Nose to the Grindstone – Completing a Project

answer coverI have gone back and forth on what to do about one of my projects. This novel was completed several years back but I never found an agent for it. I think it is good but so much time has passed that it needed to be overhauled and updated. When I started it twelve years ago cell phones were not common and many other things have changed. I have set my story in a real town and that town has also changed so it was no longer ready to be submitted.

I felt a little overwhelmed because I had worked a long time on this novel and I had a love/hate relationship with it. Did I really want to do more work on it? I didn’t know. But two things happened that made up my mind. One was that I found a new publishing company to send it to and I’d be thrilled if they accepted it. Also I found a beta reader who is also a writer of mysteries. I decided I was done waiting. This week I am fixing my novel. I need to do a lot of research and a little rewriting but I am motivated. If I work on 5 chapters a day I’ll have it done in seven days. I decided to keep a journal of how each day went and what my challenges were.

Chapters 1 – 5

The biggest challenge of my book was rewriting the intro. The first page was extremely boring, even to me. I fretted about how to change it and finally I just deleted it. That was the answer. Sometime things don’t need to be rewritten, they just need to be removed.

I had to double check a lot of facts that I had checked over ten years ago. It is amazing how much has changed. My story is now living in 2014 instead of 1999.

It took me five hours to fix five chapters. I am happy with that. I don’t have much rewriting to do but the amount of research I have to do will increase so I don’t expect the time needed to decrease. I split the time up into two sessions, which worked well.

Chapters 6 – 10

The research is going well. In fact I thought I was going to have to dump a great scene but I got to keep it thanks to the research I did. I know you are supposed to kill your darlings but it was a great character scene. Of course my future editor might kill it but we’ll deal with that later.

Most of the research I did reconfirmed what I had already written. I guess the world hasn’t changed that much. I have found it both liberating and frustrating that a lot of my queries have really shallow answers. For example I wanted to know the date of the county fair. I found it readily enough but I didn’t find any details about the fair itself. Since all I needed was the date I let it go, but it might have been interesting to know more. That would be for me and not the book though, and all that matters is the book.

This book is solid. It bothers me a little that it took thirteen years for this book to be this solid. I hope my next story solidifies a lot faster.

Chapters 11 – 14 and query letter

I only edited four chapters today and they were fairly straightforward, not much research and very little rewriting. I need to do a lot of research to make chapter 15 accurate so I decided to save it for when I am rested tomorrow.

I also worked on my query letter. To get a fresh mindset I sat at Starbucks and wrestled with it. The past is so important to the story that I needed a way to describe it in my query while still focusing on the present story. I think I have a good first draft and will look at it again once I’ve finished my final edit of the book. I still have to work on the synopsis, which scares me to death, but I think that will be the last step before I send this story off on Tuesday.

Chapter 15 – 20

I postponed chapter 15 because I thought it would have a lot of changes, but it turned out to need very little change. Mostly I just removed extraneous items. I’m deep in the story now and it is filled with talking to possible suspects. I hope I have added enough startling events to keep the action up. I am very happy with the book, but then I wrote it and I should like it. I hope in the end other people like it, too.

I found a timeline for the book that I thought was accurate. Turned out it was from a much earlier version of the story. I had to go through and update it. It was fascinating to see how much the story has changed. It is definitely better now. The calendar is extremely useful because my story takes place over a couple weeks and it would be really easy to forget what day of the week it was.

Chapters 21 – 25

There wasn’t much research to do today. I mostly had to make sure that if I said they were in the kitchen in one paragraph I hadn’t moved them to a different room in the second paragraph. That is very easy to do.

I did remove a subplot in one of the chapters. It was more like a sub-subplot. I wasn’t going to explain it or even conclude it in this book. Instead it would tie to a book far in the future. But I decided I didn’t need it and it brought confusion to the story so I ditched it. One of the things I love about Harry Potter is that she mentions things in passing in book 1 and they become extremely important in book 3. That is great foreshadowing. I’d like to do that but not in the way I first thought.

Chapter 26 – Epilogue

This was the easiest part. I had the ending fixed for years. I changed very little and was pleased to be done.

The epilogue was interesting because I wrote in both POVs in one chapter. That is the only time I did that in the whole book and I had to be careful to not mix them up.  Still, it allowed me to end the book the way I wanted to.


I am really bad at writing a synopsis and I wish I didn’t have to. Since I have no choice I went looking for a template on the internet. I found something that helped but it still took me about eight hours to write 1700 words and get them right. I’ve never spent that long on a synopsis and it is by far the best one I’ve ever written. Of course the test is whether it gets my manuscript read.

So a week from when I started this project I double-checked all my documents and sent it off to Carina Press using their online submission program. I do not need an agent to publish with Carina Press and after being rejected by numerous agents over the years I was ready to go in a different direction.

I’ll know in a month whether this week of having my nose to the grindstone was worth it. If my book is rejected I will probably set it aside again and work on new books. Perhaps it is meant to be my practice book or maybe it is meant to be published. I’ll know soon enough.

“Persevere!” J. K. Rowling