In the past few weeks I’ve been working on editing my novel. Yes, the one I said I was starting to edit a year ago. The one I finished writing almost two years ago. It’s called Turn Left at the Blacktop and you can read a woefully unedited version online (I blogged it as I went, which means it’s not in a very readable format—don’t say I didn’t warn you).
It needs a fair amount of work, from re-working plot lines to making characters stronger to making descriptions more memorable and less cringe-worthy (my default for showing emotion seems to be: “She smiled.”). It’s hard work, especially when you spend days writing a 5-page scene full of sharp dialog that really hums, only to realize you need to rip the scene in half and move the dialog around. It eventually feels like improvement, but it’s that eventual part that’s hard.
At this point I’m dedicated to finishing this thing. I have a vague goal of finishing it before November so I can take part in NaNoWriMo 2008, both to meet my wife’s stipulation that I can’t start a third novel without finishing one of my first two, and to continue a tradition of writing a novel in even numbered years. But I’m not sure how realistic that is.
The next question is what do I do with it when I’m done?
I’d love to publish it somehow, but I don’t have very high hopes. Assuming it’s any good (which assumes a lot, though I’m too close to it to give any objective assessment), that means submitting it to agents and publishers and seeing what happens. Unfortunately, it’s not a very sell-able book. It doesn’t fit nicely into any genre (except maybe literary fiction, which isn’t a genre) and that makes it a hard sell. I’m also not really set up as a fiction author with a built-in audience (except maybe the folks reading this) and lots of published short stories. It’d be a very hard sell. But it’s worth giving it a shot, I think.
The next option, if a “real” publisher doesn’t pan out, is to self publish it like I did before with Downtown Dandelions. If I do go that route again I’d hope to put a little more effort into it. Downtown Dandelions was kind of like a demo in that it was unedited and unpolished and because of that I didn’t try very hard to sell it. If I put some polish on Turn Left at the Blacktop I’d really like to try selling a few copies. I don’t expect to make any money at it, but if I could be in the top 21% of the publishing industry, that’d be cool (which only takes 100 copies—and no, it doesn’t count if your mom buys them all). That’s a tall order, but it doesn’t seem impossible. (To give a sense of the economics of the publishing industry, I made about $4 per copy on Downtown Dandelions, which is probably four times what I could expect from a “real” publisher. So selling 100 copies would mean $400 profit. Factor in the time involved and you’re making maybe $2/hour. This is why writers don’t retire early. Yeah, money is definitely not a factor.)
And that brings up another question for me: Turn Left at the Blacktop? I’m not sure if I’m sold on that title yet.