Cat’s Eyes: Submitted!

Some weeks ago I mentioned that I want to submit Cat’s Eyes for consideration. The manuscript has been completed for some time, but I haven’t done anything with it since entering it into a competition last year. Anyway, once the decision was made to submit it I set about, and spent over a week, writing a one page query letter. As I wasn’t entirely happy with what I had I did some research to ensure I was including all the right things for such an important letter (which I was). Finally…I pushed the letter aside as I still felt something wasn’t quite right.

Yesterday I mentioned in an email to a friend that I needed to get onto this submission. I questioned my reasons for not sending it out already. No reason really came to mind, except self doubt and that’s not a good reason to hold back a submission. Actually, the thought angered me so last night I opened that query letter and looked at it again. It has all the elements of a good query letter. I know that for sure, however, I still had to do some more research. In the end, I had to concede that I’ve done the best I can with it and now I have to take a chance.

Once this decision was made, I turned my research to publishers instead. Who do I want to submit to? My first choices are the big names – Scholastic, HarperCollins, Random House, Penguin and Allen & Unwin. I visited each website and found their submission guidelines. Two are not taking submissions of any kind at this time. Two would accept full manuscripts for children’s manuscripts, but only queries for adult manuscripts (luckily, my manuscript is for children). One would only accept an email query from unpublished writers, promising a response within two week. This is the one I targeted.

The guidelines were clear, so I adjusted my letter accordingly. They also only wanted the first 250 words of the manuscript, as a sample of my writing. This once again reiterates the need for strong openings, which I’m a believer in, so that shouldn’t be a worry. I read through that one and a half pages … oh, three dozen times, at least. Still not confident enough to send the email, I sent it to myself first as I wanted to see how it would be received. Seeing the email made me feel better. It looked professional and there were no errors, but there was a problem. There was an attachment! I didn’t include an attachment and the guidelines clearly stated that emails with attachments would not be read. I fiddled with settings, which made no difference. Then I copied and pasted the contents of the letter into a fresh page and emailed it to myself again. No attachment. Yay. I emailed it again to be sure. OK, we’re in business and now it’s time to send the real email.

Have you ever noticed how hard it is to press “send” when the email is this important? My cursor hovered over the button for several minutes; I kept wanting to read the entire thing one more time (just to be sure). Finally, I had to force myself to click on the button and trust in myself. The email – the submission – has been sent. I have done the best I can, with the manuscript and the letter. Now I must wait and see if that is enough.

Mirror Image: First Draft Complete!

That’s right; the first draft of Mirror Image is finished. It took a long while, actually it’s almost a year to the day since I started this project, but it’s finally done. As mentioned, it is the first draft and a long way from really being finished, but I’m ecstatic that I’ve got this far. The last few scenes are rough…and I mean rough. I’m not happy with them in the slightest, but at least the story is down, which will take the pressure off me. Now I can work on the finer details and I already have a list.

Before I do that, however, I intend to put this manuscript aside for a time – a very short time. I’m going away for a short holiday next week so I’ll give myself until 27 October 2008 and then I’ll start the edit. By then I’ll be revived and ready to go.

My plan is to cut the manuscript into sections. As it is told from five view points, I will make five files and concentrate on each view point one at a time. Then…I will merge the view points back into one story and edit it as a whole. I’ve thought about doing this for a while and I know it will be the best way to handle the edit. I’m looking forward to attacking the story in this way.

In the meantime, I’ll turn my attention back to the query letter I wrote for Cat’s Eyes. There’s something wrong with the letter. I haven’t been able to work out what it is, but as it’s been placed on hold for 10 days or so maybe I’ll be able to spot the problem now. I want to post the first set of queries (no more than five at a time) by the end of the month.

Mirrors, Cat’s and Caves

It’s strange when I think back and acknowledge my decision to walk away from writing at the end of last year. It feels like I was a different person then…and I probably was, for many reasons (none of which I’ll go into now). The transformation between then and now is incredible. More importantly, I’m excited by the way my mind is working overtime where writing is concerned.

Having always been a One Manuscript Woman, I’m suddenly having the time of my life with three writing projects at once. I don’t know if this new found method will last for long, it never has in the past, so I’m making the most of it while I can.

Anyway, the three projects are:

1. Mirror Image. You know the one I mean – the one where I keep reporting “I’ve only got 10,000 words to go”. I’m writing about 5,000 words a fortnight since I first said that and I’m still going. I am, however, in the last hours of the story, so I’m making solid progress.

