The last update I gave was the beginning of May, and a lot has happened since then in getting my YA novel – MAIDEN – ready for submission.
Doing something a little different today.
For about the last month I have been getting feedback and critiques on ‘Maiden’ from people I respect . As much as I look forward to their insight – honestly, I do – it gets hard to keep going. I am not a great writer. But I want to grow and hone the craft, because I feel like I have a great story.
Having a great story is not the same as being a great writer.
I want people to see what I see and feel what I feel when they read ‘Maiden.’ I want them to love the characters and the places as much as I do. I want them to laugh, cry, cheer and overall enjoy the experience.
Which is why I have to be patient and keep fighting the good fight,
One keystroke at a time…
One edit at a time…
One revision at a time.
Don’t hide from the critiques of others. Maybe all of the feedback you get does not necessitate a change. But when your gut tells you something can be improved, don’t think about all the extra time that will be spent changing things you thought were already fixed. Embrace it and how it will help your story be great. In the process, your writing is becoming great as well.
So in honor of the great encouragement I have received, the characters and plot points that will have to be sacrificed, and the many, many more hours still left to go, I present a haiku on editing and revising:
A Haiku by Chris Sorensen
How much good is best?
Things need to be fixed.
Away pride and false deadlines.
I finished my very first completed draft (what I call the plot draft) in April 2012. I was at roughly 120,000 words. I had completed from point A to point B. I could give the story to somebody and have them read it and they would be able to connect the dots. I wasn’t ready to give it to people yet, but if I did, they could at least understand what was going on. It still sucked, but that was okay, it was the first step.
I finished the rough draft (what I call the first manuscript draft) in October 2012. I had narrowed it down to roughly 115,000 words or so. Much more coherent. Worked on point-of-view, tying together loose ends, and making sure the story flowed. This is the copy I gave to my wife, my best friend (who has a writing eye) and a wonderful writing friend (who is published) who took the time because she basically rocks. I told them to unload on me and to hold nothing back. They did.
I finished the next rough draft (what I call the beta-reader draft) in November 2012. I was able to get it to right around 105,000 or so for the beta-readers. I had three wonderful beta-readers who gave me information and feedback I could have never dreamed of, scenarios and character ideas that never crossed my mind. Just the ideas themselves got me excited for the changes it would bring to the book.
And that’s my whole point. As a writer, I started out at point A. I had an idea, a story I wanted to tell. Point B is that story. It takes a lot of hard work, effort, time, change, experience, and humility to get to point B. But in the end, it’s all about point B – making the story the best possible story it can be.
My goal was to be at “point B” with 90,000 words about the first of January. Oh, well. But I am not giving up. Currently I am at about 95,000 words and I am moving forward. It might take another week, two weeks, or another month, but the story is moving forward and it is getting better. Soon, it will be done.
If you have a story you are currently working on, just keep moving forward, step by step, word by word (whether you are putting them in or taking them out) and it will happen. It’s an exciting, frustrating, overwhelming, fulfilling process.
So I finished the working draft for Maiden before Christmas and sent it out to a few beta-readers, including my wife. When you hear one thing, you can dismiss it. When you hear it again, there might be something. But when multiple people give you the same exact feedback…you listen.
The last three months have brought about so many wonderful things on the path to finishing this story.
As I mentioned last week, my new novel is inspired by Joan of Arc and is going to be for my daughters, but that’s about all the information I gave. Some of you were not so happy with me for not getting into details of the specific story line.
Well…let me do that!
Have I told you the (working) title of the book? I didn’t!? Jeesh, I need to get on the ball.
Short, simple, leaves room for interpretation, but ultimately trying to convey a young woman on the verge of change. Very much inspired by the Maid of Orleans.
Now, the story line. Here is the one-minute blurb I’ve been giving lately when I get the question, “What is your book about?”
That’s it in a nutshell. I’m very excited for you to get to know Jeanette and all the other characters (more about them in future posts).
I would love to know your thoughts and comments – please leave them below.
In 2008 I was working on a middle-grade adventure series. I had been working on it for roughly three years. It was very much different than my first two books, which are more serious in tone and for an adult audience.
But in the fall of 2008 I hit a road block. We (I use that term very loosely) were pregnant with our fourth child, I had just received a promotion at work giving me more responsibility, and my writing was more work than it was fun. When something you do on the side stops becoming fun, it doesn’t take long for it to fall by the wayside.
So from September until the end of November I don’t remember writing much. Life was busy and I focused on family and work. If anything, I had relinquished the ‘writing’ weight that was hanging around my neck. Writing was something I would get to…someday.
Then two things happened in December of 2008 that changed everything. The first was that our daughter, Andrea (or Andi), was born. The second was that, because of her birth and the feelings associated with it, I had the desire to write again. But the big difference was that for the first time ever, I had the desire to be a “writer”, not just a guy who wanted to turn stories into books so I could make a lot of money (who wouldn’t want to do that, right?). And there is a BIG difference between a ‘writer’ and ‘somebody who just wants to publish a book’.
You see, the reason I was working on a middle-grade adventure series for three years is because my two previous books didn’t make any money, nor spurn the fancy of any agents or editors to get a book deal. So I desperately tried to force a story that I thought was sellable and tried to force myself to write it. The end result…it didn’t work.
But after Andi was born, I received my ‘aha’ moment. I finally got the idea to write a story…just to write it. I didn’t need to worry about what other people thought and I didn’t need to worry about selling it to an agent. I was going to write a story for my daughters that I want them to enjoy. Period. And a whole new world opened up because of it!
So what is this story for my daugthers?
Ultimately, the feelings associated with daughter’s birth (and how I feel about all my daughters) is that they are queens. They are royalty in every sense of the word. They are born with the essence of greatness in them. They have the potential to become anything and everything they desire and to have amazing joy in their life. That’s what I want the story to convey.
I started by looking up great women in history. As I studied, I kept coming back again and again to Joan of Arc and I was fascinated by her history. A simple farm girl who changed the tide of war for her people. But there is so much more, it is awesome (except for the part where they burn her at the stake at the end…that kind of sucks)!
So the idea for my story is very much inspired by Joan of Arc. It is not a retelling and it is not historical fiction, but it is inspired. I like to think of it as, “What if a Joan of Arc type character had to save the kingdom, but also had to deal with your typical teenage angst and boy troubles?”
It’s been fun, hard, but utlimately rewarding. More than anything else, I look forward to sharing it with my daughters. But I also look forward to sharing it with you.
Right now I foresee the story as a trilogy (one book for each of my daughters). I am done with the first draft of the first book and will be done with the first edit/revision sometime in the next couple of weeks (that’s a lot of firsts):-)
If there is one thing I have learned…don’t give up. For you, whatever you have been inspired to do, keep moving forward.
As I mentioned, my inspiration for this book is my daughters. Is there something in your life you are working on (a story, a piece of artwork, a song, etc.) and if so, what is your inspiration? I would love to know! Leave a comment below.
As the weeks and months progress, each Monday I will share more about the story and be looking for your thoughts and insight. Be sure to back next Monday as I give a small tease and share the first few paragraphs from the book!!!