THOUGHTS ON THE PROVERBIAL BUMP, ER, SINKHOLE IN THE ROAD
So I’m driving along – you still in the backseat? – on the journey to this novel’s publication, feeling like I’m really making progress. A lot of miles covered yesterday. Additional research on a trio of stellar agents to query next, if, by the fast-approaching due date, the agent with the “exclusive” hasn’t responded, or, regrettably, nixes my novel. I’m feeling grateful for blogs like Casey McCormick’s Literary Rambles, the lodestone for summaries and sources of more in-depth info on agents who handle kid lit.
I’ve finished a synopsis, a standard request of one of the agents, thanking my lucky stars that a special issue of Writer’s Digest called “Get An Agent” called out to me at B & N only days ago. It’s loaded with tips, including the standard format of the synopsis. (Who knew that each character’s name needs to be in caps when it first appears in this summary?) Still learning, I took time yesterday to read most of the issue’s features and congratulated myself on how far I’ve come in a year’s time with regard to being “query savvy.” I already knew what part of my track record’s worth mentioning, how to craft the pitch paragraph, why I must first make a personal connection.
With all the “essentials” in mind, I spent the afternoon crafting three customized query letters, two for agents I’d seen in action at the January SCBWI conference in New York City, resulting in a keener sense of why we’d make a good match. The third’s another dream agent, whose passion for kid lit equals, if not exceeds, mine. Conference attendance also opened a door to a senior editor at Little Brown and Company who presented a workshop and gave me the green light to send her my revision. I printed it toward the end of the day and wrote a cover letter.
All in all, a dream day, I thought, cruising to the post office where I sent those queries winging their way to both coasts. After a break for supper and a meeting, I decided to run through the special issue again to pick up any tidbit I might have overlooked. This is when I happened upon the piece I’d missed (or dismissed) on word count basics. I’ve had a twinge of concern about the elevated word count of the revised book — about 4,000 more words than pre-revision – despite the fact that I cut line after line to improve the pacing. There were characters to flesh out, a setting to make more vivid. And immersion in the world of underground hip hop inspired attention to detail, including more content related to each of six lessons the main characters take as aspiring b-girls., all of this supporting the theme.
I let the count be what it was. Teen readers of advance copies didn’t comment on the length. Neither did either agency reader. Besides, I’ve recently plowed through a couple of YA works that are mammoth. Surely, the word count for tween fiction was similar to that for young adult; my characters are thir-teen, right? Here, friends, is where the humongous black hole in the road swallowed me up, the pages of my 63,811 word manuscript fluttering far above me. Here is where I made the horrifying discovery that it’s standard practice to couple tween fiction with higher middle grade rather than YA novel counts, the latter running between 40,00-65,000 words. My range, it turns out, is 32,000 to 40,000.
Did you hear the primal scream as I plummeted into the abyss without you? I suspect not. It’s a hole so deep that nobody could possibly hear me whimpering “help” in the dark.
Things look better in the morning. I may have to claw my way up and out, word by word – more than 23,000 of them – but I’m already dusting myself off and looking up. If somebody asks me to start climbing, I’ll do it. Such is the madness of the writer’s psyche. Onward and upward. (Or, in this case, is it upward, then onward?) Gotta say, this is quite the trip.Explore posts in the same categories: Uncategorized