If you want a crash course in learning I suggest trying to write a book.
In addition to numerous small publishing credits, I’ve written a chapbook and a novel-in-verse. I feel comfortable in those spaces. I think I’m a good poet. My novel-in-verse is still looking for a home with publishers. I’ve been rejected by four. Two of those rejections almost broke my heart because the editors told me they actually loved the book. In one case I was shortlisted to the top four out of over 70 submissions (they only publish the top three). Talk about gut wrenching.
The plan of action all along has been to submit to my dream five and see what they say before possibly re-working the book and trying for other publishers. I have one publisher left and a whole lot of hope and love for this industry.
But I digress.
I wrote this book. It’s a paranormal romance. I wrote it over the course of about 2.5 years in between writing my novel-in-verse and producing a yearly poetry festival. I had no idea what I was doing – but I was writing a book. I kind of got lost in it. Really lost. Structure, voice, point of view…… all lost.
I sent it off to a couple readers to take a look at, thinking I was on draft three. I was kindly and gently told, in not so many words, to go back to the drawing board. And they were right! I lost the plot somewhere. My lead characters were vague and my point of view was all over the place. Once my eyes were opened it became so clear! How could I have thought that I’d written a third draft? I took a hard look at the book to see if it was worth saving and decided it was.
I love the story I’m trying to tell and the world I’m trying to create. I know it isn’t academic or “high literature” but I don’t care! I like this genre and I like my characters. So I’m now re-writing the damn thing. I’ve thrown out some plot threads that didn’t work at all and I’ve spent some more time with my lead characters trying to figure out who they really are.
All this led me to sign up for a substantive editing class with Peter Midgely through the Canadian Authors Association. The primary aim of substantive editing is the improvement of the overall work for continuity, clarity, accessibility, purpose and suitability for the work’s audience. My goal for taking this class was to learn how to ask the right questions of myself when working on this novel – Not to learn how to fix my punctuation.
After a full day of listening and trying to engage with the materials given to us I definitely feel I learned how to look at my novel to see if it’s working and where to ask the questions needed in order to pull it all together.
Score another point for learning.