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What Next?

I’m almost done now with the final revision of book one. I just need to fix a couple of formatting issues and that should do it. Once that’s finished, I’ll print a copy and read it out loud (as Anne Mini recommends) to catch any remaining spelling/grammar issues and check the sentence flow. Guess I’ll do that at home instead of taking the manuscript on the train with me. Though wouldn’t that be a treat for the other passengers? I’m sure they would enjoy it.

I also need to start on the next project. I have the rough draft for book two, of course, but I’m going to set that aside for the time being. A couple weeks ago, Jessica over at Bookends, LLC wrote a post about what a writer should work on while waiting for their first book to find an agent (or an editor, if they have an agent.)

I would never urge a writer to work on the next book in the series while I’m submitting the first. When a series idea is on submission I talk with the author and encourage her to start coming up with fresh new ideas. Why? Because if the first book in the series isn’t going to sell, it’s very likely the second book isn’t either.

That sounds like good advice. It would be a shame (a travesty, I tell you!) if a writer spent time writing a book that ends up gathering dust in a drawer, rather than starting a new series.

The funny part is that I’ve already written the next book in my series. Ha ha! Live and learn, right? So I’m not going to start revising it, and I’m not going to start writing book three, even though I’d really like to. Instead, I’m going to roll a few of my other ideas through my brain and see if any of them stick. Being an aspiring writer, I of course have a notebook or two filled with story ideas that have popped into my head over the years. All I have to do is pick one that will be a best seller.

This is one of the fun parts of writing fiction–the endless potential of the blank page.

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A couple of weeks ago, I posted about how these days it is very likely that a writer’s first page is as far as an agent or editor will go when determining if the story is one that piques his or her interest. To illustrate this point, please allow me to direct your attention to Anne Mini’s blog post from Halloween 2006. She was attending the Surrey International Writers’ Conference, where they had one panel discussion that would send chills down just about any aspiring writer’s spine.

As Anne describes it:

Well, picture this, my friends: brave souls submit (anonymously) the first page of their novels, which are read out loud by a perfectly wonderful reader (the excellent Jack Whyte, who could make the telephone book sound gripping). During the readings, as the uncredited writers quake in their chairs, the three agents on the panel shout out “STOP!” at the point where they would cease reading the submission.

How tough were these agents? Over the course of two hours, only a half-dozen times would they have gone on to read the second page.

Anne compiled a list of the reasons the agents gave as to why they would stop reading a given submission, as well as a list of why they would go on to page two. The striking thing is that the list of reasons they would stop is 74 items long; the list of reasons they’d continue, eight. From the list of reasons they would stop:

6. Took too long for anything to happen (a critique, incidentally, leveled several times at a submission after only the first paragraph had been read); the story taking time to warm up.

41. The stakes are not high enough for the characters.

68. “It’s not atmospheric.”

Keep in mind that these are the opinions of three agents, it’s not like every agent / editor / screener has this list in front of them and they reject a submission as soon as something from the list appears in it. It does, however, afford some insight into how little tolerance there is for the common shortcomings of the typical submission, and just how quickly professional readers reach a decision.

From the list of why they would continue reading:

1. A non-average character in a situation you wouldn’t expect.

I’d say that’s something that every writer of fiction should strive for.

Novel Update: For those of you waiting with bated breath to hear about how the book is coming along, I’m on the last piece that I wanted to revise. I removed two scenes (8 pages) that didn’t add as much to the story as I thought. I’m rewriting them as one scene that hopefully will be more streamlined.

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