My sister and I both wrapped up our final chapters of the first draft of our pirate fantasy manuscript this week. I took a bottle of champagne when I visited her and her family across the state last weekend, but somehow we forgot to pop it open before I left. I trust there were good mimosas some morning in celebration, at any rate.
I forgot how unexceptional it feels to finish a first draft. It’s not “done.” There are still one hundred and one ideas buzzing in my head for how to make it better. I don’t even feel like I have a good idea for what the book reads like from start to finish.
But it’s done enough for now, and we’re taking a six-month hiatus until we get back into the manuscript and start edits.
I’m baking baguettes today, so my brain is making connections between the two processes. Maybe the first draft is like that stage where you’ve mixed all the ingredients together and kneaded the dough for a while, but it needs to rest in a quiet, warm place to let the flavor and texture develop. Perhaps our manuscript will be that much richer when we come back to pull the scenes into shape, cut out the extraneous bits, and add whatever pieces were missing.
In the meantime, I’ve been sending out queries furiously for my alternate history novel. I remember when I first started querying agents back in 2014; I was trying to sell an Edwardian steampunk novel. I sent out queries in discrete batches of fives, waiting for rejections to trickle back in before sending out more. I thought agents might provide me with some pointers. I fiddled with my query letter and first few chapters, asking friends to give me advice on how to make them better. I took comfort in the stories that J. K. Rowling got twelve rejections before landing her first contract, and Kathryn Stockett got an agonizing sixty rejections before selling The Help.
Perhaps I’ve swung too far to the other side of the pendulum, but now I send out masses of queries and don’t wait for anything. I don’t fiddle with my materials, and I tell myself, If they like it enough to read it and represent it, it’s not going to matter which action verb I used on page 2. Of course I trawl carefully through Publishers Marketplace and Manuscript Wish List to make sure I’m querying agents who are interested in alternate history, but I don’t have time to fret anymore. One agency I queried earlier today has on their auto reply that H. P. Lovecraft stacked up two hundred rejections before publishing anything. That seems more my speed.
I’ve also started rereading my portal fantasy manuscript that’s next on my schedule for editing. I drafted the first 30,000 words back in 2014, so it’s been a little rough going so far. However, I love the characters and the emotional story arc, so I’m excited to dive back in this winter and spring.