Houston, We Have a Breakthrough

We’re starting to get the warmer weather cloud formations again. Some of them are so funny – little self-contained spaceships sailing by.

So, I mentioned yesterday that over the weekend I pitched The Middle Princess to a St. Martin’s editor. It was interesting, because the advice is to always pitch just one book. Even if you envision the book as part of a series, the Laws of Querying say thou must never, ever pitch the series. You may only pitch a stand-alone book.

It’s a funny rule, as many have observed, because clearly publishers like series. They like them because readers like series. When was the last time you wanted to implore your favorite author to right something totally different, in a new world with characters you’ve never “met”? Never, right? In fact, I often have that sense of trepidation when my favorite authors come out with a whole new world and characters. I have to overcome my resistance. I drag my feet, not *wanting* to have to get to know all of these new people. What if I don’t like them? Why can’t I have my old friends back??

Ahem. Not that I get worked up about this kind of thing.

At any rate, this lovely editor gal, while asking me to send her the manuscript and a synopsis (yes – it’s a necessary evil. just write one already), also requested that I sketch out the next two books for her. That was the interesting part – I obeyed the Law of Querying and did not mention that I envisioned that the older and younger princesses would have their stories, too. But it must have been clear. Built-in trilogy. Yes, I totally see it that way.

There’s just one teensy, eensy problem.

Yeah – all of you who’ve been reading any length of time already know what it is.

I so cannot plot in advance.

Or at least… I thought I couldn’t. Turns out I can.

Break out the naked cherubs and dirty martinis!

I’ve oft extolled the many virtues of my critique partners, Laura and Marcella. Marcella is really good at character motivation, goals and obstacles – stuff I just hate to think about. And Laura is excellent at drawing out stories from my subconscious. Laura argues that I *do* know what the whole story is, that it’s all there swimming around in that black lake under my thoughts. She appears to be right.

All this time, I’ve thought I needed to perform the action of writing to draw out the story, but it turns out there are other methods. In a Yahoo IM conference, the three of us talked about the other two sisters, the overall arc and themes I set up in Middle Princess. They asked me questions, made suggestions and I told them the answers and whether their ideas were warm or cold.

It was exhilarating and fun.

At the end, I had my sketches of the next two books. This is extraordinary for me. I find it fascinating that I continue to discover new things about my writing process, to acquire skills I lacked before.

Kinda like it should be.

12 Replies to “Houston, We Have a Breakthrough”

  1. Wooo! It’s all there, just under the black lake (love that analogy). You just gotta stand there at the edge with some breadcrumbs and let those pretty koi come up and take a nibble.

    (And it’s freaking AWESOME when a sea monster comes up instead of the fish)

  2. Every time you mention The Middle Princess, it makes me think of “The Bonny Swans”. The eldest doesn’t push the youngest in, does she?

  3. For me, there’s danger in too much plotting. If I plan it all out, the mystery is gone. So there’s a fine line of knowing just enough to write a credible synopsis and getting into too much detail which kills the magic, you know? Hopefully, we managed to walk that fine line for you, too.

  4. I *so* know what you mean about favourite authors starting new series. And yet from the writing side, I’d hate to be tied down to only one world/set of characters forever.

    Good luck with your query!

  5. Yay on the breakthrough!!
    Hurray for incredible crit partners!
    And I love it when an author starts new series I must confess: more for me to read!

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