Today is the Day

I barely slept a wink all night.

The countdown is close to reaching zero on two separate events. One event is that today I mail off my submission packet for Vengeance Will Come to a publisher.

My very first submission. It feels like I’m breaking new ground. Or better yet, stepping out on the ice, hoping that it’s frozen enough to bear my weight.

To be honest, I’m fully expecting a template rejection letter. Thanks, but no thanks. It’s my first novel and I’m sure I have much to learn about writing. I could have moved on without attempting to publish this first book – but the project would never have felt complete otherwise. (I still have a few wrinkles to smooth out in the manuscript, but they are minor and I hope to be actually complete in two weeks).

And without attempting submission I would never have learned about writing a synopsis, which was both a pleasure and a pain.

Writing a synopsis is an art all of its own and different to a query (or “pitch”). It forces you to distil your entire manuscript down to the core ingredients. (Vengeance Will Come is 300 A4 pages and my synopsis was 7 pages). In complete contradiction to an author’s normal impulses you must outline all major plot points, plot twists and character arcs. You must lay bare your secrets in a summarised recounting, without making it sterile.

I found creating the synopsis helpful in how it articulated the character arcs. In future projects I’m going to write the synopsis in parallel to the manuscript.

Millimetring-forward

The phrase goes “inching-forward”, but I have two problems with that:

  1. Sorry to my US friends, but “inches” are only still being used by three countries on the entire planet (Liberia, Myanmar and the USA). The fact that everyone else has gone metric, might suggest something; I’ll leave that for you to ponder. (Maybe that could be one of Trump’s first-day executive orders?)
  2. Inching-forward would suggest a movement of 25.4+ millimetres per day. I think it’s more accurately a fraction of that.

I’ve said before on multiple times that I find editing hard work. OK, so said in this context is a synonym for complained. I probably sound like a broken record, or to modernise the phrase, a looping mp3.

I’d like to think that editing would be easier if I wasn’t diluting my efforts by working, volunteering and dealing with other responsibilities and commitments. That at least salves my conscience somewhat. I’m now a long way off from my ambitiously crazy goal for Vengeance Will Come.

I am, however, still making progress. I’m almost under 100k words and am over 40% of the way through the revision process. It feels like I have crawled over every single one of those sharp words. (Sharp as in painful, not sharp as in really-well-honed). Still, that’s a reduction of some 14k words, not to mention the scenes I have added.

One of my problems is that when I lose momentum I have trouble keeping it all straight in my head. Not only am I trying to remember the story line but I am also keeping one eye on pacing, tension and character arcs. That’s a lot to remember.

To help with this I’ve been toying with a couple of visualisations.

The first is simple: drawing a box for each chapter and writing a 1/2 sentence to describe the main thrust of the chapter. It’s tempting to try and add more detail, but more is less in this case. At a quick glance I can see plot progression.

chapter-plot-cards

The second is what I call a Character Emotional Map, which is a diagram describing the key aspects of a characters personality and their motivations between characters. Each character gets their own box and has key personality attributes written underneath. (More than four and they are no longer key). Then there are directional arrows between the characters which describe how they feel/relate to one another. The boldness of the text or arrow should signify relative importance. (Except when I’m using an old version of Excel, and it’s limited).

CEM1.PNG

This diagram should keep in my mind important points to emphasize. For example Menas as a developing alcoholic should be drinking, or thinking about drinking, on a semi-regular basis (without overdoing it, pun intended).

As character arcs progress, new Character Emotional Maps should be developed, adapting as the plots progress.

That’s two methods anyway. If you have any silver bullets or tricks that you use, I’d love to hear them.