Nora’s Sunday Quickie: The Runup to Publication

After Diana’s very resonant post about the waiting game, I started thinking about waiting on a macro scale — not just the wait after you sell a book, but the wait from the point of becoming a Real Writer, which I tend to define as When You Start Submitting. That brought to mind this old survey from SF author Tobias Buckell about how long the wait is for most writers before they finally sell a book.

According to that survey, I’m in the 11% that wrote three novels first. Those books included:

  • Becoming Human: a science fiction novel about a young woman in a postapocalyptic world who escapes the destruction of her township and falls in with a species of batwinged humanoid energy-vampires instead. I probably shouldn’t count this one, because it was awful; First Novel syndrome in spades. Kind of a cross between The Psalms of Herod and paranormal romance, multiplied by Mary Sueism. But I did actually send this baby out, and with it acquired my very first publisher rejection letter (which currently sits framed in my writing study, as a motivator), so I’ll include it in the count.
  • The Sky-God’s Lover: I’m going to list this one, even though I completely rewrote it later. But this was the actual order in which I wrote my books, so I’m including it for completeness. I never sent this one to a publisher, though I did use it to try and get an agent. Got rejections, but they were nice ones, and several of them spelled out exactly what was wrong with the book in a way that really helped. I trunked it, realizing I didn’t have the skill to rework the book the way it needed at the time — but also realizing the book had real potential and that I would need to come back to it.
  • Dreamblood: This was the book that broke my heart. I still think it might be my best work worldbuilding-wise, though the characterization in 100K is stronger. Set in a land resembling ancient Egypt whose priesthood has the magical ability to control and heal — and kill — using dreams, the story follows one priest who discovers a creepy conspiracy corrupting his faith. This one got me my agent! …But still no love from publishers, though again the rejections were very nice.
  • Dreambile: Yes, I know, this is four novels. I don’t count this one because it was a direct sequel to Dreamblood, incapable of standing alone, and I knew before I wrote it that it didn’t have a chance in hell of publication. Never sent it out, except to my agent. I wrote it anyway, because the story was burning in me and I needed to get it out. Set in the same land where dream-magic is used, it follows the first female magic-user in her quest to save the kingdom from a plague of deadly nightmares. I think it’s even better than the first one, so maybe one day people will get to see it.

…Then finally I returned to The Sky-God’s Lover and rewrote it from scratch — literally tossed the old outline, opened a blank file, and started writing. Thus did it become The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms, which is on its way to publication now. I suppose technically that makes it my second novel, but it’s so drastically different from the first version that I prefer to think of it as my fourth. Either way, that particular wait is finally over. Yay!

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