Almost-authors are people with projects the world hasn’t seen yet. They might be a few drafts or just a few cover letters away from being a published author…for the first or the tenth time. They haven’t made it to the finish line yet on this one – but I’m going to find out how they plan to get there.
Jill Corddry is a sunshine-loving Midwestern girl whose passion has always been for telling stories. These days, that’s mostly urban fantasy and darkly humorous short stories. She’s also a dear friend of mine and my writing partner of six years. We’ve created short story challenges for one another, co-written about half of a novel, and squealed over the other’s successes.
August Writes a Book: Why hello, writing partner-in-crime! I’m so happy you agreed to do this. Tell me all about what makes you an almost-author — what you’re working on that hasn’t been published yet.
Jill Corddry: I’m lucky enough to have had eight short stories published, mostly in 2013-14, but I’m in the process of querying and pitching my first novel. And by first novel, I mean the first one that’s fit to show anyone other than me, myself, and I! I’m “almost” because I’m so close I can taste it. My critique partners and beta readers have been so positive and encouraging that it gets me through all the rejection (past and pending).
August: So you’re pursuing traditional publishing for this book?
Jill: At this point, [yes], whether that’s with a large, medium, or an indie publisher, but I am open to the idea of self-publishing in the future, or for other projects.
August: So what’s the biggest obstacle between where you are now and seeing your book on shelves?
Jill: The slush pile. There are so many people who want to be an author, and they are in such a hurry they submit well before their manuscript is ready. I’m definitely guilty of this! I look back in horror at the early drafts I sent to agents.
I’ve learned over the years to take my time, write the story I want, get it to a freelance editor (and I cannot stress that enough: HIRE AN EDITOR!!!), and then off to a handful of trusted readers before I send it to any agents or publishers.
Also, myself. Not knowing when to stop working and start trying to get it out in the world. I joke that it’ll be done when it’s pried from my cold, dead fingers, but there’s some truth to it…I could tinker with one book for the rest of my life and never be fully satisfied with it. There will always be something to change, to add, to replace, to take out. Always.
That’s why writers need a team around them, to help them know when it’s time to stop and move on. That’s where I find a professional editor especially helpful.
August: What’s been most challenging in this whole process, and how did you move past it?
Jill: Working on a project for so long that [I] lose steam and interest in it. It’s very easy to get burned out on your WIP (work-in-progress). If I had to hazard a conservative estimate, I’d say I’ve read the story I’m currently querying over 100 times in the past seven years. I have had months where I hated every last word in in.
And that’s when it’s time to take a break. Maybe work on something else, especially if it’s a really different project. Or don’t. It’s okay not to write every day. Give your brain a vacation. Read, both in your genre and outside of it.
And sometimes I’m simply bogged down on a specific scene or chapter. Now, I’m a “pantser” (meaning I don’t write an outline first, I write by the seat of my pants). But I also don’t write the story in chronological order. So if a scene just isn’t coming to me, I move on to a section of the book that feels right. Or I might go back a few chapters and re-read it, looking for insight, places to add foreshadowing, that kind of thing.
I also find getting away from the laptop helps. I take a walk, have lunch with a friend, work in the garden, and all those words sort of come together subconsciously.
Give yourself permission to cut yourself some slack!
August: What are some of the small and annoying roadblocks in the course of this process, especially the ones that make you chuckle in hindsight?
Jill: How naive I was when I first got started. Like, I had no idea how long a book should be. At least not how the page count in a paperback measured up to a word count in my manuscript. Turns out the average 350 page novel is NOT 330,000 words. No, it’s more like 100,000. Yup. The first book I wrote was actually a trilogy, I just didn’t know it.
And that info is out there; all I had to do was google it. **sigh** But in many ways I’m glad I didn’t know. I’m still proud that I wrote a novel, even if it needs a lot of work and has been locked away in a cone of shame.
The internet is also a huge procrastination temptation, and it’s so easy for a five-minute break to become a 30-minute black hole. I’ve (partially) solved this by having one window with all my social media and a second with the tabs I’m using for research. Then I keep the first one minimized so I don’t see all the alerts popping up.
Are you an almost-author? Would you like to talk to AWAB about your roadblocks and your master plan? Check out this post to get in touch!