A writer’s journal (turning a short story into a novel)~
Jan ’23: The query process involves researching agents, which includes researching their submittal process, which varies with each agency/agent. The next step is to draft a letter to a specific agent, then send the letter, paying close attention to closely follow their guidelines. Then moving on to the next agent. It is a time-consuming process; I submit when I can. The process is exhausting but also rewarding and packed with learning. I am pleased by the fact that I still enjoy reading my book! 😁
Nov ’22: I sent out one query then decided to make some changes to my second chapter; I felt it contained too much summary. I struggled a bit to get myself back in the editing mindset, but after several days of immersing myself in that chapter I was pleased with the additions. I then resumed my query search. Within one week I heard back from one agency who wrote that I have a “strong project” but not one that she believed her clients would be interested in. A pleasant first rejection from the oldest literary agency in the country. I sent out a few others but have not heard back.
Oct ’22: I completed my third book edit a few weeks ago and my query letter is ready to go. After many iterations my manuscript now has a title that feels right (for now). My work, at just over 86,000 words, is considered literary fiction with sprinkles of fabulism. I will share more about my protagonist and plot over the coming weeks, maybe months depending on how long the next stage goes. 😆 Let the queries begin!
Sept ’22: Half-way through the month, I am more than half-way through my third edit. This will be my final edit before I begin emailing literary agents.
July ’22: My manuscript is now with beta readers. 📚 Feedback has been positive thus far. Encouraging and motivating!
June ’22: I completed my second draft on June 5th. My editor started reading my second draft yesterday, June 6th. It should take her about two weeks to complete the second read.
May ’22: My editor is editing, and I am reading each chapter (again) and adding chapter titles. ✍🏻
April ’22: I am making my way through my first draft, revising as I go. I am pleased to write that it reads like one cohesive story with each chapter its own short story. I am down to my last 29 pages of edits, then I have a few details to polish up before sending my project to my editor on April 25th.
March ’22: I completed my first draft on March 4th, and I am currently reading it from cover to cover (not that there is a cover) and making necessary edits. My final word count was over 83k words, but of course, that will fluctuate as I read and revise. I have been corresponding with several New York based editors, and although I am still searching, I have found two editors who feel a good fit for me and my story.
February ’22: Early in the month, I reached my target goal of 80k words. I have more story to tell, but I am very near the end of my first draft, then the real work begins. 😆
January ’22: Closing in on 78,000 words. My original goal was 80,000 words and now that I am close to that word count, I see that I have more story to tell beyond 2,000 more words. I am closing in on the resolution.
November ’21: I am at just under 60,000 words. I think I can. I think I can. 🚂 Chugga chugga, choo choo!
September ’21: I reached my half-way goal of 40,000 words before September came to a close. I continue to be surprised by my main character’s edgy personality. I also continue to be challenged by protecting my book writing time. The last week of the month was particularly challenging with many other life commitments. Such is the common complaint of writers, it seems. My goal is to finish a first draft before the holidays, which may be a bit aggressive, but a turning point in the story may cause me to gain some writing steam. 🚂
July ’21: I submitted the first page of my longer book project to a “Page One” writing contest. ✍🏼 I am pleased that I completed the task and now have zero attachments to the outcome. The exercise motivated me to be looking for other writing-related activities that stretch me. As I write these words, I am staring at tall pine trees through a sunny window. Through their branches I see a blue sky calling me and enjoy it I will, but first I need to get some writing done!
June ’21: I have decided to fictionalize my story – an approach I have resisted, but it now feels right and allows me more flexibility to create. It also presents different challenges – drawing on my imagination and restructuring what I have already written. I feel good about it though.
April ’21: I am beginning to gain some flow and rhythm with my story, even though I am not quite sure where I am going. What is the purpose of this project, is the pressing question? About thirty-percent of my writing time is spent rereading what I wrote the day (or longer) before. Each time that I do, I add more details, more layers to the page. Unlike my “50 Life Stories project,” I want so much to know what this completed project will look like… where I currently am, the middle, and the end. It is not presently clear to me, so I will remain focused on writing the best possible page that I can, one sentence at a time. Word count is shy of 13k.
