1/10/2007

The Life and Times of a Manuscript

by Adam Graham

Originally posted at WhereIstand.com on Sunday, January 07, 2007 at 12:22:35 AM



Yesterday [meaning Friday] was a monumental turning point in the life of my wife and I as writers. We sent in our first novel manuscript to a publisher who requested it.

It would have been Thursday had my wife not printed a mailing label without the city, state, and zip of the publisher. With a new mailing label, it's off in the mail.

Of course, this manuscript is a little different than many. The first draft was written in 1999. As a High School Senior or College Freshman, she'd produced a very gritty manuscript. It was a Christian story, but it wasn't your typical Christian novel. The story focuses on Gabrielle, a young girl kidnapped by a futuristic satanic Empire and sold into prostitution as a child. Gabrielle lives a life of abuse and starvation until Age 15, when she's sold as an Imperial Concubine.

She makes a break for it and reconnects with her godfather, David McIntyre. The plot centers on her relationship with David's son, Daniel and her attempt to follow God's Call on her life while staying one step ahead of the Empire.

She ends up having to face old fears in a return to Washington and the Imperial estate. In the most sordid of circumstances, the power of God's love and forgiveness is shown. While it may make some uncomfortable who long for spiritual fulfilment without pain or suffering, rarely do we draw as close to God as we do in the squalid circumstances of the worst of life.

I met Andrea online in October, 2000. We begin chatting in December, 2000 and early in 2001, she let me take a look at Heaven's Mark. It was a special privilege. I loved her writing and the book was a great topic of conversation in those tense months in 2000.

I sent her suggested changes to the manuscript and offered my opinion that it was an excellent book that would be a best-seller one day. While this is a great line when courting a writer, I meant it.

She intentionally chose to not follow the formula of most "End Times" stories which were thinly disguised books of eschatology rather than true fiction. After a few hundred little changes, I was convinced the book was ready for publication. Andrea was not.

There's a Christian publishing service called "The Writer's Edge." which works with major Christian publishers. For a fee, it will review your manuscript and forward a short synopsis to a series of Publishers who have signed up for their service. Most major Christian houses only accept unsolicited/unagented manuscripts from this service. You won't get published by Bethany House or Tyndale without them.

I suggested sending it in, but Andrea was hesitant, unsure whether it was ready. She relented when I agreed to cover the reading fee and sent it in.

It was a couple months later when she got a letter letting her know that her manuscript had been included in the Writer's Edge's bulletin to the publishers. I was happy. I figured it'd only be a matter of time before a publisher noticed her work. Of course, she only had 2 months in the Writer's Edge's manuscript. If publishers don't happen to need what you're selling them during that period, you can basically try again later and fork over another reading fee.

We had other expenses come up, particularly as a young couple in love planning to get married. The book went on hiatus for the most part. However, the book ended on a cliffhanger. It didn't invite a sequel as a possible add-on to the first book, it demanded it.

Andrea had an idea for a second novel that. when we talked it out, didn't sound workable at all. I had an idea on how to finish it and was invited to share in this incredible work. I sat down and wrote the ending to Heaven's Mark. It ended the story with some resolution, but enough wiggle room for follow-ups.

We got married in July, 2002 and in 2003, we became involved in critique groups online. With the help of Critquers, Heaven's Mark went through several revisions. She worked to eliminate "telling" ("Bob got angry." v. "Bob's cheeks grew red, he slammed his hand on the table and cursed.") from the novel. She was focused on every detail of the story. Is it realistic? Is this how they would act? She's committed to a stunning degree of detail on her characters and the story as a whole. She'll never change a character's reaction to a situation. She'd rather make changes to the situation to get a different outcome.

I tend to be focused on plotting and the story being believable. As Andrea spends much of the story writing about a region of the country she's never been in, I checked facts and made sure that what was being described was accurate. I took issue with an overly zealous High School peer court that was cut from the story in 2004 after many discussions about it.

Still, Andrea is dedicated to pursuing her craft with precision. I'm not certain how many drafts it's been through, how many times she's revised, cut, chopped, and revised the story, but it seems she's never finished, always looking for that one way to make the story better.

In 2004, we sent another submission to the Writer's Edge, after Andrea put in a huge amount of effort into editting it, only to get a rejection slip. It was odd that a story that was accepted 3 years before would be rejected after numerous edits by the same company. Andrea sent submission after submission to around 7 or 8 smaller presses, but no luck. She just continued to edit and revise, edit and revise.

This year, we became involved in an online critique group that with the help of Writer's Cafe Press put together an anthology of Short Fiction. She wrote one story that was a prequel to what's now become a trilogy and we co-wrote another. The publisher liked what they saw and expressed interest in the trilogy. Andrea sent off a proposal and the day before Christmas we received a request for the full manuscript. With Christmas and New Year, we didn't get to print it off until this past week.

Our printer was not equal to the task, so a Fed-ex Kinkos store did the honors. We waited for 10 minutes as the 320+ pages streamed out and then struggled to find a box big enough to hold it.

To the end, she was wanting to check the manuscript to make sure it was perfect. This slightly annoyed me as she'd already done more revisions than I'd ever imagined was possible. I assured her it was ready now.

Of course, it's hard. She's had this Story for 7 1/2 years and I've had a stake in it for 5. Somewhere between Boise, Idaho and LaFayette, Indiana is a package wrapped in brown paper. Inside it is not only a manuscript, but hopes and dreams, visions and nightmares. In writing its pages, the story of my life and love has unfolded. Now, comes the hardest part: waiting.

9 comments:

cyn said...

It is great to hear the story behind a manuscript. Often we non-writers take the writing process for granted . . . I pick up and perhaps purchase this inanimate object that, hopefully, will entertain or inform me. That's it. You have told a heart-felt story here. Thank you.

--cyn
http://www.thewriterscafe.com
http://www.lostgenreguild.com
Coming Soon -- Light at the Edge of Darkness

Daniel I Weaver said...

Good luck, guys. Having read all three stories in the trilogy, I can see how much hard work you've poured into them. Maybe someday soon, we'll be able to do reviews for you and help convince the rest of the world that the Lost Genre Guild is home to some wonderful writers.

Keeping my fingers crossed and my hands folded (go ahead, picture it),

Daniel I Weaver
www.danieliweaver.com
www.myspace.com/danieliweaver

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure whether this was depressing or encouraging for me, but I congratulate both of you for all of your hard work and the success you've had so far.
Karri

vbtenery said...

Adam:

I've read parts of this trilogy and I'm a fan. Your journey to publication is charming because of the love story attached to it.

Virginia

Andrea Graham said...

Thanks, guys. (Dan: LOL)

And Lord willing....


Why would it be depressing?

Reviews will be fun :) LGG--standing marketing army? :)

Anonymous said...

Wait is a 4 letter word.

I see that Adam and Andrea are pressing on and not allowing discouragement to get in their path and hamper them.

Habukkuk 2:1-3

Chris

Andrea Graham said...

Thanks, Chris. It's not as easy as Adam makes it sound. And it was 328 pages, not 320+ (it was supposed to be 325, but computers....

A.P. Fuchs said...

What's great about your behind-the-scenes story is its tale of perseverance, something which many writers lack, especially in today's touch-as-nails publishing climate (Christian or otherwise).

I truly hope you guys get picked up. I pray the Lord's will be done for your manuscript.

Andrea Graham said...

Thank you, ap. God bless.

Also thank you again, all. Your kindness is a blessing