I heard back from an agent!!!

Of course, it was to pass on my book. But, I got a reply within a day of my first email! Hey, it’s a small victory, but I’ll take it.

So, I finished my second, more significant revision of the book, got it all formatted, and emailed queries to two agents. I didn’t truly expect to hear from either of them, particularly so fast, but one did reply with some good feedback. Told me what she liked and why she was passing, and she’s right; there are things in the first ten pages (which is all they asked for) that probably shouldn’t be there. I hadn’t thought of it the way she said it, so I’m grateful to get that feedback. Of course, it’s still an agent checked off the list, but that’s life.

I have to say, the initial writing was so much more fun than the various revisions. And I knew that; as a journalist for 20 years, I’ve always felt better about the stories that didn’t need major revisions. When I have to back up and rewrite a second draft, I get uncomfortable; can’t tell you why. But if I don’t hear from this second agent (one that said if I don’t hear from him in two weeks, I won’t), I’ll consider making a few more changes. Fun, fun!

And it’s done, again!

Apparently, I edit in bursts. Over the past several weeks, I finished a revision of the book, my second one. But unlike the writing process, or even the first edit, I did this one in the matter of days. As in, a day here, a day there, often with more than a week mixed in.

I did four chapters of it about two weeks ago. Five days later, I did four more. Then, it was another eight days before I got back to it; I finished the last eight chapters over the past two days.

This isn’t necessarily a good way to do this. For one thing, after eight days the changes I made to lines of dialogue and minor plot points aren’t as fresh in my mind; I sincerely hope I didn’t miss something. But at this point, I think I’m ready for a fresh look, preferably by a professional editor. So, yes, I’m to that point again. Which is great. And perhaps the most daunting part; finding an editor and an agent. Wish me luck!

More editing!

So, one suggestion I’ve heard is that I should have someone beta-read my book. I sent it to two people, and one replied really quickly, with some great suggestions about what I could improve.
Which is great, of course, but it also means more editing! I’m finding the editing part of this much harder (and harder to find time for). I guess when I’m writing, I’m more motivated to break away to do that than I am when it’s editing. I guess that’s why they call it “work.” 🙂

Wonder what’s next

At long last, my book is “finished.”

I use quotes because I know it’s not really finished. But, I’m done with the first major round of editing and I’ve sent it off to a couple of beta readers. Of course, I’ve already thought of a somewhat significant revision I’m considering making. I wonder when writers truly know they are really finished. When it shows up in print, perhaps? 🙂

Now I get to figure out how to find an agent, which sounds like a rather daunting process. Maybe it won’t be, once I get into it, at least the basics. So far, though, I’ve skimmed a bunch of websites, all of which seem to have a different set of advice. In some ways, that’s okay; it means I’ll just have to do my own thing and see what happens. A friend is also wading into this novel-writing thing and he already has conversations going with three different agents. That gives me a bit of hope!

Anyway, the real key, I think, will be to stay motivated for this part. Writing, and even editing, come naturally to me. Chasing agents, not so much. But I guess I only need to get it right once, so here’s hoping!

So, editing. That’s fun, right?

I’m a fast writer. When I finally decided to sit down and write this novel, it was mid-August. I had the first draft essentially finished by early October; only a series of really busy days strung out the end of the final chapter for another week. During that time, I had a constant flow of words pouring out of my hands; that’s how it is when I really get in a groove. Oh, and I did this will still handling my 50-plus-hours-per-week job, and helping my wife taking care of a 1-year-old.

Editing, though, isn’t nearly as fast.

First of all, I knew I had a lot of corrections to go back and make. This is in part because when I started writing, I really didn’t know where I was going to end up. I hadn’t decided how I was going to fill the middle two-thirds of the book until I’d already written about four chapters. Of course, what I settled on is what established the theme for the entire book; it would help if the beginning of the book reflected that somehow, no?

The other thing was, I realized as I was writing that there were contradictions I’d have to go back and fix. I also knew that if I stopped to fix them as I thought of them, I’d get so bogged down in those corrections that I’d never finish the story. Better to go back and make the corrections later, and with fresh eyes, to boot.