March ’21: I have shared excerpts from several stories, here and there. With a third poetry collection just published, I am turning back to my book length project that has been patiently waiting for me.
September ’20: A revisit to what I had already released onto the page is harder than I would have imagined, made more difficult by other writing and life commitments, but I am passionate about finishing this project, that is now under 10,000 words. I have spent a great deal of time polishing and expanding details over the last four weeks, which included removing some redundancy, that followed when I combined a few short stories into one. The “one” has a goal of 80k words. When I am able to remove other to-dos and distractions, I savor the process and enjoy getting lost in the story.
July ’20: Churning and reflecting on my 50 stories is like sifting flour. Fifty separate stories that I have revisited as one collection to discover there are some standout stories and themes that are calling to be combined into one longer story. A refined writing project that is a labor of love, and one that cannot be rushed. 📝💟
June ’20: With my first chapbook now published, I am headed back to my 50 Life Stories, for more editing, polishing, and eventual publishing. I did recently share one, titled, “A Friendship Forged through Fire and Dance,” with the founder of NIA, and I am researching where to best share other stories, beginning with a piece on raising a gifted artistic child and the learning journey she took me on. 🎨💗
March ’20: With tears in my eyes, I completed my fiftieth story Monday (3/2/20) night. Just shy of 70,000 words, those fifty stories and the journey they took me on have given me tremendous healing and insight.
The inspiration in the spring of 2019 that motivated me to release fifty stories to the page~
The only gift I wanted for my 50th birthday last June was time with my family. I did not want a party. I did not want a new piece of jewelry. I did not want a new car or a new face. I did not want an extravagant birthday splurge. I only wanted to spend time with my family and have time to reflect on life, my life. I wanted to take time to reflect on where I have been, and where I want to go. My birthday went as planned, or as unplanned, as I had hoped for. The day was both inspirational and completely uneventful. Perfect.
My birthday is in early June. Spring. A time for renewal. Life begins again, and sometimes life is just beginning, as is evidenced by nature during springtime. As a teacher, June marks the beginning of summer vacation. Rest, recharge, and renew. Those three “Rs” were especially meaningful to me last June, as 2019 marked not only reaching the half-century milestone, but the passing of my father last Valentine’s Day.
As I reflect on my life at the mid-century mark, I feel mixed emotions. I feel joy and accomplishment, and some sadness and regret. I have heard people say, “I live my life with no regret.” I wonder, do they really? I cannot help but feel some regret over unrealized dreams and sadness surrounding the people I have lost through the years. To help overcome any sadness and regret I am feeling during this life milestone, I have decided to draft fifty stories from my life. Not one story for each year, but fifty stories that stand out to me for one reason or another and that make up the tapestry that is my life. My hope is that these stories will remind me of the many gifts I have been given and the many obstacles I have overcome, and in doing so help to soften any sadness or regret I might be feeling as I contemplate life at fifty.
One lesson living fifty years has taught me is that I control very little, and as a reminder of that lesson, I will allow the stories to flow through me organically, letting each thought plant the seed for the next thought. Relinquishing the need to know where I am going before I begin. After all, when does life EVER look like that? Some chapters may focus on one specific story or person and other chapters may detail several shorter stories that share a common theme.
I expressed one wish for my birthday and my family obliged. One month later, I have one wish for myself. I wish for the time and the discipline to sit long enough to reflect and write 50 stories that have contributed to my life tapestry. If you are reading these words and celebrating or approaching your 50th or you would like to take this journey with me, regardless of your age, it is my greatest desire that you give yourself the gift of time – time to write your own stories, and when done stand in awe of what you have accomplished and where you have yet to go.
© 2022 Michele Lee Sefton.