, Over The Garden Wall, The Chronicles of Narnia, etc. Were all books I took inspiration from when crafting my story and the world my character's inhabited. A world and story that was less of a fantasy and more of a fable, a story that's meant to be learned from whilst also being enjoyable and memorable. I don't know if I can say that I've managed to actually accomplish this when making my book, but it's what I wanted and worked so desperately towards creating.
Word count never really came into my mind while making it, as although I found it to be a fun way to track how much I had actually written, all that really mattered to me while writing was the story itself. I initially had only planned to make something 80,000-90,000 words, but because I decided to focus on creating a truly concise and memorable experience, I never cut myself off while writing or tried to cram themes in at the cost of a good story. Just like when I would read books as a child, the length of a book never really mattered to me so long as it was good enough. Even if it was fun to say that I'd read such a big book, so long as it wasn't something the size of an encyclopedia and kept me engaged and entertained throughout it, then I didn't really mind or even care. Now though, even as I'm writing this, I wonder if that was the wrong way to think when writing. That I should've focused more on making a book rather than writing a story.
Thoughts of failure have also begun to weigh upon me as well. Even as I write this, I worry that this blog post might end up biting me in the back later if a literary agent that I apply to sees this and thinks I'm not serious about making my story into a book. I might end up deleting all of this sometime in the future just to save face, although if you see this in a few years then I probably chickened out or just forgot about it altogether. I don't want to have spent all this time and effort desperately struggling to do all of this research, craft and cultivate a captivating story, learn about the publishing industry and sacrifice what might be the final months of free time I have left before entering a notoriously rigorous and difficult school, to be for naught.
It would be one thing for my book to be rejected based solely upon its own merits, its own faults and shortcomings. It's another if I end up having my book be rejected just because I didn't properly word my query letter or didn't put in the right genre causing an immediate rejection. Being a good salesman is always an important and necessary skill for anything in life, but if a simple single sentence that doesn't even come from my book is what dooms it to forever fail, then well... I suppose you can see my frustration.
I don't intend for this blog post to come off as the typical discussion of art versus commerce, nothing of the sort. I just wish I had to worry about the story itself and its own merits, rather than spend so much time struggling with a single page that could potentially determine my book's future, and my future as a whole.
Then again, I suppose that's a part of any given entertainment field, or even any facet of life. Resumes, reels, etc. Are all a part of this, in some way or another. I suppose all of this is born from the fact that soon I'll have to place all my dreams and desires to the ultimate test, to see if they'll actually pass the bar which has been set so high. Hundreds of query letters and manuscripts are rejected daily, all of which were made by authors similar to myself. Nothing separates me from them, which is both a hopeful and terrifying prospect, as it means nothing is stopping me from success, yet also nothing is preventing me from failure.
In a few weeks, heck, in a few days, I suppose I'll see. I don't know what I'll end up deciding or what will come of my efforts once I submit my manuscript... but after all the effort I've put into this, all the dilemmas, decisions and days spent immersed in my stories...
I have to try.
Thank you for reading this ramble, however strange or unnecessary it might've been. I hope you'll stick around to see what comes next.
Farewell for now,
- Ud Din