You’ve Written “The End.” Now What?

Sherilyn Winrose, author of Safe Harbor, talks about her novel:

It’s been written, you’ve come to the conculsion of your story. Joy, Elation! Congratulations you’ve finished a full length novel. Many dream, many aspire, and you’ve completed the goal: to write “The End.”

When I was writing my first manuscript (ms) I had my best friend (the one person in the world who would tell me if it was crap) beta reading as I went. In as much I did clean up editing along the way. Little did I know how far from the finish line I was; probably a good thing in retrospect.

I bought books on how to query and be published. Very quickly I discovered I was a guppy swimming with sharks. One needs an agent to find a publisher. Agents like to take on authors who have an interested publisher. Huh? I need an agent to get a publisher, and to get an agent I need a publisher?

Confused, I set about sending queries and writing my next book.

What I didn’t know?

I had a first draft, not a finished piece. Reject letters came in and I kept writing.

Fast forward to a contest. I got out my ms and started to read in hopes of polishing it into a winning submission. Gasp! I wrote that? It’s littered with infomation dumps, saidisms, head hopping.. good gracious no wonder all I got were reject letters.

Time for the first real rewrite/edit. Good news? I still love my characters and the stories I’ve written. Bad news? As I learn and grow as a writer I find myself back in the orginal mss looking to clean them up.

The journey from “The End” to Published is a long road.  I made it, and stand as a testiment that hard work and perseverance does indeed pay off.

Sherilyn’s debut novel, Safe Harbor, is available through Second Wind Publishing.

On Writing: Accomplish Your Scene Goal and Get Out

I’ve been on a hiatus from my apocalyptic novel, but now that I’m back, I have no more idea of how to write my current scene than I did a month ago when I abandoned Chip, my hero. After Chip hiked through his changed neighborhood, encountering one horror after another, he rescued a pit-bull from a raging river. He met the dog’s owner, talked to him for a few minutes. And that’s where I left him.

I’d been looking forward to that particular scene, thinking it would be easy to write because I would have two characters to work with. I worried about Chip spending too much time alone, but some of those solitary scenes turned out quite well. The changing environment, a defunct plumbing system, and a few of out-of-place and out-of-time creatures gave Chip plenty of conflict. Maybe too much conflict. By comparison, the scene with his mentor (the dog’s owner) is flat. It was supposed to be a high point, but it’s going nowhere.

In the mythic journey scenario, mentors help prepare the hero to face the unknown. They give the hero gifts, which the hero must earn. (Chip earned his gift by rescuing the mentor’s dog.) Mentors act as a conscience for the hero, though sometimes the hero rebels against the nagging conscience. Mentors motivate. And they plant information that will become important during the climactic moment. You’d think, with all that to work with, the scene would just burst out, fully formed. But it’s not happening, which is why I’m sitting here at the computer blogging instead of writing.

Maybe I need to think of something else to give the scene spice. Maybe Chip doesn’t like the mentor, or maybe he doesn’t like the advice the mentor gives him. And maybe I need to rethink the dialogue.

Despite all the writing books that say you need short bits of dialogue, if there’s nothing to be gained by all that back and forthing, it’s better to string one character’s dialogue into a longer speech rather than have the conversation come out sounding like an interview. And if there’s no way to make a scene more interesting, it should be cut to its essentials. Accomplish the scene goal, and get out. In this case, there’s no reason to prolong the meeting with the mentor since Chip will never see him again.

And maybe I should stop over thinking the scene and just write something, anything, to get me back in the habit of writing. If it doesn’t work, I can always fix it during the rewrite.

Lift Yourself Out of the Slush Pile

I feel as if I’ve had a glimpse into what it would be like to rummage through the slush pile at a publishing house. For years now, seeing the quality of books that are being published, I’ve thought that the best books were being rejected. If what I’m seeing is any indication of the contents of a slush pile, I have to admit that the published books, no matter how mediocre, really are superior.

I entered the Court TV Search For the Next Great Crime Writer Contest, and have spent the past several days trying to read the other entries, but they are hard to get through. The best ones read like rough drafts, the worst like sludge. Interestingly enough, ranking is no indication of quality. The ones at the top for the most part are no better than the ones at the bottom; the top-ranked writers simply have more friends or a greater ability to network.

I can see why editors and agents send out form rejection letters; it’s hard to find something good to say without sounding patronizing or without discouraging what might be a budding talent. And new writers, flush with the thrill of having finished their first book, do not want to hear the truth even if they say they do.

Is it better to leave an enthusiastic remark on an unremarkable piece, thereby undermining my own critical ability and giving a false impression of the work? Or is it better to tell a bit of the truth and risk making an enemy?

I’ve spent the day wrestling with this dilemma, and not having come up with an answer, and certainly not getting any thanks for the comments I have been writing, I’ve decided to opt out of rating any more entries.

But I will give you the benefit of my wisdom:

Rewrite.

Rewrite.

Rewrite.

When you are finished, set the work aside for a month or two or three, then rewrite it again.

That’s the only way to lift yourself out of the slush and sludge.