(Greetings! I'm taking this opportunity to share about Alara's Call, a novel by Kristen Stieffel, who is a fellow Realm Makers attendee. You can get your copy at http://www.love2readlove2writepublishing.com/books/alaras-call/. Enjoy! - Steve Rzasa)
When I finished Alara’s Call—not the first draft, but the first draft that was good enough to show anyone—I knew my next step was to find an agent. So I called a guy I knew who worked in the arts community and asked if he knew anyone. He said no, but I should go to the Florida Writers Association conference, because I could meet agents there.
And I thought, There’s a Florida Writers Association? I worked in the newspaper business, so I had heard of the Florida Press Club and the Florida Press Association, but not the FWA. By the time he and I had that conversation, the conference was only two weeks away. But it was local to me, so I registered and went, even though it meant paying the top registration fee.
On day one I took a class from Marcia Ford called “Writing for the Inspirational Market.” Afterward, I told her I had written an inspirational fantasy novel.
“Oh.” She gave me a blank stare. “That’s a challenge.” Then her face lit up. “You need to talk to Jeff Gerke.”
She and Jeff had worked together here in Central Florida at Strang Communications (now Charisma Media). According to Marcia, Jeff was the go-to person for Christian Speculative Fiction. (She wasn’t wrong.) He had since gone to another state and had just started freelancing. She gave me his contact information, and I wound up hiring him as my book doctor.
He. Was. Brutal.
Jeff confirmed what the agents at the conference had told me—the book was too long and needed to be cut from 160,000 to less than 100,000 words. (Yeah. Jeff didn’t know that the version before that had been 180,000 words.) He was painfully specific about which parts of my book were boring and needed to come out. On the other hand, a pivotal fight scene in which Alara is captured by enemy soldiers was over in half a page. That was unacceptable and needed to be rewritten and expanded to detail the whole fight, blow by blow.
I spent quite a while rewriting the manuscript to comply with all that advice—six pages worth of notes. The fight scene was the hardest.
It took a whole afternoon, and a couple pots of tea. I would write a sentence, get up, pace around, try to mime the fight, go back write another sentence, repeat…and periodically realize half of what I had done was crap. Rewrite. Repeat.
Wore me out.
But the story is much better for the effort.
Several times while we were working through her relatively minor edits on Alara’s Call, Michele Israel Harper, my editor at Love2ReadLove2Write Publishing, commented on how clean my manuscript was, and how little editing it needed.
On a sentence-by-sentence level, I can take credit because I’m a copyeditor. It’s my job to fix those kinds of errors. But in terms of the story structure and pacing, I could not have done that on my own. Not on my first novel. I owe that to a brutal book doctor who told me my story was boring and bloated. But he also said it was brilliant, which gave me the impetus to do the hard work of rewriting.
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Thursday, September 21, 2017