Monday, October 6, 2014

#Pitchwars: Before, Before, After & After

People love before and afters. I do. You do.

Come on, you know you do. So here’s my story about before and afters.

Once upon a time (ok, it was 2011) I wrote 90k words of knee-jerk reaction after rereading a story I’d written as a teenager. Then a freelance editor pried the monstrosity out of my grasping, anxious, authorial hands, and wrote all kinds of rainbowed-editorial comments all over it. Such as, but not limited to: You shifted POV. Get rid of slightly, began, tousled, small smile, soft smile, sarcastically. This is a big deal. Why are we hearing it after the fact instead of seeing it happen? Hard to believe. Unsure of meaning. Too much backstory. Ahem. You get the point. I threw the whole 90k into the shredder and started over. True story, except I didn’t shred it, I just never looked at it again.

Fast forward three years and a whole new manuscript, Before 2.0…

When pitching agents and editors with my Before 2.0, I got a bite. *Premature happy dance.* An editor loved the piece, but wanted some revisions. The most challenging ask was a cut down in word count of about 25-30k words. (I’ll pause here while you suck in your breath like you just got kicked in the gut…believe me, I understand.) But I was determined, over the moon about the opportunity, and got back to work. A few months later I had an ‘after.’ A damn good 77K after.

I entered #Pitchwars in August with the 'after,' like a good, compliant, little author. Got picked. *Premature happy dance.* Guess what? More revisions. Guess what she wanted? An increase in word count.

Upon hearing this, my shoulders slumped for about ten seconds. Then I got back to work. In fact, I was actually kinda excited. The preliminary feedback I’d gotten about my ‘after’ was some of things that had been great about Before 2.0 were missing in the ‘after.’ Now I had a chance to add them back in, After 2.0, stripped of all the things that had perhaps been superfluous in Before 2.0 but missing in After 1.0. Keeping up?

At the moment, I’m waiting to hear back from my mentor about the changes I made. For those that are keeping track, I added back in about 11K words, a good chunk brand new. And it’s the best version yet. After 2.0, coming in strong at 87K.

Through all the word play, I’ve learned tons about the revision process, listened to and read so many different authors’ accounts of all the versions of their work they dredged through before the final product arrived prettily on a shelf somewhere. I’d always thought, ‘I can do that.’ Now I’m living it, and I have no guarantees. No guarantees someone in publishing with the magical publishing wand will finally, ultimately, once and for all say ‘yes, it IS done.’ It’s hard. Each revision you dig deep into that creative surplus, hoping there’s more gas in the tank, more edge in the cut, more depth in the character, just…more. More and better.

I’m waiting to hear back from my mentor, agents, at least one editor. It’s all in flux and a big, fat question mark at the moment. But you know what? I’m grateful for it. Without the push from all those external forces, I would still be floundering, thinking Before 1.0 was the best I could do. I’m also certain if traditional publication does come with this novel, this ‘after’ is not the after. Heck, After 2.0 maybe end up to be only Before 4.0 in the larger scheme of things. And I’m ok with that.

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