And that, folks, is taking time. In a month, I’ve managed to go back over the first seven chapters (out of 28). This is somewhat because I just haven’t been able to scrape together the free time like I was able to in August and September. But it’s also because the act of editing isn’t nearly as automatic as the writing itself. It’s a slower, more tedious process, even moreso because of the scope of this project.

Not that this is a tremendous shock to me. I’m a journalist, so I’m used to reviewing my own copy. And I’m an editor, so I’m used to trying to step back and give something an objective read.

I guess, though, that when I started writing, my goal was to have a first draft done by Christmas. When I had it done by Halloween with weeks to spare, I got greedy; I decided I wanted to have it fully edited by Christmas instead. And that might be a pipe dream; besides family visits and the like, I have a fair number of events in December for organizations I belong to that will keep me out late. Add in a vacation (during which I’m leaving town, so no working then!), and my Christmas deadline probably isn’t realistic.

Particularly since I only just finished Chapter 7. 🙂

Oh, well. The deadline is my motivation, but nobody else cares when it’s actually done. So I’ll shoot for it, but I guess it’s more important to do a good job, in this case, than to beat a deadline nobody else cares about.

Hi, everyone!

Well, hello, there, and welcome to my new site! If you’re here, it’s probably because you know me, but I’m hoping to draw new people in at some point, so I might as well start at the beginning.

So, here goes! I’m Jim, and I’m working on my very first novel. Or rather, working on the first novel that I’m actually going to complete. I’ve tried a few other times over the years to get one going, but never managed to get past the prologue. I’m considerably further than that this time; I’ve written the first draft of a novel, and I’m in the early stages of editing it now. I feel like I’ve been in that stage forever, but I haven’t really. I started writing in mid-August, and I finished the draft in mid-October. Somehow, I did that just on nights and weekends, since my day job takes, at minimum, 50 hours a week, plus another five hours for the commute.

I also have a family to consider! I’ve been married for four years now, and we have a 1-year-old son who keeps us delighted. I also have an 18-year-old son who’s in college at my alma mater, Ohio University. I’ve always lived in Ohio; only the towns have changed. I grew up in Toledo, went to school in Athens, and I’ve worked in Sandusky, Kenton, Lima, Newark and Lancaster, in that order. I live in Columbus now and still work in Lancaster, hence the commute.

I have a wide variety of interests, some of which you’ll see pop up in my writing. I’m a big sports fan, and baseball in particular. I’ve been a Detroit Tigers fan since the mid-80s, back when I thought them winning a World Series wasn’t so unusual. (Oops.) I’m also a big music fan; mostly rock music, but some other genres, as well. The era doesn’t matter; I love the Beatles, the Eagles, Led Zeppelin, Billy Joel, Bon Jovi, U2, Matchbox 20, and Shinedown, among others. That pretty much covers the 60s to today, doesn’t it?

I’ve also long been a fan of a good ghost story, which is why it surprises me still that it took me so long to get around to actually writing one. Or rather, writing one that’s longer than five pages; I wrote one way back in high school, and even though I’ve long since lost track of the original, I remember it well enough to easily tell it again. When I’ve tried writing novels in the past, I could never settle on a genre; I think I only ever tried more sci-fi/fantasy, but just couldn’t sustain it.

That’s not to say I haven’t written anything; far from it. My day job (well, usually it’s days, but it can be really any time) is as a journalist. I’ve been a reporter or an editor in Ohio professionally since 1997, as well as for college and high school publications. I’ve covered a wide range of things, but the central theme to most of it is local governments. Of course, that can be rather broad; I’ve covered economic development to human interest, gruesome murders to football games, presidential visits to dog rescues. I’ve met a lot of people, a few of them famous, but those aren’t generally the interesting ones. Instead, I tend to find “average” people to be the most interesting. I enjoy getting to know what motivates people, what in their lives makes them who they are. Sometimes that takes years of getting to know a source; sometimes people wear it on their sleeves for the world to see. I tend to find the journey fascinating.

So, that’s me in a nutshell. I hope to start updating this blog regularly, and maybe redesign it once I get more used to WordPress. Thanks for taking the time to check me out!