The Devil is in the Details

Over the weekend, I finally finished writing After Christmas Eve. Finding time to write had been the biggest obstacle–never mind that I had loose ends all over the place and no earthly idea how to tie them all together. I had time to write this weekend and along the way, figured out how to end the book. Hallelujah!

I sent the draft to my beta readers for general feedback, two technical consultants to look at specific things, and some of the folks in my writers group. At this point, I just needed to know if everything makes sense and fits the characters. And with my technical consultants, I want to make sure details about guns and explosives are correct, as well as details about gay life in Washington DC before Stonewall and the gay liberation movement.

For grammar and other little things, I’m still taking it through the group 5000 words at a time–they’ve read sixteen of forty-six chapters so far and will get three or four more tomorrow. But having now been through the publication process from start to finish, my plan is to go ahead and get the manuscript to the publisher right away. By the time I hear back from them–and assuming it’s accepted for publication, certainly before the first round of edits, the group will have read the entire manuscript and I’ll have fixed all the little things.

I needed to write a query letter, a short blurb describing the story, and a detailed synopsis to submit the manuscript. I worked on those Sunday, and got them in good enough shape that I was ready to send everything into my publisher. So far, so good.

With everything ready to go, I read over the submission guidelines one last time to make sure my manuscript was properly formatted and that I’d otherwise followed directions. And then I saw it. To be submitted as a novel, my manuscript needs to be at least 60,000 words. (Until Thanksgiving is about 67,000 words). After Christmas Eve ended up being 50,007 words. That means Dreamspinner would publish it as a novella rather than a novel.

Shit. Rather than word count, I think of a novella as having more subplots/conflicts than a short story, but not as many as a novel. Novellas don’t usually have multiple points of view, either. By these standards, After Christmas Eve would be a short novel–not a novella.

Different publishers have different standards and guidelines. Some consider anything over 40,000 words to be a novel. Others say anything less than 70,000 words is a novella, unless of course it’s a short story or noveletta. We won’t even go there today. Given the prior definition involving more subplots and multiple points of view for a novel, I was aiming for 50,000 words and was tickled pink to hit that mark.

Interestingly enough, my writer’s group fussed at me for rambling in Until Thanksgiving. With After Christmas Eve, they’ve often commented and even complained on occasion that I’ve rushed through important parts of the story. Frankly, I’m proud of myself for having kept the story so lean. But they were, as always, right. To get to 50,007, I went back and wrote a number of scenes that had only been talked about in early drafts.

I had to decide whether to submit After Christmas Eve as a novella or figure out a way to add 10,000 words–9,993 to be exact. That’s an extra 220 words per chapter. Except for a few really short chapters around the climax of the story, the average chapter runs about 1,200 to 1,500 words. That’s a lot of words to add.

Let me say that I have nothing against novellas. Were this not part of a series, I’d be fine submitting it as a novella. But since it’s part of a much larger work, I want it to be equal to the rest of the stories in the series. Consequently, After Christmas Eve has to be a novel.

So I went back to the beginning yet again looking for places to add words, sentences, and paragraphs. So far, I’ve worked my way through sixteen chapters and have added more than 3,000 words. And despite my fear that the extra words would slow things down, I feel like the additions have improved the story.

Do you have any idea what it’s like to read the same book, over and over and over again? I’m not talking about two or three times in a row. I’m talking double digits–fifteen, twenty, thirty times before it finally gets to the galley proof stage. Fortunately, next to James Patterson, Armistead Maupin, and Pat Conroy, I’m probably my very favorite author of all time.

In my humble opinion, Until Thanksgiving is very good with likable characters and surprising plot twists. I’m proud of my first novel and anxiously await the reviews. If you like Until Thanksgiving, you’re going to love the prequel.  After Christmas Eve is better–a lot better with even more memorable characters, a more suspenseful plot, and a lot more turns and twists than I ever expected.

And I’m pretty sure, the best is yet to come from your author in residence, here in…

My Glass House