Well, Shades isn’t going to be done by January. Maybe if I had like a month on a deserted island with food, my computer and a power plug…but even then, it’d be rushed. I don’t want to rush just to get it done; it’s a good story and I want to do it justice. I’ve paid for an agent appointment anyway, because I think it will be good practice, and I’ll get to ask questions. I started making a list of agents I will want to target once I get done…even going as far as picking out some to pitch Mask of Eldarmarch, Dragon Singer, and even Briar Rose to (if nobody is interested in Shades at first).
I decided a while ago that I’m going to need an agent if I want to make a career of writing. One: more and more of the big publishers are no longer accepting un-agented stuff. Two, and possibly more important for me: I am absolutely terrible with legalese. I don’t want to screw up with a first contract and have it come back to bite me later…I’d rather just leave it in the hands of someone whose job is to handle that stuff. But I’ve realized that I’ll need to be particularly selective in my choice of agent, because I have such a broad range of projects I’d like to do. I did some research and discovered that most agents who handle YA and MG (middle grade) fantasy do not handle adult books and don’t know the adult market, and likewise, agents who handle adult fantasy don’t want YA. My first few novels definitely fall somewhere between YA and MG, but my Tindaari epic, for example, was always going to be an adult fantasy. Will I have to get a different agent for that one?
Also, I did not find a single agent that I thought I could pitch multiple ideas to and have them be interested in all of them. Obviously I have more looking to do, and there were a few that I could probably pitch most of my ideas to. But for example, some want gritty urban fantasy, but no regular fantasy…or more specifically, they want fantasy but no vampires (Briar Rose?), or fantasy but no sci-fi (134340?). I mean once you’re in, I guess an agent will represent anything if it’s good enough, but still, I don’t want to get stuck having to find a different agent every two or three books.
Shades is going to be a hard story to sell anyway, for three reasons. It’s YA, it’s long, and it’s my debut. Most publishers won’t take a chance on a super long YA novel from an unknown. Right now I’m probably in the neighborhood of 200,000 words. I can pare that down, and I will, but not in half. Certainly not down to the 80,000 mark (which is about the max for YA, typically). At that point, I’d be sacrificing story for length, and I refuse to do that. I’ll hang onto it and finish Mask of Eldarmarch and sell that first, if I have to. If it was an adult fantasy I could probably get away with long…but I think the voice is too young, and the people that will really be interested in it will be mostly teenaged girls.
But long YA debuts are not unheard of. Stephanie Meyer was relatively unknown, and Twilight came in at 118,501 words. Christopher Paolini was a complete unknown, and Eragon has 157,220 words (though he self-published it first…it existed for a whole year before a major publisher discovered it). Both fantasy, like Shades…even in YA, if it’s fantasy, it can be a little longer than average. I’ve actually revised my word count goal based on these two books…first I will shoot for 150,000 (comparable to Eragon), and if I can manage that, I can shoot for 118,000 (comparable to Twilight). That way, when I pitch it, I can point to the bestseller and be like, hey, this other book was long too, but it did well because it had a great story, etc. I think Shades has a good shot of succeeding on its own merit…as long as I can somehow prevent a prospective agent from having apoplexy over a 150,000 word manuscript.
I’ve also been thinking about the title of the book. “Shades” is an okay one, but it was really more of a working title in my head because I had to call it something. I had several permutations going, having to do with black and white, and shades, and gray, but none of them really seemed right. But one day last week I was scanning back through my first draft chapters (which are all titled based on a phrase from within the chapter), and I happened upon Chapter 24: Like softly breaking glass. And I thought to myself, “You know, that’s a nice poetic line. That could almost be the name of the whole book.” Especially since the essence of the story is not the abstract notion of good verses evil (though the story does cover that, obviously)…it’s about Saeli’s tragic relationship with Raphel. “Like softly breaking glass” conveys that in a way that’s interesting, and eye-catching, and poetic. (Not to mention glass seems to be a common prop in the story).
So, Shades may become Like Softly Breaking Glass when it’s done.
In other news, I have not been able to write at all this week, due to holiday preparations. However, my gingerbread cookies were a success both at our small group and at MOPS today, and I think I have everything bought that needs to be bought. I have some things to finish making, and things to wrap, and probably things to bag, and cards to sign…and the hubby and I’s anniversary is this Sunday, which will be a pleasant reprieve, but still. *sigh* Yeah, I’m beginning to understand why people dread Christmas.