2. Cat’s Eyes. I finished this manuscript a long time ago, but had reservations about its length. Those concerns no longer exist, so I am currently drafting a query letter. Admittedly, I’ve written the letter several times, but so far I’m still not happy with the results. But it’s getting closer and I won’t stop redrafting that letter until I feel it’s perfect!

3. Marlinor. This is an old project revisited. I’ve decided to scrap the entire thing and start again. I love the characters and the story itself, but there are some serious problems that need fixing. I’m currently rebuilding the history and recreating the world…and everything is falling into place extremely well. This project is a trilogy, but I can see a prequel happening too! (I’ve created a new category called “Marlinor Trilogy”; everything mentioned prior to today has been archived in “Marlinor Archives”.)

At the moment, my writing routine consists of me writing for Mirror Image Friday to Sunday, with a bit of query letter writing thrown in now and again. Monday to Thursday sees me doing research when I have time and, again, working on that query letter. What really matters is that this writing routine is working for me. I’m pleased about that.

Honestly, walking away from writing was the best present I’ve given myself. It allowed me to wind down and then, when I was ready, to rebuild my energy levels from the bottom up. It has allowed me to view … everything … from a different angle. And it has given me inspiration and excitement where writing is concerned, which I haven’t felt for a very, very long time.

Cat’s Eyes: Getting Ready to Submit

Cat’s Eyes is the first book in a fantasy series for children aged 8 to 12 years. It has been 100% completed for some time now. However, something niggled at me about its length. At 30,000 words, I felt it was too short and this made me hold back from submitting it.

A few days ago I decided to ask a published author about this. I emailed Pamela Freeman, Australian author for children who has now also published the first two books in an adult trilogy. I briefly explained my concern and asked her advice. She was quick to get back to me and reassure me that the manuscript is the perfect length for the age group and that her own manuscripts varied between 22,000 and 35,000 words. This shouldn’t have surprised me because I did do my research and plan the stories so that they would be the desired length, but I guess with thick books like Harry Potter on the shelves I lost confidence in my own research. This will not happen again.

Anyway, this quick email exchange has taken all my concerns away and I now plan on writing the query letter and synopsis so that I can get it in the post. Since I don’t have an agent I’ve decided to take the “query approach” and send the covering letter, the synopsis and a sample of my writing. I will have no more than five queries out at any one time.

This is an unexpected turn of events that I hadn’t planned on…and it’s exciting. I will use part of my writing time over the weekend to get the “package” ready.

Note: I’ve added a link to Query Shark to the sidebar. There are some good tips to be found on the site.

My Writing Decision

After much thought I’ve made my decision as to which manuscript will get my attention first.

If you look at the list, you might think it would be fitting to finish the Cat’s Series as two books are already completed, leaving only the third book to be written. This would seem like the natural course to take, but I’ve decided against it as the second and third book cannot be published without the first book being successful (the first book is written as a stand alone, whereas the other two books are definite sequels and must be read in order). Due to this I feel it would be better time management to put my efforts into submitting Cat’s Eyes (book 1) to publishers instead, which is what I will do. I will keep you updated on my progress.

The Kingdom of Marlinor trilogy is a favourite of mine. In the past I’ve rushed the planning and have been sorry afterwards. This time, I intend to do it properly. All three books! Completely! As I mentioned in a previous post, I have already started researching important issues for the trilogy and this will continue until I am satisfied with the information I have. I will then use the Snowflake method to produce a proper plan.

Planning isn’t actually writing though and I feel I should be getting words on paper (or on the computer screen) while I feel in the mood because who knows when the mood will disappear?!? With this in mind, I’ve decided to plan one story and write another.

The manuscript that has been given the number one slot is Mirror Image. With only approximately 10,000 words to write, I feel this isn’t a huge hurdle to face at this early stage and, besides, I want to see the first draft finished, so this is the story I’ll revisit. Upon its completion, I will decide what to do next.

However, I’ve said only one manuscript is the “winner”, but in actual fact three manuscripts are winners. Cat’s Eyes will gain my serious attention for submitting. That has to be a good move. Kingdom of Marlinor will finally be planned the way it should have been years ago. That’s definitely a positive step. And the first draft of Mirror Image will finally be finished. It will feel great to cross it off my “unfinished projects” list.

