Wednesday, July 13, 2011

My Big Snafu And Still More Contest For YOU!

Since I'm using this week for my contest and old posts, I wasn't going to do my weekly roadtrip over at YA Highway. But Kate Hart's prompt was too tempting to pass up.

This Week's Topic:

What's the biggest writing / querying / publishing mistake you've made?

Haha. ONE? You are talking to the person who has made so many mistakes in every aspect of writing, she now deletes sentences five times in a draft before allowing herself to temporarily keep it and takes twenty minutes to hit SEND when emailing a query letter. My inner editor is in Nazi mode. All. The. Time.

Sometimes good, sometimes not so good.

I think my biggest snafu occurred with my baby, my very first project. I'll let you read all about it in a post I did last summer.

Cuts Like A Chainsaw

My absolute arch nemesis—bangs. I hate them and swear on my favorite Eeyore slippers I will never cut them again. Bangs and I have had a love-hate relationship from my middle-school days on. I’d get them, grow them out. Cut them again. Grow them out again. And one time, as a naïve, broke, and impatient college student—I decided to cut them myself.

Pyscho music...

One jagged cut later, I felt the need to trim the left side, then the right. The left side again. Then the right again. Then the left… Okay—you get it. That big “oops” caused me to sport a baseball cap for the next month, trying to hide the indubitable travesty—yep—my bang job had become a botch job.

Heh heh. Good thing I don’t have my own pics of
that one.

My not so bangin’ experience is analogous to where I’m at with what I like to call “my baby,” my first official novel with characters I heart to pieces and want the whole world to fall in love with too. The story that consumed my thoughts from the first word to the last. And the one that ended up being—gasp—175,000 words.

And after I finished it, I discovered—“my baby” was too long.

Too long? Seriously? I mean, what did I know? I read
Harry Potter. My eleven year old brings home books rivaling the length of Twilight. 175,000 words? I was just happy to complete the bugger. Now you’re telling me I have to cut it? What?

Just to clue you in (because apparently I was
not)—a typical debut YA novel contains between 50 to 75 thousand words. One agent informed me she couldn’t send anything off to a publisher over 80,000. And my story that I threw my heart and soul into for four months contained 175,000.

Shoot. Me. Now.

Soooo—instead of shoving my precious baby under the bed, I started cutting. And cutting some more. I got it down to 160 and thought
I can’t possibly cut one more thing. Then my editor got a hold of it and a slash job ensued. Whole chapters gone, subsidiary characters killed off, frou-frou adverbs and adjectives—out the computer screen.

140,000. The “that” count went from 20,000 to 200. A little trim here, a snip-snip there. My novel dwindled to 120,000 then 112,000.

Painful much?

Sometimes. And sometimes not.

The other day, I changed the entire beginning—and lost my absolute favorite line of my novel. Scenes I crafted for ours—gone with one little click. Some parts – I felt like I cut my right arm off and others pierced my heart.

That little ditty about the “first cut is the deepest?” Ha.

Bu-ut, I do love re-reading my stories and falling in love with my characters all over again. I enjoy tightening, finding that magical dialogue that tells so much yet says so little. It’s an exciting challenge to make one word say five. And I re-read my manuscript now and beat myself over the head with my son’s lightsaber thinking
How could I have sent it off looking like that?

Currently my novel sits at 102… and I’m still chopping. Yet while I mentally pat myself on the back every time I see the thousands digit change, I can’t help but feel like I did when I cut my bangs. I slash away, trim, trying to make my story perfect, when maybe all I’m doing is hacking it to unattractive stubs.

And that’s where the betas come in (PS—have lots of them). People to read my story, to critique it. Not only help me with the cuts, but also now assist me with the holes. The pieces I cut off and need to grow back.

Just FYI—the hair re-grew. And maybe I can be like Stephen King and
The Stand. Sell it short. Come back years later and publish the “un-cut” version. Hmmm.

PS - I wrote that post last summer. My "baby" now sits at 99K under the bed. And while I do claim this to be my biggest mistake, it's one I'm glad I made and would redo all over again. Because that project was completely written from the heart. Not that my others aren't, but sometimes my mind tries to take over too much these days.

Okay - so there's the old post detailing my big snafu.

Now onto my Blog-o-versary celebration CONTEST!

In case you didn't know, Sunday was my blog-o-versary and I've decided to make it last a WHOLE WEEK. Yep. A week. A week of old posts (see above) and a superfantabulous contest. Just for you.

