Thursday, April 30, 2015

On The Road To Publishville # 10 - "What's in a Name?"

# "On the road again... Goin' places that I've never been, seein' things that I may never see again, and I can't wait to get on the road again..." # - Willie Nelson


Over the past year and a half I've embarked on the epic task of writing a couple of different novels (one about some rather diminuitive people and the other about some rather more devious people) but as ever these stories are still gurgling away in the background of my mind's-eye as I walk through the day-to-day life, and I've decided in 2015 to return to my first love novel of "my space saga" for the ultimate redraft...

I thought it might be appropriate therefore to jump back onto my "Road to Publishville" series of occasional posts with this update on that novel, as I try to document my journey towards finding a literary agent and getting this first book published.

The last time I made a pit stop on this “Road” trip, I reported on the third draft essentials that I’d been tinkering with to among other things, take my then rather “unwielding” tome and get it to a more regimented 10 pages per chapter.  Well, in Draft #4 I’m going through this page cutting process once more, to attempt to trim my work down to 7 pages per chapter…

This is an open "Road" I'm journeying on,
with a wide horizon...
Why be so brutal with a story so cherished and long worked on, you may ask?  Well, my aim with this story has always been to craft a “middle grade” adventure story (ie one for the 9-12 age range), and this readership, after a bit of research here and there seems to indicate that it’s rather difficult to sell a first novel in this area if it comes in at 70,000 (let alone 100,000, which “my space saga” originally was!) – plus, still vehemently believing in the story and basic premise I have for this book, I’m hoping the massive word count to be one of the things agents (and their reading services) have been looking at in my cover letters and thinking, “Nah…” before even giving my narrative a chance…

But this process of cutting down the pages to 7 per chapter, does have its “added benefits” too.  The overall story is becoming a much tighter read as I’ve been able to view it with a much more editorial eye.  The kind of things I’m realising I do a lot with my writing, (which is more of a lazy writer thing, rather than a stylistic one) is use the terms “started to”, “began to” and “seemed like” or “seemed to” a helluva lot.  So I’m looking out for these repeated things that I do, time and again, and trimming them, (which is quite satisfying in itself!) – every writer has their own “catch” phrases that they’ll subconsciously use time and again to get them from A to B in a plot or to dig themselves out of a tight plot hole, and those particular phrases, on reading back “my space saga” after a year or so of ‘letting it rest’ are proving to be my own particular scribble foibles.

Take a second look at that book on the shelf... please!
One of the huge things to have changed in each successive draft of this book (and, actually any I attempt) is the title.  It’s a major thing but has actually been a minor tweaking of the last title I had.  So a few words have been taken out (ones which actually I was quite fond of) to again make it a snappier read at first glance… So (perhaps appropriately, given my page count cull), instead of 10 syllables, it now reads as 7, which probably doesn’t sound like it’s much of a change but I’m now content that with this fourth (and final) draft of the book, I’ve captured the essence of the overall story in its new title, while still making it a memorable and intriguing name, if a young (or indeed any) reader were to see it sitting on a shelf in a bookshop (or listed on Amazon!)

It’s that “take a second or closer look” quality that I always look for in a story title, but it does mean that I’m forever tinkering with a narrative name.  Sometimes the title is the first thing that comes to me (I often scribble story ideas in my notebooks that are what I call “Titles Without Content” just because I like the way certain words sound together, and then hope that a coherent story will spring up from them).  But with this (and indeed my second intended novel, “My History Mystery”) I’ve gone through a lot of variations in my titles, trying to hone the basic message they contain, down to a succinct, snappy soundbite, so that someone coming to view it at first glance might be intrigued enough to open the cover and at least attempt the first page (and THEN I’m confident I can hook you in for certain!)

Like approaching a space station on a distant red planet,
my path on this "Road" is uncharted territory...
Overall, though, I’m also adding a lot more detail to this draft of “my space saga”.  From that codename, you can tell it contains a sci-fi element to it, and I know (being one myself) that fans of that genre appreciate small and large details which link back to earlier plot points, so happily, this time round, I’m finding new ways to layer the work, and feeling more than satisfied with it myself as the writer/reader in the process.

So that's my rundown for now of how this new draft is going - it's a continual cycle of reading and re-reading edited pages, which at the moment I'm enjoying and keeping the momentum up with (I just need to push on to the end!), and the next stage will be to push the finished draft number 4 out to some trusted readers - family and friends, and perhaps more importantly kids of family and friends, who I hope will give me their honest reactions and critique of how it all holds together as a complete story...  So the results of that, might form my next stop on this ever-winding road in a year or so - stay tuned!

Hopefully this "Road" I'm on, will lead me through
some mythical illuminated gateway at its end...

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