My Writing Future

Yesterday, I listed fourteen novel length manuscripts that I have at various stages. Fourteen! When added together, that is some word count! Not to mention all the edits and rewrites.

I guess I can safely say the ideas are there. Some of the manuscripts were started many, many years ago and have not progressed in any way since they were put aside. Some of the manuscripts probably never will be improved upon and I’m fully aware which ones they are. But this isn’t about what I did wrong in the past. This is my honest look at what I have and where I want to go in the future.

I printed out the list and studied it. Then I asked myself a couple of questions: Which of these manuscripts (if any) “do something” for me? Which ones do I want to continue with?

My answer:

Kingdom of Marlinor Trilogy

The first book – Whispering Caves – has been written, rewritten and rewritten again. In fact, I think I’m up to version 8. The original manuscript was written in the late 1990’s. I love the characters and the setting. I love the story. However, as I grew as a writer, I could see the problem areas and I believe my attempts to fix them actually ruined the basics of the story. This is called over editing. I didn’t know when to stop.

The second and third books are (very) vaguely planned, but after the last rewrite of Whispering Caves I had an idea that could tie the three stories together. If I use this idea, it would mean I would have to replan and then rewrite from the beginning. I’m not talking about a severe edit, I mean open a blank screen and write the whole thing from the start. I am willing, and I want, to do that. Actually, I have already set the planning of this trilogy into motion.

People of Miu Series

As these manuscripts were originally written in the last three to four years, this series is my most recent work and that is reflected in the quality of writing. Hence, less revisions required. The first two books are ready for submission and I know how book 3 must end, but I’m having trouble planning the rest of the story. That “trouble” might have been me not being able to focus. I think I can overcome that problem now and I want to finish this series. I enjoyed writing it and have had a lot of input from other writers to get the manuscripts to submission stage.

Isle of Cottie

This manuscript is romance with a fantasy setting and has two parts to it. A bit like before and after scenarios. The “before” section is 100% complete. I will probably have to give it another read through just to be sure it’s just right, but I know I wouldn’t have to spend a lot of time on it. The “after” section is a different matter. It’s been written in the first draft, but will change dramatically in the edit as I made major changes when I edited Part 1. My parents read this story (as well as Whispering Caves) and my father couldn’t praise this story enough. He said it’s full of drama, twists and turns and was quite “suggestive”. I was a little embarrassed by that, but if he read the edited Part 1 I think he’d get a shock!

The original manuscript was written in the early 1990’s. In fact, this is the first manuscript I ever wrote. The major edit of Part 1 took place about five years ago. Now I think it’s time to finish Part 2.

Mirror Image

The first draft of this story was written in November 2007 during NaNoWriMo. This means the draft is really bad. I remember changing direction in the middle of sentences, so the edit of this project is going to be a big deal. Anyway, for personal reasons, I didn’t quite finish the manuscript, but there are only about 10,000 words to go.

This is a dark story (paranormal/horror). It sends out a clear message which I feel is important to tell, especially in this day and age when depression is ripe. For this reason, I want to finish this manuscript.

Suicide: A Mother’s Story

This will be another two part manuscript. One of those parts will be hard to write, but much easier than the other part. I realise now that I attempted this project too soon when I originally started planning it in 2006, but it’s another manuscript that needs to be written – for me, for parents, for teenagers.

Mid-Summer’s Day

It’s been fully planned for a couple of years. However, no writing has started. I will write this one day, but not yet. Why start another project when I have so many others that need my attention?

Out of the other four manuscripts on the list, I think only two will get my attention in the future. Then again, maybe none of them will progress. I may decide to ditch these for other ideas instead.

Now that I’m clear on which manuscripts still hold my interest, I have to decide which of them will be placed in the top spot. As I’ve said before, I’m a one manuscript at a time kind of girl, so only one will be chosen. Which one do you think it will be?

My Writing Past

Previously, I’ve mainly written fantasy. I have manuscripts suitable for all ages. However, I specifically concentrated on children’s books – 8 to 12 years of age – over recent years. The only time I ventured into other genres were for short stories, although one of my first novel length manuscripts is romance (but even that has a fantasy setting).

In order to gauge where I’m heading, I have to know what I have to work with. Here’s a list of all my manuscripts, excluding short stories as I don’t intend to write them in the future.

