This has been a busy couple of weeks for writing. Here’s just a partial list of what I did:

Last week I finished laying out Avogadro Corp for printing on Lulu. I’m not self-publishing, but I did want a few nicely printed copies for people I need feedback from. This turned out to be a great exercise. In the process of running the manuscript though the spell checker and grammer checker “one last time” I discovered about more than a hundred errors that had made it past ten rounds of editing by me as well as one round of copyediting. This really does speak to three things:

  • Changing formats, even if it is just from one page size to another page size does open you up to seeing the work in a new way, and spotting issues you didn’t notice before.
  • The spell-checker and grammer checker in your word processor does have value, even if it is insufficient.
  • There really is a tremendous need to hiring a professional copy editor and a proofreader.
Then this week I received back the three printed copies, and immediately noticed a half dozen additional errors and formatting issues. The lesson learned here is to order just one copy after making changes.
I also received a list of thirty literary agents from Writer’s Relief. I sent off email queries for Avogadro Corp to fourteen of them. I was surprised that as many as sixteen preferred hardcopy queries. I took my existing query letter, turned it into a mail merge document, and put the other sixteen into a spreadsheet. Now I need to print sixteen (16!!) copies of my manuscript.
I learned that on average, it takes about a hundred submissions to get one acceptance. I think this is based on agents accepting about one percent of what they receive, so it doesn’t really account for the quality of the work, but it does give you the idea that a great deal of submissions are necessary. Fortunately, agent submissions are usually done in parallel (as opposed to publisher submissions which are non-simultaneous.)
Printing the manuscript for those hardcopy submissions is sure to drive me insane. Here’s why: I used Apple Pages for my first novel. It’s a word processor similar to, but nicer than Microsoft Word. Like Word it has styles for fonts. But what both Word and Pages fail to have is the equivalent of .css files. For the web, you could have one content pages (.html), and you could style it as many different ways as you want by simply switching the .css file it refers to.
The problem is that there are many unique styles I need to get my manuscript into:
  1. For on screen use while I am writing and editing it.
  2. For printing it on 8.5×11 paper to read it myself or give it to my critique group.
  3. For my copy editor for her to mark it up and give me feedback. (typically it’s double-spaced with wider margins.)
  4. For printing in a book (typically everything changes: margins, fonts, font sizes, insets, page handling, page size, etc, etc.)
  5. For submissions – and this can be any of many subtly different formats.
In my experience, it takes anywhere from two to four hours to change from one of these output formats to another. It’s detail oriented and error prone. 
Since my last manipulation of the book was to print it on Lulu, and since I made a number of corrections to it for Lulu, I will now need to restyle for submitting to agents. 
Sigh. I just want to be able to define all the style information in a table, and then auto-apply a given style.
I also worked on integrating the feedback from my copyeditor for AIpocalypse, my second manuscript. We’ve done three chapters out of sixteen. It feels as though I have about half the amount of red marks as for my first novel, so perhaps my writing has improved somewhat. She’s headed back to college for the Fall semester, so progress there may be dropping off.
That’s probably a good thing, as I start a new writing workshop on Tuesday. To prepare for that I wrote a one page synopsis of my third novel. I’m four chapters into that work. While I have a general outline of where I’m going, there was a lot of hand waving to write the synopsis: “Group A and group B will then meet up in San Diego in some way as yet unknown.”
I’m somewhat nervous about this third book. I’m much more ambitious in what I’m tackling: my protagonist is a woman, the motivations of the characters are far more complex, and the characters themselves go through more development, I have several major subplots, and I’m describing a far different society than the one we live in. It’ll either be great, or a crashing failure. I’m voting for great.
I know that my writing instructor will make it a requirement of the workshop that everyone writes daily. I’m close to this now, but not quite there. My plan is to get up at 5am three mornings a week, use my usual Saturday morning writing time, and then also write two evenings a week. (I did the early morning thing many years ago when I was in grad school with a newborn, and found that while it worked, I also was severely burnt out after a few months of it. So I’ll use it, but limit it to a few days a week. Hopefully that will avoid the burnout.)