Not to an agent or an editor.
But to 10 beta readers.
I finally have a draft of Half-Truths, which is ready to be critiqued!
Eight years ago Joyce Hostetter challenged me to join her in NaNoWriMo. I'd been thinking about writing a novel and had a rough idea what it was going to be about, but unlike my student Sydney Kirsch, I was unprepared.
Undaunted, I plunged in. Eventually what I wrote in November, 2008 turned into Draft #1 of Half-Truths. It was from Kate's POV and I thought it was terrific.
I wrote slowly back then. Labored over word choices. Experimented with tenses and had A LOT of false starts as I couldn't figure out where to begin the story. I edited as I went. Did I say slowly? I finished that draft on New Year's Eve 2010. I spent the next eight months honing and perfecting and thought it was "done." (How naive could I have been?)
I attended the 2011 SCBWI-Carolinas conference and was blown away. My work was critiqued by Mary Cate Castellani who suggested I write the novel from two points of view. Re-vision began and Draft #2 was born.
|My first attempt at outlining chapters|
from alternating POV. Index cards circle
my dining room table.
|One of my favorite experts. Price Davis, constantly reminded me to make my story authentic.|
He's standing in front of his childhood home in Cherry, NC where my character, Lillie lives.
Price passed away in December, 2016.
I sent Rebecca Petruck that draft in July, 2013. (The scene I shared in that blog post is still in my story, but stronger.)
After receiving Rebecca's editorial input, Draft #3 was conceived in August, 2013. I worked on character arcs, rearranged plot points, and eliminated some of the extraneous events.
Draft #4 deepened the characters. But I strayed from my pitch which, I had written in 2012:
"In Charlotte in 1950, two teenage girls--one black and one white-- break racial restrictions, uncover family secrets, and discover they are second cousins."
I made a BIG mistake. I added boys. Oey Vey!
When I turned Draft #4 over to Rebecca in the fall of 2015, she wrote a great--but difficult editorial letter. You can read her feedback here.
I dug in. Re-outlined. Took out the boys and several historically correct settings that I LOVED but which, took away from the story. Sent it to Rebecca. Got her approval!
Draft #5 was born January, 2015.
Besides saying goodbye to each girl's love interest, I gave the girls more opportunities to connect with each other and I stayed faithful to my current pitch:
"In 1950, two teenagers discover family ties that intertwine like deep roots under their city's sidewalk. One girl is black. The other is white."
For the last four months (in between moving out of an apartment, more road trips than I care to count, and teaching a writing class) I've been in a different type of revision mode. I had a draft that I liked, but following Kathy Erskine's advice at Highlights Summer Camp, I needed to cut to the chase in each chapter and needed to show, not tell in each scene.
|With Kathy Erskine at Highlights Camp|
I worked hard and then printed out 320 pages. Only to discover the manuscript was 94,600 words--14,600 over my target of 80,000 words (which is the high end for a young adult novel).
I began to hunt and destroy.
|Working at home, in hotels, and libraries,|
I had my laptop, my pages, and pink post-its.
If I found a story thread I wasn't sure I'd completed,
I stuck a note inside the lid of my travel companion:
an Adidas shoebox.
Chocolate, caffeine, and watching the "deleted words" add up helped too.
After combing through the manuscript and following Janice Hardy's advice about revision and editing, I killed:
141- "Just"I discovered that my writing was stronger without qualifiers.
36- "I think"
34- "I wonder"
8- "I shrug"
All together, I expunged 11,146 words. That means I still have 3,454 words to delete. I'm counting on my beta readers to help me continue this tightening process. I haven't searched for "but," "and," or "that." There's probably a few hundred more useless words which may kick the dust!
While I'm waiting to receive feedback from my beta readers, I'm tackling the Author's Notes, Bibliography, and creating a spreadsheet on agents.
I'm hopeful and excited.