Hi! I realized I haven’t given you a writing update since early this year. I’ve been busy! So I thought I would update you on all the projects that I’ve worked on over the last few months.
Henry & Lucy Update: Last we spoke, H&L was in its second draft. I spent most of the first half of the year revising that manuscript. I finished the fifth draft in June and queried it. The processing of revising and editing my manuscript was strange. It felt like a very mysterious process and I had a hard time finding resources to guide my process. Another thing that I was surprised by was that I had a really hard time distinguishing when something was a new draft, but I wanted to walk through what my editing process has looked like so far.
Draft Two: I completed this revision within a couple of weeks of finishing the first draft of H&L. It was mostly a revision that focused on minor changes within the specific scenes, like cleaning up prose or adding in more description.
Draft Three: This draft was the biggest change from the previous draft. Before I started revising, I reverse outlined the entire story. When I say reverse outlined, what I mean is that I made scene cards for every scene in the story (I used google slides) where I wrote down what happened and why it matter for every scene. I had realized that I had some pacing issues and ended up cutting quite a few scenes and rewriting a lot of chapters to make the overall story better.
Draft Four: This was my last major structural edit. I added a couple of scenes in order to create both more complex characters and a more dynamic world. I also rewrote a few scenes that didn’t seem to hit the correct emotional beats.
Draft five: For this final (for now) draft, I focused mostly on small-scale issues within my writing. I cleaned up my prose and did a big grammar check.
I decided to query at this point for a couple of reasons. I have always thought that H&L wouldn’t be the book I’d get my agent with. Both because it’s my first novel (I’m still learning how to write) and it’s part of a series. I knew there was still more I could do to improve my writing, but I love this video by Hank Green about his 80% rule. Essentially, at this point, I felt I could learn more by writing a new story rather than tweaking the old story. And I had my next story idea ready to write and I was eager to start in on that!
I sent 25 queries all at once. I know I did it wrong, almost everyone recommends you send queries in batches, but I was okay with not giving myself the best odds. I knew that for me, it is much easier to do a brave thing all at once rather than sustain that bravery for days. I was worried that once I started getting rejections, I’d stop sending queries, so I just dumped them all. I also sent my queries right before I left for a short trip. I knew I would have access to a computer, but I was able to distract myself from obsessing during the day. 25 agents is not an exhaustive amount, but more than anything I viewed this as a practice round. I not only got practice with the logistics of querying, but the emotional part of sharing your writing with professionals and getting rejected.
I thought I’d share my querying stats. I queried at the very end of June, so it’s been three months and some change since I sent my queries out. I got 10 rejections from my query letter and 2 manuscript requests (both of which are still pending) and 14 no responses.
Right now H&L is on the back burner. I don’t have plans to query it again anytime soon, but I’d love to revisit the story in the future.
This is Not a Haunted House Story (Haunt Me, Then)
My next project was a brand new story which I initially called This is Not a Haunted House Story, but the working title as of now is Haunt Me, Then. I started this draft immediately after querying. I had gotten the initial inspiration for the story in January and had written a few thousand words between drafts of H&L. The full draft took about eight weeks to write and is clocking in at just under 60,000 words.
There is quite a web of inspiration for this book, but it’s a gothic novel. It’s broadly inspired by classic gothic novels like Wuthering Heights (that’s where the title HMT is from) and Carmen Maria Machado’s use of horror to explore women and especially their bodies. The initial inspiration was V.E. Schwab’s The Invisible Life of Addie LaRue and this curse was also a blessing. Also, Taylor Swift’s song Ivy is the anthem for this little lady.
HMT is a ghost story that is told in two timelines. The present-day, where we watch Essie’s story enfold, and the past, where two young women exchange letters. It’s a little spooky and sad and a little melodramatic in the best way.
I spent the two weeks of September revising it and already have a second draft. It was a much cleaner first draft than H&L, both because I did a little more outlining when I started and I was much more intentional with my prose as I wrote. I’m currently working on a simple reverse outline to make sure my structure is solid.
Folkmore (aka 13 Summers)
After I finished the initial draft of HMT. I started another new project. I had this wild idea, in the spring to write a series of novels based on the Taylor Swift albums Folklore and Evermore. I loved these songs so much and I wanted to create a world around them. I wanted to write a series of novellas that followed these characters for 13 summers, from the time they were eighteen until they were thirty.
The first summer was inspired by the Folklore love triangle of August, Betty, and James. I decided to tell the story from alternating perspectives of August and Bea (my Betty knockoff). It very quickly became a story, not really about this love triangle, but about August and Bea becoming friends. I was a little worried this piece might be kind of trite and silly, but I found a lot of depth in both of their stories. I truly fell in love with these girls and they belong to me in a really special way and I hope to continue their stories at some point.
Plans for Quarter 4:
I think the rest of the year looks mostly like revision! I did enter HMT into Pitch Wars, so obviously if I’m selected for that, that will change my schedule, but regardless I’d love to have HMT ready to query in early 2021. I imagine I’ll need at least two drafts before then, but it’s hard to know for sure. I will probably also try to squeeze in a second draft of Folkmore at some point before the end of the year.
I have so many new ideas for new stories. I doubt I’ll have time to really draft in the next couple of months, but here is what is possible for the next story. I have a high fantasy story with characters I adore and can’t get out of my head. I have a magical realism piece (similarish in vibe to HMT, but think summery instead of spooky). I’d also love to draft books 2 & 3 of the H&L series. And give H&L 1 another revision pass to potentially query again? So lots to do. I have no shortage of ideas.