When the book doesn't match your vision
Your questions answered!
We had our first AMA post on Monday with a ton of great questions. I answered some question in the comments directly, but a few were Quite Meaty Indeed. As such, I’ll be rolling out a number of posts in the near future!
Which means, first up…
1. Some housekeeping!
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NOW, let’s move on to the my first AMA question! And of course, you can still ask questions in that first post if you’re a paid member. 🐙
2. When the book doesn’t match your vision
You've talked before about how some books can be hard to pin down, and that it can take years to get them right. I struggle a lot with feeling like each of my revisions are still just a poor adaptation of the real story in my head. My question is, how do you manage the frustration that can come from repeatedly trying to get things right, but not quite getting there?
Oh gosh, Cortno, YEAH. That is definitely a frustration I can understand. I could revise until my eyes bleed…and my fingers and my very soul. I don’t ever want to let the precious go. IT CAN BE BETTER!!!!
At some point, I do however have to say, "This is good enough, and my deadline is here."
Cursed deadlines. That outside accountability can be quite effective for forcing writers like us to just rip off the bandaid.1
And also, I do have an important lesson I learned about 5 years ago that I want to share with you.
You said you've followed me a while, so maybe you saw all the agony I went through trying to find the Right Story for Windwitch! Because it took me SO long and SO many rewrites and SO many discarded words, I was down to the LINE once we were in the editorial phase. I literally turned in copyedits a few minutes after the last possible moment for when they could still print the book on time.
I didn't feel good about that book. I knew it could be better. I knew there were typos and echoed words and story spots that could have been developed more. So many spots. It destroyed me inside...
And then what happened? The book came out, and most readers liked it. In fact, most of them liked it even more than they’d liked Truthwitch which I had edited until I though it was perfect.
It was both a relief and a little insulting. I thought Truthwitch was The Best, and yet…they liked the messier book?
The point is: 1) we really are our own worst critics (duh!).
But also: 2) sometimes we OVERWORK our books in that pursuit of perfect. And in the overworking, we lose some of the magic that first comes onto the page in its raw, drafted form.
So I urge you to remember that story of Windwitch whenever you're feeling frustrated that that your book could be better. It can ALWAYS be better...but it can also be worse.
The last thing I’ll leave you with is this: if you're truly struggling with the need to polish to perfection and you can’t decide if you’re actually helping the book anymore, then I urge you to work with outside readers. (My next main newsletter will be about that!)
Outside readers can give you a better, more objective take on whether or not the book is actually working and what is still worth fixing.
3. In-person pitches—how to?
IN PERSON PITCHES…. That is it. That’s the question 🤣 whether to agents, old friends, acquaintances at conferences, trusted CPs, or family members… I dread the in person pitch. I never know what to include, what is snazzy but captures the essence? How much world building do I need (probably none but the magic system feels so critical?!!) I’m seeing a ton of friends and peers at yallfest this year and would love for once to show up with a few lines to fire off when asked what I’m writing. I loved your advice on synopsis but I want to boil it down even more for casual conversation and I feel totally lost. Thank you!!!
Okay, so full disclosure: I never did spent much time on loglines because I never had to do them.
I mean, I've pitched to readers at events and to friends, but I never had a HIGH STAKES PITCH to an agent or editor or the like.
So I'm going to first suggest you google "loglines" and "elevator pitches," since I'm sure wiser people than I have discussed this in great detail! (I know, what a cop-out answer!)
NEXT, I'm going to give you two points I have found helpful from doing quick pitches at events over the years.
First: People connect to character, so make sure you feature your main character in your pitch.
What do they want? And what is at stake for them if they don’t get it?
If you have a multi POV tale, then pick your most compelling character with the most to lose to feature. So, when I talk about Truthwitch, I mention Safi and Iseult…but it’s Safi’s stakes I highlight.
Next, if your story world is unique, then say so! I make sure to mention the Luminaries world in my pitch for that particular book because it’s such a big part of the main hook!
And here, as an example, is my very casual, very crude pitch for The Luminaries:
The Luminaries is about a secret society of nightmare hunters divided into seven clans, one clan for each night of the week. Winnie of the Wednesday clan was outcast from the society four years ago after her dad betrayed the Luminaries. Ever since then, she has been training in solo to one day compete in the deadly Hunter Trials. If she can succeed in the Trials, then her family's status will be restored. If she loses though...well, hunting nightmares in the Trials definitely has a high mortality rate…and Winnie definitely isn’t as well-trained as all the other Luminaries.
I've got the world hook + I've got what Winnie wants and what's at stake if she loses, and hopefully that makes readers want to read!
I HOPE THIS HELPS YOU! Good luck!
Alright! I’ll be back to answer more questions at a later date! And don’t forget: you can unsubscribe from these extra nuggets of writerly insight at the link below.
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Thanks for reading, Misfits & Daydreamers!
💚 - Sooz
Believe it or not, so many writers are NOT like this! They have no problem at all saying Good enough! and shooting the book off to their editors. I…………wish I could be more like this, lol. But also, we’re built how we’re built! Best to lean in and embrace it.