List of Novel Length Manuscripts

Kingdom of Marlinor Trilogy
(fantasy for adults – needs planning as a trilogy and rewriting)

Book 1 – Whispering Caves
Book 2 – Windy Plains
Book 3 – Butterweed Fever

People of Miu Series
(fantasy for children aged 8 to 12 years – first two books written and edited; book 3 needs planning)

Book 1 – Cat’s Eyes
Book 2 – Cat’s Paws
Book 3 – Cat’s Whiskers

Stand Alone Manuscripts

Blood Red, White Fire (fantasy for young adults) – 22 chapters written of first draft

Isle of Cotti (romance for adults) – complete, 10 chapters rewritten in edit stage, second half needs replanning

Westmore Castle (fantasy for adults) – only four chapters written, needs complete planning and rewriting

The World of Jaishree (fantasy for young adults) – written as a short story that should have been a novel, needs replanning and rewriting

Mid-Summer’s Day (science fiction for adults) – fully planned, but not written

Sam & Arden (fantasy for young adults) – 4 chapters written, needs proper planning

Mirror Image (paranormal/horror for adults) – about 10,000 words of first draft left to write

Non-Fiction Manuscripts

Suicide: A Mother’s Story

Now that I know what manuscripts are in the system, I can decide what I intend to do from this point on. That, however, will be discussed in another post. Right now, I have some thinking to do.

A Change in Direction

On 1 October 2007, I wrote the following:

Now I must move on to the second part of the goal. I have until the end of October to plan book three. This sounds like a long time, but I’ve been thinking about this book – on and off – for some months now and still don’t have any real ideas (except for the ending). For this reason, I hope a month is long enough for the planning. However, setting a public goal and a deadline might just be what is needed to get the job done. We’ll see.

Eight days have passed since then and yesterday I finally started working on that plan. In all honesty, I’m having trouble with the plot and the plan isn’t going well. This has nothing to do with writer’s block or laziness on my part. There’s another reason altogether – another story has pushed its way to the surface and is demanding some attention.

I have attempted to push it aside and return to book 3 of my children’s series several times. I have struggled for over 24 hours to stay focused, but nothing is working. I started a spreadsheet and figured out some of the plot, but this other story is quite determined to have its time in the lime light.

This afternoon, I set up Google Documents and decided that if I type up a quick outline of the other story I would then be free to carry on with book 3. To me, it is logical to think that the story just wanted to be sure I wouldn’t forget key points of the plot and would be satisfied when the outline was written. Yes, well, I was wrong!

Once I opened the door to this “other” story, everything just gushed out and I wrote a five page outline within no time at all. I now have a story title and a complete plot. However, I don’t have any character names. That doesn’t mean the characters are shy. No way. They are right there, and they are pushing their personalities at me as if to say the names are not important – the plot, the personalities, and the setting are.

It’s quite overwhelming how quickly it all came together. I told G a quick overview of the plot and he simply said, “write it.” My reaction was, “I can’t yet” and he asked “why?”

I sat and thought about it for a while. Why can’t I write this other story? Well, firstly, I want to finish the children’s series. Writing book 3 in November would be a mighty giant step to getting that goal completed. Secondly, I don’t like to swap and change between projects because that’s undisciplined, which easily leads to many unfinished projects. I don’t like the sound of that.

But…

NaNoWriMo starts in three weeks and my book 3 plan isn’t coming together. Fair enough, I never planned on doing the full NaNo thing, for me it was always going to be a Mini-NaNoWriMo month, where I aim for 25,000 words. I can manage that. I know it won’t make me turn into something nasty and, at the end of the month, I won’t suffer from burnout (like I did the first time I did the full NaNo thing).

Why is a tiny piece of me so eager to push book 3 aside? Why have thoughts of doing a full NaNo this year been swirling around my head all day? I’ll tell you why. Because this story is so full and vivid in my mind, I feel I could easily reach 50,000 words in a month. I also feel I’d be a fool not to use the NaNo experience to write the first draft of a new novel while the plot, setting and characters are so real to me. I also think that a change of “scenery” will do me the world of good.

Yes, you’ve guessed it. There’s a change of plan. I’m heading over to NaNoWriMo right now to register and I’m going to write the first draft of Mirror Image this November. Yoohoo!

Edit: The NaNo website is offline. With the increasing number of writers doing this each year, the website can’t handle the traffic. I hope the problem is sorted real soon, otherwise, there’s going to be a lot of upset NaNoers in November.

Half an hour later: I’m registered!