“They want me to NaNoWriMo… I say, no, no, no.”

Today, being the first day of November, is also day one of National Novel Writing Month. For the last several weeks, my email box has been filling with correspondence from the local Bucks County NaNo group, the national organization and other assorted promotional advertisers for the event. I’m not buying into the hype this year.

Last year, I participated in order to kick start the fifth book in my novel series. I’d written a few hundred words, had the basic plot outlined but hadn’t made any progress beyond that in months. I managed to come close to the 50,000 word goal by the end of November but the story was far from finished. In fact, here I am one year later, still working on it. It never took me this long to publish the previous four books. So much for NaNoWriMo.

Nevertheless, I am going to use the month as a deadline for the revising and editing of the book. I am giving myself 30 days to make the changes to the story, proof the grammar and dialogue, read aloud for awkward sentence structure and double check for timeline inconsistencies. Then it goes to my editor for final approval before loading to Amazon and CreatSpace for publishing, hopefully before the holiday season.

That clears my desk for 2017. Bring on the new year and a new start to another novel! Brace yourselves for more WWI history posts.

By the way, the first of November and it’s still green in Bucks County… Weird.

Agent Feedback

I finally received news from the second agent to whom I sent the first five pages of Three Empty Frames. Along with the material, I posed some questions regarding querying self published books. I had my suspicions confirmed. Here’s what she said:

“Agents rarely resell self published books these days. I think of it as your platform and what happened in the past. I’m looking to sell new, hot, fresh projects that publishers can work with from beginning to end. I would finish the series self published and then try traditional with a new project/series. Good luck!”

As you can imagine, I have mixed feelings. In one respect it feels like I’ve wasted my time and energy on all those stories. But in another, after three years and nearly half a million (!) words, I’ve definitely become a better writer. And both agents have had good things to say about the writing at least… It’s interesting to have another perspective on the beginning of the book. Here’s what she had to say about the opening scenes:

The opening quickly establishes setting and the dialogue strongly conveys a distinct dialect. The conversation appears to be setting up a frame narrative. Even though the reader gets backstory immediately, there’s enough held back (like the name of the love interest) to allow the reader to engage with the text. The narrative voice could be clearer—for a moment it’s somewhat unclear which man is on parole. The mystery of Joey verifying and looking into Mick’s story is intriguing, but it takes too long to get to this point of the story. The final scene didn’t pack enough of a punch for me. Jen, and the reader, seems to be ambushed by the announcement that two characters who have just been introduced are about to exit from the main plot. Lucinda seems to have a supernatural ability to anticipate Jen’s shift in thought. It’s interesting and complex. Good work.

She highlighted a few things that I already corrected but unlike the other agent who thought my dialogue was a little stiff, this agent thought it had ‘a distinct dialect.’ If you’ve ever had a conversation with an older, well-mannered gentleman, you will know that the way Mr. Dunne speaks to his daughter is accurate. I should know… I modeled him after my own father —a man who found himself with a baby daughter at the age of 55! So when I was in my late twenties (like Jen) he was in his early eighties! I was glad to have that bit of my writing validated. As for the rest of it, I will apply as best I can and keep it in mind for future projects.

Well, at least I get to delay the query process a little longer. I’m going to polish up Breaking Bread and put it out there before year’s end. That way I can start 2018 with a clean slate. As per the comments on my post the other day, I have some terrific suggestions on how to spice up the relationship between my two main characters and I’m going to dedicate the month of November to revisions. (Just like NaNoWriMo to keep me focused and disciplined). Then off to the editor and hopefully published before the holiday season. With the new year, comes a new (well not really new, just partially started…) project: my ‘historical’ novel, Here Lies a Soldier. Maybe I’ll finish it it time for Armistice Day 2018 – the 100th anniversary of the end of the Great War.

Some Positive Feedback

Always welcome when you’re struggling or unsure.

I sent the first five pages of my revised first novel to an agent after participating in a Writers Digest webinar. I finally heard back from her late yesterday. Here are her comments:

“Overall, really fantastic writing. It’s beautifully composed –and also subtle. So despite the rather brash setup of an ex-convict, this leaves me feeling very intrigued about the rest of the plot. Nice job! I don’t have any overarching notes for you, other than to continue working on loosening your dialogue. You’ve got a good start to it, but there are some scenes that come across as just a touch stiff. (Dialogue is hard; it will come with some revision, I’m sure.) Best of luck with your query process; I have no doubt you will find an agent!”

So that’s pretty cool, right? If you’re wondering why she didn’t ask for the full manuscript herself, she doesn’t usually represent this genre. However, having good feedback from professional agent is certainly encouraging. I have already made revisions to the opening chapter of Three Empty Frames and will post the final edition later this week. Thank you all for reading along!