NB July 20/11: Ported over from an earlier blog. The non-fiction proposal mentioned here was declined. The #3 novel is now finished and has been through a few rounds of revisions; it currently stands at 112,000 words, and is out with beta readers for critique. I have another non-fiction proposal out for consideration with a western Canada small press, which I’m fully expecting to be turned down but hey, never know till you try. I also have a few more fiction ideas kicking around my head (ouch); now that novel #3 is temporarily done and out for review I’ve let the reins loose on my muse, and she’s reveling in the pleasure of being able to stretch herself out properly again.
I find it interesting, in reading authors’ blogs, to learn where they started from. One of the questions that I see asked a lot of fiction writers, in particular, is regarding how many novels they wrote before the publishing industry finally bought one. The answer ranges – some, like Stephanie Meyer, hit the jackpot with their first book, while I’ve seen others write five or ten before one finally sold. Most of them start their blogs up part way into their journey… not unlike myself.
I’ve got interest in writing both fiction and non-fiction. In non-fiction, I have, in fact, actually already sold one book: the Peterson Field Guide to Moths of Northeastern North America, co-authored with David Beadle. To say that I authored the book, however, is a bit of a stretch. I wrote the introduction – about a dozen pages of text – and a paragraph here or there introducing some of the sections. The text that accompanies each species was written by David. My primary contribution was in the graphics – I drew all of the range maps, and I laboriously clipped out all of the moths from the background in the image. As excited as I’ll be to have my name on the cover of a bound stack of paper… I’ll be a published author in only the loosest sense of the word.
I am currently pitching a proposal to the same editor who handled the moth guide. The basic concept is a spin-off of my nature blog, The Marvelous in Nature – presenting one-page overviews of a few hundred different species and observations for the nature-enthusiast to look for while out hiking. While she likes the idea itself, there may or may not be the market to be able to support large-scale publication of the book. The project is in discussion, and while I’m hopeful it’ll go ahead, it remains up in the air. I have ideas for other non-fiction books, particularly literary non-fiction, but suspect I lack the experience yet to pull them off.
On the fiction end of things, I’ve written, to completion, two novels so far. The first one, an adult epic fantasy, was a great deal of fun to write, especially considering that it was the first one I ever tried my hand at. My sister was my cheerleader and beta reader and I’d send her chapters as I finished them, excited as I was by my progress. It wrapped up at 120,000 words. While I was writing it, I saw it topping the bestseller list as the next Terry Brooks. Then my sister made a few supportive but down-to-earth comments, I saw the manuscript for what it really was (a whole pile of words with a slightly cliched plot and not much character development that was going to need a lot of work), and shelved it. But I did have fun writing it.
Book two was a YA science fantasy. Every bit as much fun to write, and I had a blast with the world-building in this one, which was completely novel to anything I’d read. It wrapped up at 120,000 words. I decided to hold on to the manuscript till I finished and did a first edit on it, but about the time I wrapped it up my sister had just bought a house and didn’t have much time for beta reading (or anything else, for that matter). I tidied it up as best as I could and then sent it off to the agent who’d represented the moth guide, and who’d indicated he’d be happy to review my fiction. I just heard back from him; he’d given it to a colleague with more experience in YA, and she’d put together an extremely thoughtful, and insightful, four-page document highlighting all of the myriad of ways that the novel failed. But you know – she was right about it all. I suspect book two will also be shelved, ultimately. But it too was fun to write, and also a really good learning experience. Perhaps I’ll revisit that world in a future novel idea.
Book three is a work-in-progress, a YA modern fantasy, which I started while the manuscript for book two was with my agent. I’m currently at 86,000 words, and based on how much plot I have left, I have a sneaky suspicion it will wrap up at 120,000 words (I swear I don’t set that as my goal, it just happens by coincidence). Armed with some experience from books one and two, this one seems to be going more smoothly… knock on wood. Also, from the four-page commentary provided to me on the second novel, I have a pretty good idea of my bad habits. When I go back to edit this manuscript, hopefully I can pare some of them out, possibly bringing the word count down to something more reasonable. The subject’s a little more mainstream, too. Maybe this will be the book that sells?
So that’s what I’m up to, and what I’ve been up to, and what I’ll likely be up to, at least for the immediate future. If I reference something in future posts, hopefully you won’t be too confused. It’s also simply interesting to document for posterity’s sake. I wonder what successful authors think when they go back to their first posts on their blog and consider what it had been like when they first started writing?