Being an author is like being in charge of your own personal insane asylum.

- Graycie Harmon

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Lost at Sea

So I drew a diagram of just exactly what it feels like to try and get published.

I'm lost at sea at the moment. My very ability to tell a good tale has been, for the first time, really, cast into doubt... self-doubt. I mean, I never thought I was the next Tolkien or anything, but I did at least think I could spin a pretty good yarn.

Now... not so much.

I've begged a ginormous favour of someone I know who has been, and continues to be, published. She's reading my manuscript for me, and giving me an honest opinion of whether it's good... or not.

I'm chewing my nails for the fret.

What if it really isn't very good at all?

What if I can't actually write?

What the hell am I supposed to do then?

I'm feeling lost and adrift... just like I did when I found out I needed glasses and couldn't fly fighters; directionless, listless.

Until the most excellent, I-owe-her-tonnes-and-tonnes, author gets back to me, there is little I can do except continue to write.

And ask everyone's opinion on something. The agent who most recently rejected my manuscript (without actually reading it) had this to say:

It looks like you have a single story arc that you split... you had a six page synopsis and split each page into a book.

The thing is, it's not that far from the truth. I do have a single story arc. Julian's story. This series is all about how a innocent and gentle child became on of the greatest, and most feared, heroes in all of history. It's a long journey. A great deal happens to poor Julian before he gets to be that terrifying hero.

While I would love to hand in a single volume on Julian's life, a 600 000+ word manuscript seems a little... extreme.

So I broke down Julian's journey into individual steps, each major step on his journey getting it's own book. In The Third Prince, Julian is sent to Medrim to become a soldier as a punishment. He starts off a very poor soldier indeed, but grows to become the best damned warrior Medrim has ever seen. Clue: the use of the word 'damned' here was very deliberate.

The series looks like this, essentially:

... only better drawn. 'A' represents the very beginning, 'G' the very end, and each dot along the way the major steps Julian took getting from A to G. For example, b represent Julian as (basically) a super soldier. The black lines are, therefore, each a book.

Now here's my question for you:

Does that seem an unreasonable way to go about constructing a series? No flattery. Be honest. This is stuff I need to know, even if it hurts a little... or a lot.

The other issue was the ending of The Third Prince. To spoil the book completely, Julian fights a demon in single combat - and defeats it. It almost costs him his life, but he is saved from certain death by a... well, by someone. The book closes with Julian alive, but unconscious.

Is this a terrible ending for a book? The agent stressed that cliff-hangers were not allowed at the end of books, though the book might be part of a series. She's probably right, though I would argue. That might just be me getting defensive though. So, seriously, is that a terrible ending?

Again, no flattery allowed. Be honest.

Well, now I'm going to disappear into writing and try very hard to not read the answers until lunch hour. Until then, then.

Wet Finger

It probably means as easy as turning over the leaf [page] of a book... or tracing a lady's name on the table with spilt wine. With a wet finger, easily, readily.
- Walter Skeat's Glossary of Tudor and Stuart Words, 1914


Life intervenes said...

My personal feeling about cliffhangers on books is that, well, I hate them. Unlike a tv show, the next episode isn't a week away. And you invest a lot more when reading than you do when watching.

I would also say that fantasy and sci-fi lover though I am, I can never get through a series of longer than 3 books. For me, the story just never manages to really carry beyond that. That is, unless each story can stand alone by itself. The thought of 6 books as a single journey is frankly unappealing.....

S.M. Carrière said...

Really? That's very good to know.

A question, though - you have read books that end with cliff-hangers?

I suppose then that you haven't/don't want to read George R.R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire or Steven Erikson's ridiculously long ten book epic Malazan Book of the Fallen (granted, I'm on book 5, and it is more or less a stand alone thus far)?

I'm not being facetious - I'm genuinely interested to know.

Life intervenes said...

Nope, never read those....

And cliffhangers, well, it depends on the cliffhanger really. I have read and enjoyed books that end on cliffhangers, but they usually secondary story elements rather than major ones. You dont really want to be left hanging wondering whether the main character is actually going to make it past the first page of the next book. You want something that will keep you interested, not something that tears at your guts while you wait for the next book to be published.

But I genuinely believe that it is incredibly difficult to maintain a cohesive storyline over more than three books.

Another 'waiting to be published' author friend of mine told me recently that in adult fiction, publishers generally write-off a series if its more than 3 books because 'people just dont want to read them'.

Dont know if that helps, but there's my opinion for what it is worth.

S.M. Carrière said...

Actually, it helps a lot.

Also, I really highly recommend both of the afore mentioned series, by the by. They are excellent!