Here's the deets recap on


I've read some pretty cool books lately, and I wanted to share some of them with you. Here's what could be on YOUR TBR plate:

Or . . .OR you could just pick out your own book with a $15 Amazon gift certificate.

So yep - that's what's up for grabs! You could win one of eight books or an Amazon gift card. What do you have to do?


Yep - that's it. Leave a comment. Every day you leave a comment this week (Sunday July 10 through Friday July 15), you get an entry in my contest. OOOH! And while you don't have to follow my blog, or tweet, or blog about my fab-o contest, I will give you extra entries if you do!

So here's the recap on the entry thing:

+1 for every day you comment

+2 if you're an old faithful (follower, that is) PS - let me know this. I AM forty and mucho forgetful.

+1 if you're a new follower

+3 if you tweet about the contest (leave a link in the comment one day please)

+5 if you blog about it or attach the contest news to your sidebar! (leave that linkage too!)

So enter away, peeps! Contest will run until Friday July 15 11:59 EST. I'll tally up entries and announce winners on Saturday.


Oh - and don't forget to stop by YA Highway to see what everyone else has to say about their biggest publishing/writing/querying mistake!

BTW, do YOU have one? Comment and consider yourself entered in my contest!


  1. Okay, My second day reading the instructions to your contest. Oops! don't know my link addresses to Twitter and Facebook. I'm a dork all right. A total tard. OMG. I drive myself crazy. I'd really like a bunch of new reads to take with me on my trip.

  2. We've all been guilty of the 100K plus novel. You're like the 3rd person I know who has done this.

  3. Yep, I spoke about my first (way too long at 130+K!) manuscript today too... funny how just a bit of online research BEFORE writing could have saved us months of cutting, cutting, cutting!

  4. Oh yeah, I think we've all been there. Maybe not '175K been there' but yeah. Cutting is hard!

    Cool contest!!

  5. I think I have the opposite problem. I'm more like your bangs situation in that I cut too much. Then my WIP wears a baseball cap around for weeks until I can grow it out a bit more :)

  6. Great post, Alison! That doesn't sound like a mistake at all--you've got to have lots of words in order to cut them down to the right ones, right? Congratulations on getting down to 99. I'll bet every one of them has earned its place on the page :-)

  7. 175K? Holy wow! That would make me really proud, actually.
    I also have a real problem with bangs. I want them, I cut them, I don't keep them up, I slowly turn into Cousin It.

  8. If it were me, I would chop it into pieces and make it a trilogy. It's risky, though. It requires a lot of rewriting, and you have to make sure each third is a complete story. I know I've blasted books before for telling half a story.

    Of course, I have the opposite problem: My books turn out to be too short, and I have to concatenate multiple stories together.

    Lupines and Lunatics

  9. That's an impressive slash job. You've basically cut a second novel from the first. I don't have the overwriting problem. My first drafts are usually super short and I need to add scenes, description, etc in revisions.

  10. Because that project was completely written from the heart. Not that my others aren't, but sometimes my mind tries to take over too much these days.

    ^I think this is good for all of us to keep in mind. And good for you for cutting, what, 76k words? (Yeah, my math is that bad.) That's a whole BOOK.

  11. That bang picture up there brought back a whole bunch of bad memories. My daughter did the same thing about two years ago. Scary.

  12. My first draft clocked in at 120,000 words, and I got it down to 92,000. Only that was too short, and I had to add some things in and it went back up to 95,000. Now I'm working on requested revisions and this draft has climbed to 105,000. But I think some cuts will bring it down again, whew.

  13. I love hearing about snafus like that. My novel was at about 142,000, it's now down to 101.5. I want it down to 95k but that's going to have to happen in my next round of edits - the paper edit. Dun dun dun! I'm proud of how far I HAVE come though.

  14. That is an insane amount of cutting you did on that book! But I bet you learned so much about editing and revising, yes?

    And I've totally been there, done that with the bangs. I am tempted to get some cut again soon....but definitely I'll leave it to a professional.

  15. I can't get past that picture and repressed 5th grade hair trauma. Impressive you got it down to double digits!

  16. 175K? Oh, I feel for you...I'm so glad I started with YA Chick Lit and no such Potter-ish word counts in mind :)

    You're also not alone. If we had a nickel for everyone who starts out thinking they can write YA as long as Rowling or Meyer, we could rival at least one of their royalty checks. Each. ;)

  17. The good thing about mistakes like this one is that we learn so much from them! I'm currently in slash mode, but slashing from 85K isn't AS bad. ;-)

  18. I'm right there with you -- both my MSS have been overwritten -- but I hate calling either a mistake because I learned so much from them.


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